I am so pleased to feature a guest post from our team member Tanisha Christie on what it really takes to work virtually. So many clients and people I meet want to pursue virtual and independent work, but don’t always understand that to be successful in these positions, you ironically have to be fantastic at teaming. Even the traditional 9-5 worker can learn a lot from her post.
While Tanisha’s post is on some of her learnings from working directly on Teach Newark, she is also a critical member of The Opportunities Project’s team and you’ll be hearing more from her in the coming months as we launch more services and products for organizations.
Now this post isn’t so much about time management. No. I’ve taken many a skype meeting while doing laundry and having eggs boiling for the breakfast I’ve yet to eat because I got an email from a principal at 6:45 am because she chose to go to the office early, and I chose to respond because I needed her answer on a few questions so that I can get to my tasks for the day that were predicated on that answer. No. Not about time management but from working with the Teach Newark team, I wanted to share a few things that I’ve considered while working independently, yet collectively, and almost all while virtually.
1) Know how you work, e.g. understand your working style. Are you detailed oriented? Do you need to understand every part of the process to do your share effectively? Are you a ‘lone wolf’? I’m a whirling dervish, but I like tasks that have a beginning, middle and end. I’m also deft at the soft skills, strategy, brainstorming and assessment. Ask me to set up an eventbrite url…I’m not so good. Knowing how you work best and communicating that to your team leader will not only help the relationship prosper but gives you more control over your work product.
2) While there is no “I” in Team, you have to remember that you are on one. We often worked in silos, handling various areas of the project. Deadlines became important but sometimes pieces of a particular project may or may not be connected to the work I was doing. So I made sure to keep deadlines. Or if there was difficulty, I asked questions. It may not be necessary to know what people are doing, but chances are your work affects someone else’s.
3) More often than not, it’s better to pick up the phone or Gchat or Skype. One of the benefits of working virtually is that you get to avoid meetings, which can be a time suck, however once you’re getting into a high number count on an email exchange over one issue, context does gets lost. At times I would stop the madness and call. Schedule a time to talk or just call the person. Partial comments, fishing through long emails can be tedious and take more effort than necessary.
4) And speaking of emails put proper subject headings on all correspondence. This may seem trivial but this is an easy way to manage your emails, and others on the team will appreciate it. This aiding my time management needs and gave me a way to organize my work.
5) Participate in the corporate “culture.” This might sound crazy but even if you are working alone in your pajamas, it is a good idea to pass along interesting articles to the team based on your work, connect to others on Linkedin, or follow the team on Twitter or Facebook (if you use your profile for professional purposes.) I’ve written a recommendation for one of my colleagues on this project; linked, ‘friended’ and followed where appropriate. If you are local to the project, go to events or at least ask how things went. It’s important to show that you have some interest in the success of the project/organization. It engenders good will and initiative could lead to more work for you.