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The workforce has become more virtual over the last decade, but more recently we’ve seen a massive shift toward working from home as a result of our recent global health crisis. Thankfully, the technology to get us there has been developing and improving over the last several years, so the transition to working from home was less problematic than many of us expected it would be. Today, operating businesses virtually and working digitally with remote teams without ever meeting your colleagues, employer, or clients face to face has become commonplace.
While we continue moving toward an increasingly virtual economy, the onus is on each of us to establish our own professional image. Establishing professionalism virtually might be difficult for many of us, especially those that already struggle to master some of the technology our businesses are using. But a professional image can go a long way with your clients, boss, colleagues, and network connections that can open doors for you and your career.
An unprofessional image can foster doubt in your ability, personal investment, and competence as an employee, regardless of whether or not that’s the case. More than a year into our virtual workforce transition, many employee-employer and employee-client relationships have only ever been of a virtual nature. Here are some tips on understanding professionalism, and whether your workspace is contributing to, or detracting from, your professional image in the virtual work world.
To begin, what exactly does “professionalism” mean, and what does it mean for remote teams? One part of a professional image, virtual or not, is your efficiency and timeliness with delivering products and meeting other operational deadlines. With these being markers for professionalism, some assert that working remotely actually increases our abilities to be an efficient workforce, given the right tools.
Many entrepreneurs also suggest that preparedness, personal accountability, emotional intelligence, and effective communication are characteristics of professionalism, and having a structured work routine is instrumental for each of those. To build effective leadership, accountability, and productivity in your remote work life, determine what kind of schedule works best for you, and allow yourself some flexibility within that structure.
Professionalism is also marked by the personal image you present to your professional network on a daily basis, including your personal appearance, communication style, and technological competence. Professionals dress for the part, even when the meeting is virtual. They also have a sense of connection and emotional intelligence and care about potential background distractions in their environments during virtual meetings, as well as the lighting and appearance of themselves and their surroundings during video conferencing. Professional remote teams in today’s world are proficient in all of the platforms and applications their clients and business are using, so they’re not fumbling with window changes and slide presentations when their use is required.
Professional communication is a topic so broad, it could cover an article of its own, and then some. Technology is not the only thing changing in our workforce, as the culture itself is shifting to be more inclusive and less presumptuous. As general rules, there are still important things to remember about professional communication online:
Lastly, professionalism is marked by your productivity. After all, you’re hired to do a job, or you’re building your business toward its long-term goals. Consistently turning out quality products that your network can depend on from you is an excellent mark of professionalism. Productivity doesn’t have to decrease in the virtual world, in fact, you might be more productive in your new work as a lifestyle approach!
While we think of our professional image as primarily the way we present ourselves and our work, a major determining factor in your professional (or unprofessional) image is in your timeliness and productivity. While productivity depends on a variety of factors that are not one-size-fits-all, the good news is that you can set yourself up for success with an organized and ergonomic workspace.
For many of us, the basics of productivity are in a clean, organized, dedicated workspace that offers the right tools, the right technology, and the right furniture. However, the atmosphere plays a major role in productivity and can include things you don’t often consider, like noise pollution, comfortable (or uncomfortable) room temperature, lighting, space, and outside distractions. Another consideration is the atmosphere in which you’re working. Does it promote positive thinking? Creativity? Problem-solving? Or does it make you dread logging into your laptop every morning?
Equipment is a fundamental need for success at work and professionalism in your image. Having a stable, clean, and organized desk with a working computer is a great place to start. Next, consider whether you have all the manual (physical or digital) note-taking materials you might need in order to jot down important remarks during a meeting, or brainstorming ideas during creative collaboration with a colleague. Always be prepared to write things down, whether that’s virtual, without taking your attention away from the meeting or speaker, or on a notepad.
Other tools and equipment to consider include the type of lighting you have in your workspace. Consider whether others can see you well during virtual meetings and whether you can clearly see what you’re reading, writing, and typing throughout the workday. Make sure if you’re using a keyboard, that it’s protecting your wrists as you type and not irritating them. If you’re using a laptop without a mouse, is that adding to your productivity or hindering it? Make sure you’ve got a planner, pens, pencils, a sketchbook, a desktop document holder, and any other materials you might need on hand each day.
Feel free to also personalize your space as you would at a working office, maybe with quiet music, a desktop plant, and other ‘feel good’ tools to keep you motivated. If you plan to remain in a remote-work position for an extended period of time, consider whether you need a more comfortable desk chair, a new lamp, or a new location (near the window, maybe?)
Unreliable tech can be a hugely determining factor in your professional image. Now that we’re more than a year into working remotely, folks in the business world tend to be less forgiving about unreliable technology in your workspace than they once were. Things like stable connectivity and phone connections are, plain and simply, a necessity.
If you’re settling well into working remotely and preparing to work remotely for an extended period of time, it might also be time to consider upgrading your laptop or desktop computer. Do you need a more mobile option? Do you have the speeds you need to be efficient in your role? Is it time for some updates or do you need extended virus protection? Lastly, do you have all the apps you need to succeed or are you behind the curve because you’re operating with subpar technology?
The atmosphere in your workspace is important. If you’re showing up to your workspace every day dreading the poor ventilation, insufficient lighting, noise distractions, or shoddy connectivity, chances are that that translates to the version of yourself you present to your network. The right atmosphere helps you build the right attitude for productivity, creativity, and collaboration, and can include things like the aesthetic and ambiance of your space.
It’s easy to be distracted, short-sighted, and sometimes irritated when the atmosphere of your remote workspace is off. There are some ways that creative boundaries in your workspace can help with those types of obstacles. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to this challenge. If you are committed to remote working for an extended period of time, make your remote workspace dedicated to working only (no children's crayons here!), and separate from your other responsibilities.
Sometimes, that’s simply not enough. If your remote work atmosphere is buzzing with distractions, checking out of the house and into a local coworking space can do the trick. Many shared workspaces are affordable and available for short-term or long-term rental.
Your atmosphere can affect your attitude toward the work you’re doing, especially if boundaries between work and home are blurry. Set up your workspace so that you come into your responsibilities refreshed, organized, and ready to take on the challenges of the day.
Many of us are experiencing Imposter Syndrome as a result of our transitional roles, new lifestyles, and increased investment in our professional, virtual personas. This doesn’t have to affect your productivity though, and the right office environment can actually affect the way you feel about your role. Applying the principles already mentioned (preparedness, the right tools, the right workspace, technical proficiency) can help you grow into the professional you want to become.
If you’re building your personal brand, mitigate imposter syndrome with those same principles. If your workspace isn’t facilitating your success, it’s holding your online business back. Making changes in your space, or renting a private office might be all you need to elevate your image, your attitude, and your brand.
If you’re struggling to keep up in the virtual work world, having trouble staying engaged, focused, and productive, or can’t rely on your connections, equipment, or furniture, your professional image is probably struggling and it may be time to explore hybrid work models and shared workspaces. Since many businesses are experiencing the shift in corporate culture and benefits of having remote employees, it’s probably worth making some workspace changes to boost your productivity and professional image.
Revamping your professional self does not have to be expensive or energy-intensive. If you’re simply overwhelmed by your current remote workspace, or in need of the office environment and corporate culture you once enjoyed, it’s time to seek out a rented workspace near you. Rented workspaces of all types can be flexible, accessible, and inspiring. At Office Evolution in Clark, NJ, we have the atmosphere and collaborative environment to get the creativity flowing with like-minded professionals, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders. Office Evolution also offers private offices for online business brands and conference and meeting rooms to gather the corporate and small business teams creating innovations in today’s business world. We’re centrally located, beautifully designed, distraction-free, and have coffee ready when you arrive.
Office Evolution Clark is a flexible co-working space located in Clark, NJ. If you’d like to explore a safe and local office setting where you can connect in-person with other working professionals, schedule a free tour today.
Written by: Office Evolution Clark
Office Evolution has more than 70 locations open, 140 units sold in markets across the country and is poised for further growth as the demand for affordable and safe, workspace close-to-home continues to rise.