The workplace is evolving. It’s becoming less about cubicles and nine-to-fives, and more about remote offices and flex schedules.
Now, there are a number of reasons why this is happening. First, there’s the technology—especially the advancements that allow people to interact remotely, including web/video conferencing and desktop sharing. Second, particularly for IT professionals, remote work jobs are more common because the concept simply makes sense. From needing short-term IT solutions or temporary replacements to the general desire of alleviating transportation gridlock and providing flexible work accommodations, remote work is becoming more common.
To make the most of the opportunity to work from your PJs, there are various things IT pros should consider.
First, IT professionals should take note that, despite the availability of remote work jobs in the industry, not every client is looking for remote IT professionals. Typically, there are two types of employers/clients who look for remote IT workers:
Although the evolution of technology has allowed us to work from just about anywhere, some types of IT jobs are better suited onsite, while others are meant to be executed remotely.
For example, some companies and clients simply require a dedicated IT technical support team onsite to address immediate needs on location. On the other hand, certain IT roles, such as software engineers or technical consultants, are suitable for remote job opportunities.
At the heart of remote IT jobs is having the right workspace setup. In other words, you need your remote location or home office to effectively lend itself to servicing your client or employer.
The kind of technological setup essentially involves two components. First, there might be technological infrastructure that your client or employer needs you to hook into—remotely. For example, if your client has remote desktop services on Windows Server, you should have the ability to plug in, too. You should also consider web conferencing, shared desktops and mobile messaging. As a work-from-home IT pro, these are programs that’ll help you effectively communicate with your clients.
If there is one differing characteristic between being a full-time onsite employee and a remote IT specialist, it’s that the onsite employee has the luxury of working on the same equipment and using the same technology every day. The IT worker typically has no such luxury. Instead, he or she should have the ability to adapt to the remote client’s needs.
This kind of flexibility can mean many different things: from something as simple to using Google Voice versus Skype, to something more complex such as Windows Server versus Linux. As much as some IT remote workers would prefer to use one type of method versus another, the adage that the customer is always right applies to many remote freelancers. And meeting the client’s needs is always paramount.
Furthermore, effective remote work extends past your use of technology. Remote workers must also adapt to the personal styles of their clients because they’re undoubtedly going to be different. Some might prefer personal telephone/conferencing on a daily basis, while others are fine with shorter summary emails. Learning your clients’ preferences are paramount to developing long-term relationships.
In that same vein, while working from home has its share of advantages (such as personal choice and freedom), remote work does come with the potential disadvantage of inadequate communication and stagnant development of client relationships. Since many people/clients are positively impacted through personal interaction, implementing best practices can make all the difference in the world.
Some ways of fostering relationships could be setting up quick phone calls to verify small work issues, setting up predetermined schedules for web conferences, establishing a regimen of onsite visits, or even setting up client lunch dates. Some clients will insist on this from the outset, while others could be proposed by you.
One of the greatest objectives any remote IT worker can accomplish is the sense of being part of a team, especially an indispensable part of the team. This isn’t always easy, especially since remote workers can become collateral damage from onsite politics beyond their control. However, given that IT workers have technical knowledge often beyond the reach of onsite staff, establishing yourself as the go-to person on the team is an invaluable achievement that can ensure long-term relationships with your clients.
Part of the decision to work remotely as an IT professional is the assumption of more responsibility on a number of levels. And to achieve this, these responsibilities need to be managed. From adopting technologies your clients need to taking on more advanced projects, these are all things that require the skills of a leader, at least at some small level. So, the more you see yourself in that role, the more prepared you’ll be for the challenges that come with managing your own remote work environment.