Distributed work environments are becoming a more frequent topic of discussion. If you aren’t exactly sure what a distributed work environment is, it is when a majority of the employees are working remotely, together, across the country. This has positive and negative impacts on a business as a whole. The most obvious positive is that the business saves considerable expenses. They are able to alleviate the business from paying for food on a daily basis as well as office space and any other resources required for daily work. But there’s also considerable downsides to this type of setup as well. We’re going to cover what you might experience when you search for the “work from home” environment and how you should be positioning yourself to succeed in such an environment.
How distributed companies hire & preparing for your interview
Firstly, distributed companies operate like any other company. You just don’t have as much social interaction with your colleagues. This interaction is really important, though. And a topic we’ll cover later on. But before we dig into that, let’s understand how distributed companies hire. If you’ve found an incredible opportunity with a distributed company, you should expect to go through a hiring process that’s fairly similar to the one that’s in person.
You might experience these general parts of the interview process:
- A phone interview for qualifying you (don’t forget to send a thank you email after your interview)
- A second round interview that may take place through video sessions
- A final interview round with the leadership of the organization
- A decision of the employment opportunity and either onboarding or a decision not to move forward on the employers part
As you can see, the process is pretty similar to what you might expect. With some small differences. There’s more emphasis placed on the phone interview stage and more emphasis placed on the second round of interviews that take place through video. The best advice I can provide on preparing for the hiring phase at a distributed company is to think about how you’d bring some life to your verbal and video conversations. Having chemistry with your peers is important. Show your future employer that you are able to bring some life to your video interview session. As many resources will tell you, advanced preparation is key. Fortunately, you’ll have the ability to be at home, in a comfortable place while performing the interview. This will give you a competitive advantage and I would recommend using it. Have a cheat sheet available to you if you are feeling nervous. Luckily, your hiring manager won’t be able to see this cheat sheet.
Once you’ve landed the job, the real work begins
Everyone wants to “work from home”, it seems to be heavily advertised and sought after quality of life. But what most people aren’t telling you about working from is that you need to be a high performer. Generally speaking, distributed workforces tend to lean heavier on measuring their employee’s success than just the chemistry they bring to the workplace. Think about this for a moment, are you prepared to wake up every morning and know exactly what to start working on without someone telling you what to do? That can be a somewhat daunting idea for many people. And that’s okay!
Distributed workforces rely on clear but brief communication and results-oriented professionals who need less guidance. Communication is really important within a distributed work environment. The larger a company is, the more it will rely on tools to help communicate, while being distributed. For example, tools like Slack, which is a workplace instant messaging and chat service, is growing in abundance. And this is because of workplaces which are inherently becoming more remote. Communication needs to be strategic, well thought through and be less time consuming than in the regular office environment. This is because you may be disrupting employees who are trying to gain results as well. And that could bode negatively for you.
Before you jump in with a company that is nearly or fully distributed, think through your own path to success within the company. Will you need the guidance of someone else? Have you had experience working from home and know how to combat the common mistakes of such? Are you knowledgeable about the company’s category of business operations to the point that you will understand how to garnish results, without your direct reports help? Are you extremely comfortable in this job function? All of these things are important questions to ask before you jump in. Knowing where you are well positioned will help ensure you have a long and fruitful career within a distributed work environment.
Methods for succeeding in the distributed workplace
When thinking about methods for succeeding in a distributed work environment, here are just a few helpful techniques you can use.
The morning communication technique
Communicating with teams is really important. But the time you do so is also very important. Generally speaking, most people are starting their work day in the morning. So you don’t interrupt them during the prime working hours, schedule meetings for the morning time. Think of this as “kicking off the day” and then allow the communication to sink in during the day. This is great for team communication as well as individual communication between colleagues.
The direct report weekly report
This is a fairly simple and effective method. Simply put, you want to provide a weekly report to those who manage your outcomes. For example, if your hiring manager’s name is Sarah; you want to provide Sarah a report of all the work you did that week, what work you expect to do next week, and ask if anything needs to be changed. This report should be sent at the end of every week. If Sarah is too busy to read your email, she’ll get to it at some point. But your communication style with her, through this method, is passive. And that allows your manager Sarah, in this instance, to be given more quality time towards her own work.
Focus on results
As mentioned previously, you want to make sure you are well-positioned to be able to execute for this company. For example, if you have had years of experience working with the consumer’s foods category, and this business is in that same category; you’ll most likely know exactly how to deliver results. Be sure that you are putting together a weekly plan for yourself and then at the end of the week, be sure to share the results that you garnished and use that as a framework for team discussions. This will be heavily rewarded in distributed work environments, mostly because you are showing that you can deliver success when being given autonomy.
Develop chemistry with your colleagues
This is really important. If you are working remotely, you are going to indirectly not be able to develop a deep and meaningful connection with your colleagues. This isn’t because you aren’t likable or easy to be around, it is because it is more difficult. There is no “water cooler” moment. Be sure that you take time every once and a while to schedule calls where you ask for feedback and talk to someone about themselves. It’s great if you do these calls on a Friday when the week’s work is accomplished. This can be a helpful way to gain the trust of your colleagues and they’ll appreciate the fact that you want to make a connection with them.
Performance is the job function and beyond
As mentioned, distributed workplaces rely heavily on performance. But performance doesn’t always just mean your ability to do your job function well. With the methods above, you can stand out by thinking through what distributed work environments often lack. And then putting forth the effort to try and fill those gaps or prevent potential issues with yourself, your hiring manager, and your colleagues by proactive. If you spend the time to think about what you might have not paid attention to, in any regard, on a weekly and monthly basis; you’ll do great.