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To be more successful at remote work, you may need to incorporate. Not literally, but figuratively, taking on the mindset of what former Fidelity Investments president Robert Pozen and long-time freelance remote worker Alexandra Samuel call “a Business of One.”

“Every single home office is essentially its own freestanding enterprise. Your boss is effectively your client, and you are effectively in the position of a vendor or supplier. Your boss gives you the orders for products and services, and it is up to you to complete those orders on time and on budget,” they write in Remote, Inc.

That means seeing your work as a series of deliverables that you are accountable for, be it a new product launch, a software revamp, or a new manual for onboarded employees. You must organize the pace and timing around your own priorities and goals, rather than the lingering industrial model of a standard eight-hour work day, although obviously you need to be mindful of the working schedule of colleagues and other collaborators. What counts is top-flight outcomes, not mandated hours.

They recognize the model can’t be adopted by everyone. It fits best for white-collar workers or professionals with some degree of market power or those already self-employed. It’s less applicable to those in support or junior roles, whose tasks are laid out for them on a daily or hourly basis by their boss. It’s also dependent on the flexibility allowed by your organization and boss.

But if you can apply it, they believe it will help you be more successful in the remote world so many people were thrust into without warning or training when the pandemic started. Working remote, they note, is a learned skill: The longer people work remotely, the more likely they are to feel as productive from home as they were in the workplace. That suggests you may still have techniques to learn.

Autonomy is key. A survey conducted in four waves between last April and September by Maru/Blue found 80 per cent of new remote workers who had a moderate or high level of autonomy said they were at least as productive working from home as from the office, while that fell to less than half of low-autonomy remote workers.

To get that autonomy, the authors suggest two strategies. The first is to demonstrate you can deliver consistent, timely, exceptional results from your Business of One. The second is to build your market power – enhancing your knowledge and expertise – so that your manager is willing to accommodate your requests for flexibility.

As part of that flexibility, they advise you to extricate yourself from a world in which everything is organized and decided in meetings to an alternative of punctuated collaboration. It’s a midway point between the efficiency of solo work and the benefits of collaboration. “The secret is to make collaboration specific, focused, and time limited rather than accepting it as our default mode for getting work done,” they write.

Propose specific plans for achieving that workstyle. Use online suggestion boxes and commentaries rather than a series of Zoom meetings to plan a new product. Set goals for the week, month or product cycle, with check-ins with your boss at appropriate times. That will mean clear expectations – key performance metrics that both your boss and you agree to and can monitor. Don’t wait for your boss to hand out marching orders; think proactively, helping to define the agenda yourself. Try to obtain agreement with your boss on how much time you’ll spend in meetings – and how you can be given more meeting-free time when pressure points arise. Communicate clearly and frequently with your boss – your client under this schema – and they say you will obtain more latitude to get your work done.

Become a Business of One, even if in a business of hundreds or thousands.

Quick hits

  • Consider developing a to-be list as well as a to-do list, setting out what you want to be in life, says blogger Frank Sonnenberg.
  • Stanford University researchers studying Zoom fatigue suggest that a source of stress can be faces on video-conference calls being too large for comfort, our brain interpreting it as an intense situation. Communications professor Jeremy Bailenson recommends taking Zoom out of the full-screen option and reducing the size of the Zoom window relative to the monitor to minimize face size.
  • Women need two separate networks of supporters to talk to, one that is female only and one that includes men, communications consultant Susan McPherson writes in The Lost Art of Connecting.
  • When asked in a job interview to “tell me about yourself,” career adviser Lily Zhang says start with the present, talking a little bit about your current role and its scope, as well perhaps as a major recent accomplishment; move on to the past, outlining previous experience that is relevant to the job; and then segue onto the future, elaborating on what you’re looking to do next and what you can accomplish in this new role.
  • Don’t just learn from your mistakes. Learn from your successes as well, advises consultant Wally Bock.

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