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What You Really Need to Know About Remote Work

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A version of this article previously appeared on Skillcrush, an online education program for creatives, thinkers, and makers that gives total tech newbies the tools to make major career changes.

Cameron Chapman, Skillcrush

With over 40 percent of employees in the U.S. now working remotely according to a Gallup report, the idea of working from home (or a coworking space or favorite coffee shop) feels more tangible than ever. This report shows a definite trend: Remote work is the way of the future, and more and more employees are on the lookout for jobs that give them the option to work off-site full time.

But dreaming of a remote job—with its flexibility and the ability to work in pajamas—and actually being successful in one aren't the same thing. There's a learning curve that goes along with ditching your commute and your boss's watchful eye over your shoulder.

I talked to remote employees to find out what they've found to be the most useful skills, tips, and hacks in their remote jobs. Here's what you really need to know to work remotely, so you can succeed and love your new work life.

Your routines and boundaries are critical.

When you commute to an office every day, you tend to fall into a routine pretty easily: Get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, drink coffee, go to work, etc. But when you work from home, it's tempting to grab your laptop from your bedside table—and not bother to get up until your growling stomach starts to get distracting.

Rachel Sullivan, director of marketing for Metis Communications (and currently on a year-long adventure with Remote Year), says that following a morning routine is vital to her success. "Showering, getting dressed, and walking outside—even if just around the block—makes such a difference in your day and mental state. It's always tempting to roll out of bed and sit with your laptop on your couch, but taking the time to jumpstart your day can help you perk up and get in the zone."

Barb Breeser, digital marketing strategist at Purplegator, agrees: "Even though I may not be in our main office every day, it's important for me to act as though I'm in an office, so I dress professionally every day, and I am at my desk working by 7:30 each morning."

Your routine might not mean getting dressed up—if an anti-routine routine works best for you, embrace it. Jeanne Veillette Bowerman, Editor of ScriptMag.com, says "I love that I can literally roll out of bed and work all day in my pajamas. You'd be surprised the amount of time it saves every day to not shower and put makeup on."

Setting up routines—however you define them—are key to establishing boundaries between your work and personal life. A critical component should be shutting down for the day—whether it's closing the door on your dedicated workspace or, if you're like me and without a separate office, turning off your computer and stepping away from your desk at a set time each day.

You'll need to become a time management pro.

Time management has always been a struggle for me—I'm a born procrastinator. But when I started working remotely, I had to put a stop to that. I had no boss checking in throughout the day to see how I was progressing on things, and sometimes deadlines for big projects were weeks or even months in the future. Virtually every remote worker I talked to for this article mentioned some form of time management as a vital skill for being successful when you're not in the office every day (or ever).

Jyssica Schwartz, director of sales for online publisher Authors Unite, struggled in the beginning, too. "I would work on whatever popped up and kept shifting focus." To solve the problem, Schwartz started to block off time in her calendar for specific tasks and focused on only one thing at a time. It worked. "I was able to get more done and be much more productive!"

Whether blocking out time on your calendar or using something like the Pomodoro method, the Action Method, bullet journaling, or productivity apps, find a system that works for you to manage your to-do list.

You'll also need a system for prioritizing your work. Marija Kovacevic, the PR & media director at Nomad Capitalist, picked up a great technique from her CEO and mentor Andrew Henderson: creating a weekly or monthly "waterfall" where you create a prioritized list of the tasks you need to do, from most important to least important—and then sticking to it. "Often small tasks that are not so relevant or time pressing (example: immediate response to emails) can distract you and you lose your focus from the most important thing and project you should be concentrating on," she says.

Communication skills are totally different when you're remote.

The communication skills you picked up in a regular 9-to-5 might not cut it in the remote world. Katy Tripses, Head of Growth at StudySoup says that she'd considered herself "to be a person with pretty developed communication skills" when she was working in an office setting. But, she learned that "communication in a digital setting is a completely different skillset." Many remote teams communicate asynchronously through chat programs, email, and comments in project management systems—there's no popping by someone's desk to chat, running into someone in the kitchen, or even throwing someone an encouraging look.

Without these in person interactions, Tripses says that "goals, instructions, and deadlines absolutely have to be communicated very clearly and very concisely. The consequences of not doing so are very apparent and immediate."

Providing regular updates to your team is also vital. Jacque Shaffer, the Senior Customer Success Manager at WebLink, says "having daily standup meetings and quick check-ins throughout the day and using an instant messaging program ensures that everyone has what they need to keep things moving effectively."

Get ready to love adaptability.

Remote jobs give you flexibility—but they can require it, too. Laura Spawn, the CEO and Co-Founder of Virtual Vocations, Inc., says that between "learning to work with new remote team members, hiring new geographically dispersed staff, adapting to new software and technologies, or balancing changes in our personal lives with respect to established professional commitments, adaptability is as essential to a remote worker as a computer."

Are you looking for a job you can do while traveling? Kovacevic travels full time, and she's found that it sometimes means unexpected situations and blockers arise: "Time zone differences, deadlines, language barriers, unstable internet connection, delayed flights, and other on-the-road situations can sometimes seem overwhelming." But Kovacevic takes it as an opportunity "to prove to [her]self that she can rise to the challenge and get stuff done at the end of the day."

Not sure you're naturally adaptable? Your personality plays a big part, but so does planning ahead—and you can make up for a lack of natural flexibility with a solid game plan. For one thing, always assume you might need extra time to find good WiFi, make sure you have contingency plans in case things go wrong (delayed flights, slow internet at your Airbnb, etc.), and otherwise keeping Murphy's Law in mind on a day-to-day basis can make your on-the-go remote work a lot smoother.

Women at Work

How To Negotiate Salary

We Asked An Expert Negotiations Lawyer

There are people in the world who hire lawyers to negotiate higher salaries for them, and then there are people like me who ask those lawyers to share their top tips on getting a better deal. At PowerToFly, we sat down with Nicole Page, Partner at Reavis Page Jump LLP, for a Lunch and Learn where she shared how she's raised countless salaries for her clients. Nicole has a large female clientele and was offering advice for all genders, but during the Lunch and Learn, she focused the conversation on how and why women should work on their negotiation skills. If you're a PowerToFly VIP, you can re-watch the entire talk here.

1. Make A Wish List

Nicole Page: The first and main thing that I tell anybody who's coming to me and saying they've got a new job offer, or they're thinking of transitioning to a new position, is to make a wish list of everything that they want out of their next opportunity. This really helps you focus on the things that are really important to you. It also just solidifies what you're going to be asking for - it helps you get clarity.

2. Rehearse And Prep For The Negotiation

NP: I would spend a fair amount of time preparing for the negotiation, you almost want to study for a negotiation like you would study for a test. Ask as many people in your industry what their experiences are, and just keep practicing what you're going to say. You're going to be nervous, and probably anxious - practicing out loud can help you be as prepared as you possibly can be.

3. Research Salary Ranges and Ask For More

NP: Without knowing the salary range of the position, you're negotiating in a vacuum. Knowledge is power, as they say, and I encourage people to network with other people in their industry and find out what they're being paid. I know it's not easy, but the only way to truly validate a salary range is to start asking what your colleagues and peers are making. After you've done your research and found out what the market rate is, you are going to think about the number that you want, and you're going to ask for more than that. I'm not saying you're going to double that, but generally, when you're negotiating, the idea is to make some sort of compromise. You want to be able to go down a little, and let them come up - meet them in the middle.

4. Ask In Person—Not Email

NP: I think while you're in the process of negotiation, it's not a bad idea to do it in conversation. It's a lot easier for someone to say no in an email, but in person, you're able to advocate for yourself and may be able to do some convincing. You also want to identify your leverage in any negotiation - that will help you decide what you're going to counter with, or if you're going to counter at all.

5. Be Clear, Confident And Direct About Your Ask

NP: It's very important to be clear, and not wishy-washy in a salary negotiation. If you want something, you've got to be very direct about it. You cannot assume that someone's going to know what you mean. They won't know what you mean, and in fact, they're disincentivized to know what you mean because the employer is essentially giving you a salary offer they're hoping you're going to accept. They don't want to pay you more if they don't have to. I'm not saying this to cast dispersions on employers—this is just business and how business works. If somebody can pay you less to do a job, they will because it's more profitable for them. So, you have to be direct, and you have to be comfortable asking for a higher salary.

6. Be Self-Promoting

NP: You must constantly remind your employer how valuable and how great you are, not just in times of negotiation. Be self-promoting—you're just undercutting yourself if you're not, and many women feel that in doing so they come across as bragging, and that's just not true. Every time you do something good, figure out a way to let your employer and your boss know. Not in an obnoxious way, but just be creative about it. Don't assume that anybody's watching or acknowledging or cares, except for you. You have to look out for yourself all the time.

7. Make Sure To Have Your Next Ask Ready

NP: You might go into a salary negotiation and say, 'I want x more dollars than you've offered.' And the employer might say, 'Well, we just can't do that.' You always want to have your next ask in line. What I mean by that is that in response to the employer, you could reply, 'Well, if you can't give me the salary I want, then I need you to give me a better title.' So, you want to have a step-by-step guide on your list and in your brain as you go into the negotiation of what you're going to say if they say no to an ask. Refer back to step one - make that list!

8. Remember, It's NOT A Confrontation - It's a Precedent For Yourself

NP: Nobody likes a confrontation, and if you go into a negotiation thinking it is, you're just going to increase your own anxiety level. A negotiation is really just a conversation you're engaging in while being protective of yourself and your needs. Studies have shown that 5% of women and 60% of men engage in salary negotiations. This means that from the very beginning of your career, you are setting a precedent for yourself and what you deserve. Setting a precedent may not always mean salary, this could be a sign-on bonus, vacation time, or even general compensation throughout your time at the company. The first offer a company gives you, most of the time, is not their best and final offer. This is your opportunity to say that you want more or you want more of something - stay calm, and set a precedent.

9. If You Need Help, Find An Attorney

NP: There are a few reasons why people consult an attorney to help with the negotiation process. First, negotiating is hard, and at the end of the day, some people are just really uncomfortable doing so. If you're one of those people and have the resources, it really is so much easier to have an unbiased party negotiating for you.

Second, from experience, I have a lot of information about what other people in their fields are making. That kind of information is really valuable because it helps the person see if their salary is in line with the market or if they're really being underpaid.

In both cases, I'm completely subterranean. I'll work out the whole negotiation strategy and the counter-offer to the employment proposal, and their employer never even knows that they ever hired an attorney. It's almost like just having a counsel and coach to help you structure it.

10. Ultimately, It Might Be Uncomfortable, But Just Ask

NP: I think it may also help everyone to know that men are asking. The men are asking for raises, and they're getting them - there's no reason for women not to ask too. At the end of the day, if you want to get ahead, you have to put yourself out there - the only way to get what you want is to ask.

Microsoft

Invite-Only Evening with Microsoft’s Women Tech Leaders

Microsoft has partnered with PowerToFly to present an exclusive, invite-only event for women in tech. The evening will feature discussions with several of Microsoft's women leaders in CSS and beyond. There will also be time to network with Microsoft executives and top women in your field.

The event will take place on Thursday, August 9th from 5:30pm to 8:00pm at The Big Chill, located at 911 East Morehead Street in Charlotte.

Agenda (Subject to Change)

  • 5:30pm - Check-In and Networking over Food & Drinks
  • 5:50pm - Introduction by PowerToFly's Chief Revenue Officer Caroline Turner
  • 5:55pm - Welcome Address by Rich Neal, Senior Director at Microsoft
  • 6:00pm - Fireside Chat with Dana Knipp, WW Capability and Capacity Leader for Azure at Microsoft
  • 6:15pm - Panel Discussion featuring from Microsoft:
    • Kristin Thomas, Support Engineer Manager
    • Nikki Gregg, WW Support Leader SP & ODCharlene Douglas, Senior Content Exp Manager
    • Mary Peebles, Talent Acquisition Director
  • 6:30pm - Audience Q&A;
  • 6:45pm - Networking Resumes

Microsoft is invested in women-focused organizations, seeking out women-owned suppliers, and providing support to women once they are employees at Microsoft. Their employee network Women@Microsoft reaches over twenty thousand people worldwide. Microsoft's ongoing diversity partnerships include the Anita Borg Institute, National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), and MentorNet.

Visit Microsoft's page on PowerToFly to learn more about their open roles, benefits and diversity initiatives.

About our Events: All RSVP'd attendees are welcome, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender identity, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, or age. If you require assistance to fully participate in this event, please email hi@powertofly.com, and we will contact you to discuss your specific needs.

Unfortunately, PowerToFly and the company it is holding an event on behalf of cannot admit outside recruiters to that particular event. Please email hi@powertofly.com if you have any questions about this policy.


PwC

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Life at PwC

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