infoTECH Feature

March 14, 2017

How Remote IT Workers Can Thrive and Survive

While IT professionals were once confined to working on the job site, the transition to virtual servers and cloud technologies now means many businesses are hiring remotely. This is great from a convenience perspective, but can be troublesome for those who have no experience working remotely in the past.

The Rise of the Remote Worker

In 1995, just 9 percent of American workers spent time working remotely.  Twenty years later, that number has risen to 37 percent. While that still leaves a large percentage of people who have yet to telecommute for their jobs, it’s clear that the numbers are quickly rising in the business world.

Individuals who have formal education, work in white-collar professions, and are upper-income earners are much more likely to work remotely than those who work in blue-collar professions and earn less than $75,000.

When you combine these takeaways with the fact that cloud technology is creating an entirely new IT environment, it becomes pretty evident that remote working is the future.

How well will people respond to this new structure on an individual basis?

Productivity Tips for a Remote IT Environment

If you’re tasked with working remotely – full-time or part-time – and you’ve never done it before, you’ll want to go into it with clear expectations. You’ll also need a strategy to ensure you’re as productive as possible. Here are a few tips:

1. Develop a Schedule

One of the best things about working remotely is that you have more freedom to set your own schedule. There isn’t a boss hovering over your shoulder at all times, which means you can take breaks as you see fit and get work done when it makes the most sense.

“This is a double-edged sword, though,” entrepreneur Belle Cooper points out. “The more flexible your schedule, the more diligent you need to be about finding your own structure and setting boundaries for yourself where you need them.”

Cooper also mentions that everyone has a different body clock. Some people – roughly 10 percent of the population – are morning larks. These are people who prefer to go to bed early, wake up early, and get stuff done early in the day. Then you have night owls. One in five people fall into this category and prefer to work after midnight. The rest of us are in-betweeners, who fall somewhere else on the spectrum.

It’s important that you recognize your body clock and develop a plan that allows you to maximize your innate abilities while still syncing up with your employer/client’s schedule.  

2. Create a Distraction-Free Work Environment

The number one issue remote workers have – especially when it comes to working from home – is getting distracted. There are simply too many different things vying for your attention. That’s why it’s important to create a distraction-free work environment.

For starters, you’ll need to pick a secluded space that’s away from other people and distractions. This typically means a separate room with a door. But it also matters how you maintain your workspace.

“As with most productivity-related issues, keeping an organized working space can certainly enhance your work performance,” remote worker Molly Lansdowne says. “As soon as you’ve had your lunch, bring your empty containers to the kitchen or place them in your purse. Try not to let papers or books pile up or strewn haphazardly around your workspace. I guarantee that a clean environment will motivate you to stay on task!”

3. Master Efficient Travel

When you work remotely as an IT professional, travel becomes a major part of the job description. As much as you may like to work from home all the time, you’ll inevitably find yourself traveling to handle projects near and far.

If you aren’t careful, this can zap your time and energy and leave you unproductive and out of touch. You can avoid falling into this trap by mastering efficient travel. By knowing how to pack lightly, zip through airport security, and get work done on the plane, you can be productive regardless of where you are.

4. Become an Expert Communicator

When you accept the label of remote worker, you’re also accepting the challenge of improving your communication skills. Since you’ll no longer be able to walk down the hallway and communicate with your boss or coworkers, it becomes necessary for you to find new ways to stay connected, despite geographical distance.

A lot of IT teams will choose to use a project management app like Slack, which is a lot simpler and more intuitive than using email to communicate and share files. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you’re touching base with your team multiple times per day.

Discipline is the Word

When you cut away all of the external factors and really focus on what it takes to be a successful remote IT worker, it all comes down to a single word: discipline. Those who are able to avoid distractions and motivate themselves on a daily basis will be the most successful. While the tips mentioned in this article can certainly help, you can’t replace the ability to be a self-starter. 

Companies that offer remote working options demonstrate a dedication to improving company culture, an issue that TMC is working to raise awareness of via its Tech Culture Awards program. It's dedicated to bringing this kind of important information to light and recognizing those companies that are effecting positive change in the workplace. We invite you to explore and participate in the TMC (News - Alert) Workplace Excellence Award program including the Tech Culture Award, the Tech Diversity Award, and the Social Responsibility Award.

Edited by Alicia Young

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