While self-management can mean different things in different fields, for virtual team members it means being able to manage your job duties and responsibilities on your own, with little supervision from management. This requires a lot of self-discipline and a sense of self-awareness as to what the employee is capable of and accomplishing it. Remember that while many things can be managed by the virtual team member, nothing replaces the manager’s role in their professional development.
Self-management can cover a wide range of aspects and situations. Self-discipline plays a large factor in how we handle our everyday activities and actions. Often we may ignore what needs to be fixed first since we do not want to admit our own faults or shortcomings. But a part of self-discipline is being able to realize what has to be done to correctly manage ourselves and succeed.
Solving Problems on Your Own
Virtual team members often face many obstacles and problems when working in an office away from the central location. Since they are not always in reach of management, these workers will have to learn how to solve many problems on their own. For minor problems, such as computer malfunctions or even an unhappy customer, you should be prepared to solve the problem and possibly prevent it from happening again. The key is to make sure that you have the resources needed to solve problems can and will arise. Lay out action plans with your teammates regarding what to do when a problem arises. Determine how much they should handle on their own and at what point they need to reach out for help.
Questions for solving problems:
- “What has happened?”
- “What would it take to resolve this?”
- “Can I do this on my own – or do I need help?”
- “What is the next step I should take?”
Being and Staying Motivated
Motivation is one of the key aspects of being successful at work, especially on a virtual team. It has been shown that employees who are motivated in their work are happier, more enthusiastic, and more productive. If you are not motivated in your work, you will not be able to function in your home office, much less with the rest of the group. Sometimes at the beginning of an assignment, you can feel highly motivated, but that motivation can wane if you do not take action. Review what has happened so far and realize how far you’ve come and how far you need to go. While periods of low motivation can happen now and again, it is important to make sure it is only temporary and do not sink into a permanent situation.
Keys for staying motivated:
- Establish your goals
- Create a plan of action to achieve these goals
- Feel good about your achievements and build on them
- Review any mistakes made and learn from them
You Have More Freedom – Don’t Abuse It
Any truthful employee will tell you that when management is not present, they will be more lenient in their current assignments or duties – similar to “when the cat’s away, the mice will play”. But teleworkers will not always have a member of management around them, so they must avoid that feeling of wanting to play and should remain focused on their work. Whether a manager is present or not, assignments will still be due and the employee will still be subject to reviews and evaluations. Company supplies still belong to the company, so the employee should not be using them for personal use, such as making personal calls or printing flyers with the company copier. You should be able to manage your time and activities in the same manner as you would in any other office and not abuse the new freedom you’ve been given.
You and Only You are Accountable
Working from home can seem like a leisurely job with few problems, but that is not always the case. You are working as an individual entity (when not working as a team player) and are held accountable for your work, or lack thereof. You cannot fade into a sea of faces or cannot pass the blame to a member of management when a mistake is made. Do not allow outside distractions or problems to hinder what you do inside the office. You are the only one that can be held accountable for the actions you take and what you do in the office. Because of this, you should focus on all duties, job performance, and ensure that you keep a ‘clean nose’ at all times.
Recognize and Remove Bad Habits
Honestly, when someone asks us to name one of our bad habits, many of us will answer that we don’t have any. But this type of attitude does not help us improve or develop through goals and work. When we look at our typical work day, make a list of the bad habits you have been exhibiting, such as procrastinating or taking short cuts when writing a report. Identify ways these bad habits have been hindering either how assignments are completed or how they are affecting your overall work. Then create an action plan as to how you can remove these bad habits from your work routine. Plan ways to finish work ahead of time or how you can improve how long it takes to enter a report. Sometimes admitting what we do wrong can be a challenge, but once we do and take the steps needed to fix them, we’ll not only feel more confident about ourselves, but our job abilities as well.
- “What am I doing that is hindering my work?”
- “Is this something I can change?”
- “How does this habit affect me?”
Reflect on Mistakes and Learn from Them
Many of us have been led to believe that making a mistake is a bad thing and should be avoided at all costs. However, the opposite is true. Making mistakes is something that will always happen and can serve as a learning tool when viewed in the right direction. In the office, when we make a mistake, one of the first steps is to see what happened to cause the mistake. Was it something you did or something that could have been changed? Then, reflect back on it and determine what you can do to learn from the mistake. Is this something you can avoid in the future? Is this something that you can handle differently the next time it happens? Don’t let mistakes make you feel like a failure – instead view them as a method of continued learning and growth.
Establish Good Habits
After determining our mistakes and bad habits at work, we are definitely ready for some positive thinking! Establishing good habits at work can be just as important as simply identifying the negative ones. The key to establishing good habits is in knowing how to control yourself in your environment and sticking with it over time. First, determine what habits you want to establish and would benefit you at work, such as trying to complete projects on time and remembering to run software checks on your company computer. Determine what you need to do to make this a habit (write it down or add it to a routine). Then don’t be afraid to put your plan into action. Repetition is the key to all learning, so by repeating your new action plans and improving old behaviors, they will eventually become good habits that you will not have to remind yourself about.
Tips for creating good habits:
- Identify what you want to change
- Write reminders to follow in the beginning
- Fit new actions into your routine until they become habit
- Give yourself ample time to adjust, usually between 30-60 days
Be Assertive with Yourself
You will not always have a manger or supervisor present, so it is important that you are assertive enough with yourself to ensure that your work is done. When planning out your work schedule, make decisions about what needs to be done and how you will do it. However, if you fail to be assertive and make yourself focus, all of your assignments, tasks, and duties will fall apart and will not be completed. You can only control your actions, so you are the only one that can make assertive decisions and ensure that you are managing your time well enough to succeed.
Keys to being assertive:
- Say what you are going to do and stick with it
- Remember to focus on the task at hand – don’t get side-tracked
- Hold yourself accountable for these actions or mistakes that can occur