Working at different times and in different places means that, although the work is mostly the same, there are different habits and behaviours that will help you and your colleagues work more effectively.

Here we present 8 habits of high performing Smart Workers:

Good communication

Communicate, communicate, communicate.  We have many different channels to communicate – voice, video, email, chat, instant messaging, social media, posting documents into shared systems and letting people know they are there – and keeping everyone professionally up-to-date through these channels is vital.

It will prevent anyone from feeling excluded or marginalised, or worrying that they are getting isolated, essential for teamwork and maintaining good colleague relations.

Good organisation

We should be well-organised anyway. But sometimes when everyone is together in the office, good organisation and being systematic gets a little frayed at the edges. With people working remotely, working at different times, or not working every weekday, it is necessary to get more orderly and systematic about sharing information and keeping everyone updated about what is happening and what you are doing.

And for the individual, working away from colleagues and immediate supervision, good self-organisation and time management are essential.

Keeping availability status updated – and being available to colleagues while managing interruptions better

Colleagues need to know when and where you are working, so keeping your presence status updated is essential.

Many studies have shown that people working remotely are often more productive. Key to that is not having to deal with the distractions and the interruptions one has in the office. 

With new communications technology, in principle one can be just as accessible away from the offices as in the office. The difference is, you can manage the interruptions better. So letting people know your level of ‘interruptability’ for quick calls, etc, is good practice. Go easy on setting a ‘do not disturb’ status.

Ensuring all work progress is communicated to colleagues and kept in shared areas (online and offline)

Your manager and your colleagues need to be able to interact with the work you do. So it is important to keep them up to date, and also to share all work-in-progress in shared areas. This will help others to deal with issues that may arise while you are not there, let managers know if there is any support needed, and make the handover of work easy in job-share and work-delegation situations.

Taking an active part in remote meetings and collaborative activities

Remote and hybrid remote/real-world meetings are part of the new normal for Smart Working. It’s important for people who work remotely to take an active part in these meetings. Otherwise, it can become a situation of ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

It is perfectly possible to lead meetings, or parts of meetings, from remote locations using collaborative technologies such as Microsoft Teams, and high-performing Smart Workers are comfortable in doing this.

Supporting colleagues in their work, wherever you are

Similarly, it is perfectly possible to support colleagues in their work, wherever they are and wherever you are. The flexible collaboration tools and new meeting practices make this easy (see the resource How much should meetings be physically face-to-face?).

In successful Smart Working teams word soon gets around about who to turn to for expert help and support for work. Taking an interest in and actively supporting the work of colleagues prevents isolation and the fragmentation of teams.

Managing the work/life interface

Research has shown that different people have different kinds of ‘flexstyle’ in relation to work-life balance. Some people need rigidly to separate work and home life. Some take a more integrative approach, and as long as work is professionally done, can slide between work and home issues without too much difficulty. In the end, it’s about delivering the results.

Whether a ‘separator’ or an ‘integrator’, one still needs control of those boundaries in order to work effectively. And when participating in calls from a remote location, it’s important to keep a professional face.

Being able to switch off from work

A key area of managing that work/life interface is the ability to ‘switch it off’. Having the technologies to ‘work anywhere, anytime’ does not mean we should work everywhere, all the time.

By agreement people can make themselves available outside of agreed work times on a limited, discretionary basis to deal with issues of high importance, pressing deadlines, emergencies, etc. But everyone has the right to switch off from work, and it’s important to protect this in order to be most effective when we are working.