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Remote work arrangements continue to gain popularity in the creative industry, and it’s easy to see why. Employers can recruit from a wider pool of applicants to find the best available people. And employees get to cut out daily commutes, which saves money and gives them more personal time.
According to a recent survey by The Creative Group, three in 10 advertising and marketing executives interviewed said their company currently offers the option to work remotely. And professionals who are allowed to telecommute said they do so an average of three days a week.
But remote work isn’t without its pitfalls. Without the structure and camaraderie of an office environment, creative team members have to work harder to stay on task and collaborate with colleagues. However, technology and proven time management techniques go a long way to help overcome these hurdles.
1. Make your presence known.
Some supervisors worry that remote employees won’t be as accessible as people in the office during business hours. Ease their concerns by being digitally present. Stay close to the phone, company email, IM and any other tools you use to keep in touch, and reply to messages in a timely manner. When you need to step away for long stretches, inform your team — especially if you are a manager who telecommutes — of when you’ll be available again. If you’re working with colleagues around the world, be understanding of delays in response time given different time zones.
2. Show consistency.
While the office can be noisy, working from home has its own distractions. You may be tempted to take the morning off to clean the house or do laundry, and then make up the hours later in the day or on the weekend. However, your boss and colleagues expect you to start and end your work around the same times each day. One of the beauties of telecommuting is flexibility, but an erratic schedule creates confusion and impedes collaboration.
3. Be physically present, on occasion.
With mobile devices, cloud servers and ubiquitous Wi-Fi making it easy to work remotely, you might wonder why you have to go into the office at all. But face time is vital for job success, allowing you to network, deepen relationships, meet customers and hear information typically shared in casual conversation. If possible, try to go into the office from time to time and make it a priority to attend important team meetings and office social events.
4. Make technology your ally.
Email is no doubt an indispensable communication tool, but cloud-based apps and software can allow you to work smarter and more efficiently. There are many to choose from: Slack offers a virtual space where colleagues can communicate and collaborate. Evernote allows far-flung groups to share sketches, storyboards and comments. Then there are file hosting services like Google Docs, OneDrive and Dropbox — the latter two having extensive Microsoft Office integration. Whatever your creative job and wherever you’re located, there are tools to support you.
5. Be your own IT.
Remote work is convenient — until you lose access to company files, networks and systems. One of the worst parts of telecommuting is not being able to ask someone from IT to pop over and fix your computer or router. To be a capable offsite employee, learn to troubleshoot your own tech issues first and have a backup plan. Know all the nearby locations with reliable Wi-Fi — coffee shops, libraries and even friends’ houses. Or simply head to the office to get the support you need and spend a little quality time with colleagues.
While telecommuting can increase your productivity and workplace happiness, it’s not a privilege that every creative professional gets — or can master. Work on staying present and connected so you can enjoy this job perk and be an integral member of the team.