Sounding smart definitely isn’t something I strive for nor something I excel at, but rarely is it said that I’m not being myself! This has become even more evident while working remotely.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned:

Embrace the tools available to you.

I am quite sure that after this year Webster’s dictionary will need to alter the definition of Zoom. The program and those like it have become commonplace in the past few months. Our team has Zoom meetings each morning and I really do feel like that daily face-to-face touchpoint has helped to keep us on task and connected. In some ways, we communicate more efficiently than we did in person. Customized Zoom backgrounds for weddings, birthdays, and babies are the new take on treats in the office.

I’ve learned that taking the time to utilize tools like Skype, Teams, Slack, Asana, and so on are essential to communicate effectively when working virtually. I mean, I’m a slow learner. It was only a few years ago that I finally embraced the Conversations sorting function in Outlook and only a few weeks ago that I gave in and pressed that crucial Clean-Up tool button. Seriously, if anyone has any email management tips – I’m all ears! But really, looking into some of these tools can drastically help your workflow and day to day communication. After all, that’s what they were made for.

Revel in the solitude.

I’ll be honest, I am somewhat easily irritable. I’m not proud of the number of times I roll my eyes or sigh in a day, but it’s much easier to calm this tendency when I’m working from the comfort of my own home. Turns out, my sighs have caught on and are now somewhat of my trademark. Small doses of people and activity are better for me as I tend to recharge when I’m alone. I for one, manage my time and priorities better when I can think them through on my own.

I am also easily distracted and being able to limit distractions and interruptions has helped me to be more creative and productive. Ok, so I might still zone out by watching my neighbors out the window, or playing with my pets, or by something shiny… but you know what I mean. I realize this can be limiting for those who get their energy from being around people, but there is something to be said for the freedom and flexibility of being able to work, surrounded by the things you love.

An added bonus of remote work: it helps quell clicky behavior and workplace gossip!

Raise your hand.

It’s easy to stay in the background and disappear in this environment. I think many people are content just doing their job and keeping their heads down, but I’ve learned that working virtually has given me the comfort and confidence to speak up. I can much more easily chime in on a Zoom call than in a conference room full of people.

I’m finding that the older I get, the more difficult it is for me to think on my feet. I’m much better at articulating myself when I have time to noodle on something and jot it down; working remotely affords me this opportunity. I’ve learned to be watchful of when to interject – when I feel that I can add value, a unique perspective, or a question or clarification for the good of the group. I tend to overthink and overanalyze conversations, things I’ve said, the way I’ve said them, things I should have said, etc. I’ve learned to try to be mindful and deliberate and to try not to second guess.

I’ve been able to mold my role into something I’m excited about, by filling a need and raising my hand.

Remember the Golden Rule.

Treat people the way you want to be treated. Especially working virtually and seldom seeing people in person, you never really know what someone might have going on in their personal lives. Being thoughtful in my communication is something I need to keep working on. I recently heard that one of my co-workers said that I make them feel important. This is probably one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received. It stuck with me because it never dawned on me. I try to keep this in mind each day now – as this is exactly how everyone should be made to feel.

Remember when I talked about being easily irritable? Let’s talk about emails. I get extremely frustrated when people treat them as an instant message. The number of emails thrown around the interwebs in a day is overwhelming and not good for my anxiety! In turn, I might come across as surly, but really, I’m just trying to check things off my list and keep my head above water. While I don’t think every email needs a smiley face, I do need to be more cognizant of what tone may be coming across.

I’ve learned to be aware of the expression on my face, along with my attentiveness while on video calls. I know it’s hard to keep that RBF in check and still looked engaged 45 minutes in, but trust me, if you are the one presenting – you’re looking at the faces in those little Brady Bunch boxes and it makes a difference. It’s easy to forget people can see you when you’re sitting in your jammies in your bedroom, but a smile or a nod on these calls goes a long way.

Be grateful for the opportunity.

Being able to do my job from home surrounded by my family has been my wish for quite some time. What was a pretty horrendous year for most, actually provided me an opportunity I had been yearning for. For that, and so many other things, I am eternally grateful.

I am aware of the hardship, isolation, and loss so many people are experiencing this year and I try to keep that in mind on days I might be frustrated with my job. I’m lucky to have it. I’m lucky to work in the industry I’ve always wanted to and I’m lucky to have met some wonderful people along the way. I’ve learned to try to lead with gratitude – in my personal life and my professional life. If someone does something you noticed and appreciated, tell them. Shine a light on people’s talents and positive attributes. Celebrate small wins, work, and accomplishments.

I think Monica Geller’s advice to Joey was spot on – just be yourself. We all have something unique to bring to the table and working remotely might just give you the incentive to do so.

What lessons have you learned working from home?