Month: November 2016

How to Have a Hard Conversation When You’re Remote

CoworkersStress ManagementTelecommutingTravelWork From HomeWorking Remotely

Hopefully you have a job (remote or not!) that you enjoy most of the time, find fulfillment in, and interact with engaging and supportive colleagues. But even the most satisfied professionals have bad days and are faced with difficult situations.

But what happens when a bad day or difficult situation goes beyond a one time occurrence? Maybe a colleague continually undercuts your ideas or intentionally leaves you out of conversations, your management team is not providing the support and runway you need to grow, or perhaps a direct report is challenging you in inappropriate ways.

While it can be intimidating, when a problem arises in the working world you must face it head on. But factor in the distance of working remotely or from a different office and it can be even more difficult.

So how do you handle this? Here are 6 tips to have a difficult conversation when you’re not in the office.

1. Have a live conversation

Intonation and inflection matter so avoid email or IM. Give the person and the situation the courtesy it deserves and have a conversation. One challenge of not being in the office is not being able to simply pop by someone’s desk or office. If you need to connect with someone who has a challenging schedule send a short email indicating you’d like to discuss a specific topic, succinctly say what that topic is, and grab time on that person’s calendar.

2. Come prepared

Clear, concise thoughts are much more powerful than spouting out grievances. Spend time detailing what the situation and problem at hand is; have short examples that you can cite if pressed. Then spend time thinking about what you believe the remedy should be. Especially if you’re going to an executive with an issue one of the first questions she is likely to you is how it can be fixed. You don’t have to have the full solution but you don’t want to fumble over your words here.

3. Remember your EQ

Along with being prepared for the conversation, your thoughts on how something can improve, and setting up the best environment possible for the discussion, don’t forget to bring your EQ or emotional intelligence. EQ is most certainly one of the professional buzzwords of the day but it’s for good reason: it matters. There are loads of different definitions out there, but one way I like to think about it particularly in terms of a difficult conversation is being a full person. When you have to face conflict, especially if there’s an added barrier like different offices or a remote worker, keep in mind that we’re all people. This person who has been seemingly actively keeping you out of a project might have some very real fears about his job security, heightened by the new baby he just had. You certainly don’t want to look past issues, but it’s important to aim to see the full picture, especially when you’re not experiencing the “full picture” of the office each day.

4. Get clear on your expectations

Before any big conversation (work meeting, personal chat, you name it!) you should have an idea of what you’re looking for as a result. You can’t control what the answer or other person’s point of view will be, but you can have an idea of what you will discuss and come to resolution on. Additionally you can have an idea of what you would like in your ideal situation. It’s important to have an understanding and idea of this going into a challenging conversation, especially one you’re driving.

5. Ask for feedback

You’re not perfect. Having a difficult situation to should remind you of the fact that no one is perfect. Talking about something unideal is a great time to learn more about how you can grow and improve as a professional. Plus asking for feedback will demonstrate to your counterpart that you’re

6. If it’s a really sensitive matter and you can, travel.

Some things–when possible–are best done in person. If you’re dealing with a highly sensitive subject, or need to involve upper management, or simply need to be able to look someone in the eye during a conversation do it in person if you can. Trust your gut and if you feel it’s necessary–and it’s possible with your work setup–make the trip.


How have you handled a difficult situation when not being in the office?

10 Not So Obvious Work From Home Tips

TelecommutingWork From HomeWorking Remotely

If you work remotely regularly, you likely know the mainstays to be effective: that it’s critical to have a dedicated workspace and to avoid distractions like Netflix (if you don’t know that already, jot those down…) But what are some other not so obvious things you should do to set yourself up to be successful and effective while working remotely? How can you organize your day and mind to perform at your best from your home?

Here are 10 tips:

1. Structure your day

The flexibility of working from home can actually work against you if you’re not careful. It’s important to keep some form of schedule so that your days don’t bleed into each other. This goes beyond your Monday – Friday meeting schedule to include when you start and stop your day, when and where you take lunch, and whether you have regular physical activity scheduled. These are all things that come more naturally when you go to and from an office daily so try to find and maintain the right structure for you.

2. Watch out for snacking

Here’s the thing: if you work remotely full-time or any regular amount you will run the risk of upping your caloric intake by constant grazing. It’s also an easy way to procrastinate on any projects you’re dreading. Either way, close proximity to your refrigerator is an unspoken downside of working remotely. Meal planning can do wonders for those who work at home. No need to get obsessive but a rough idea of what your lunches and snacks (plural!) will be is key. And speaking of that:

3. But Take lunch

When you’re in a zone, jammed with meetings and deadlines, and so close to your kitchen where you can just zap leftovers in your microwave, it’s easy to opt to work through lunch rather than take a meaningful break. But just like it’s critical to take a lunch break at an office, it’s extremely important to force yourself away from your work at home set-up. Try eating lunch out on your front steps (or at least on your kitchen table). And meeting friends for lunch once or twice a week is a great reset if your budget can handle it.

4. Accomplish three things everyday

It’s hard to know where to start and stop, so make a list of three big to-dos you want to get off your plate each day. Just three. When you finish them, you’ll have concrete proof of your progress. This is something anyone can do whether you work from home or an office, but when you’re remote, you often have to fuel your own motivation even more so. Having a clear focus for your day is very powerful.

5. Have a morning routine

Do not sleep in until 15 minutes before your first call. Repeat: do not sleep in until 15 minutes before your first call. Sure you can literally roll out of bed and log onto your computer (you can technically pop open your computer from your bed!) but this will catch up with you. Plus you never know if someone added an earlier meeting to your schedule!

6. Invest in a good headset and/or headphones

OK, this one may be a tad obvious to WFH vets but a good headset is worth its weight in gold if you’re on the phone all day and don’t want to be relegated to your desk. Your company may even cover this for you so find out your options! For those of you not on the phone (like writers), noise canceling headphones are a huge plus for those days when the lawn maintenance crew hits your yard at 9AM or when you have to work out of a crowded coffee shop.

7. Get out of the house

I once heard about a freelancer who during one especially cold winter didn’t leave her apartment for 2 weeks. While that may have been an exaggeration, I can see how it happens. It’s really easy to get caught up in a fury of work, look up, and realize it’s nearly 4 pm and you haven’t left your home. Make it a point to leave your home every day during the workday.

8. Take breaks

While you’re at it, take an actual morning and/or afternoon break. When you go into an office every day, breaks are part of your routine and it’s important to keep this up even when you’re remote. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that just because you’re at home you need to constantly prove to your manager and everyone else you work with that you are in fact at your computer, doing work. Here’s the thing: they’re going to know whether you’re working or not and unless you prove them wrong they’re going to assume you’re getting your work done. And since they’re reasonable enough to be open to your flexible work arrangement they will understand that even with a remote work set-up you need to pause for a moment every once and a while.

9. Have plans at night

It’s easy to get tired during the week and make excuses to not see friends and family or go on that date, but when you work remotely and don’t see people all day it’s even more important to get out during the week. A dinner, walk, happy hour, or a gym class with friends also becomes more meaningful when it’s the main social interaction you have all day.

10. Co-work with a friend

One of the benefits of working from home is that you are able to avoid common distractions of an office including say, chatty coworkers. But sometimes people are nice. And working around someone can be a nice break and can be a boost of motivation when you see your friend killing her day from across the room.

Working from home is one of the biggest benefits of a hyper-connected society and workforce. But making it work for—not against—you is the key to your success in doing it!

* * *

Work from home? What are your best tips?

This post originally appeared on Career Contessa. Book a career mentor session with Jane Scudder directly through Career Contessa’s Hire A Mentor service.