Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Be a Remote Work Rockstar by Debbie Lundberg

Be a Remote Work Rockstar by Debbie Lundberg

Here we are in 2020, and many have been experiencing remote work themselves, as leaders of remote workers, or both. How many, though, feel as if they can claim their efforts as “Rockstar” when it comes to working remotely?

If you find yourself embracing being out of the office, challenged to adapt to working outside the office, you thought that remote work would be short term, or even if you are considering leading a remote team, then this article is for you!

The vast world of being viral is growing, and it is my desire for you to grow, prosper, and shine on that remote stage!

Since there are norms that develop in environments (in person or otherwise), ensure your Virtual Work Etiquette is a “Do” and not a “Don’t.”

And, while the foundational efforts will absolutely be covered, this is less about simply conducting work remotely, and more about rockin’ it – this is about being a Remote Work Rockstar!

And, as I explore, define, or even defend choosing the word Rockstar, please know that the vision of a Rockstar is that of someone who presents professionally, feels confident, and has both pride and humility in efforts…whether with others in the same space, across miles, or across the internet.

I have worked remotely for my entire (nearly)14-year practice, and much of my time with General Motors and Dale Carnegie Training. In fact, I delivered talks and webinars on the topic of Remote Work Success as part of my practice for over a decade.

As the typical in-office workforce became remote workers overnight, many scrambled to put together an office space quickly. It became apparent that long-lasting change to how we worked would propel all of us into the future. Working remotely was not just a passing trend, or burden, or luxury, depending on your vantage point, for only a few.

Continuing to see both successes and mistakes being made, the demand for even more remote work content was immediate. After all, remote work success is quite different than remote work survival.

Defining remote work may seem like something very simple, and yet it is not. It is not simple because people have complicated the concept with misperceptions over the years. The term “remote work” is intentionally used here as the type of work that is completed away from an office or from an entity’s headquarters or regional location. Other words or terms that are appropriate to use include off-site work, virtual work, telework, and the phrase “working remotely”

Phrases such as “working from home”, “work from home”, or “home at work” are not recommended!

The reason “remote work” is used is because it includes the concept of work that is being done, along with the idea that it is done off-site or remotely. When phrases such as “work from home” are used, it introduces the idea of being at home and doing things that we typically do in our house or home while merely attempting to co-mingle or fit in our work

Respecting this may seem like semantics, and, to a certain degree, it is, at the same time, remote work keeps the emphasis on the work and the fact that we are being respectful of the work being done. This way, all of us are avoiding that implication that we think someone is doing things at home and happens to be including some work along the way!

That brings me to whether or not remote work is for everyone.

If you did experience any conversations about remote work in the recent past, and it would be surprising if you had not, and you had an interest in this book, it may be because many people talked at length about their dislike for remote work.

It is my hypothesis that remote work can be as productive, or more productive, as on-site work, for the right temperament, conditions, and expectations. Nearly anyone put in a remote work environment without the proper positioning and support, will minimally have missteps, and likely, have failures and therefore may seem as though they are not suited for remote work.

Am I saying everyone is suited for remote work? No, I am not. However, please believe that nearly everyone can function successfully when working remotely if given the opportunity to appreciate how remote workflow and the expectations of a remote worker are anticipated at the onset (or as soon as you finish this article).

Think of the following for engaging in, and leading effectively when remote, or a part of a remote team or remote leadership effort:

  • Define remote work. Use the terms “Remote Work”, and “Working Remotely” in all communication regarding off-site engagements and employees.  And, remember that people who choose to do some work at night off-site, after work at home or on the weekends, when they typically work in the office, are not the same as remote workers. Stay true to how remote work is defined for your teams, especially if some of your team members switch back and forth from remote work and office work for projects and/or assignments.

  • Get set up remotely. Respecting there exists a list of everything that would be ideal for remote work, and perhaps something to target over time, regardless of how long someone will be working remotely, the minimum for an effective life as a Remote Work Rockstar is here:  A dedicated space. While the best scenario is that room with a locking door, we respect that may not be “in the cards” for everyone. To dedicate space, here is what that may look like:    a desk set up in a room that is shared with another purpose, a desk built into a nook or attached space in the kitchen, a table in place of a desk for teleworking, a portion of a table that is taped off (yes, really tape it off) or divided for work and something else, a card table that is set up and taken down at various times due to space-sharing. This space is to be called the “office” or “workspace”, and there must be a device with a good camera and phone to use. Additionally, professional comfort is the key to success there! So, set up a budget and be mindful of what a remote workspace is like in order to respect it!

  • Set expectations and establish habits. Not surprisingly, many people transition to remote work without any discussion about the change, questions, concerns, or expectations. Sometimes the change is as swift as being in the office on a Friday and starting remotely on the following Monday. I absolutely don’t recommend that! Expectation-setting starts with a conversation. Be careful, as there can be actions that seem like micromanagement and others that feel like “sink or swim” when working remotely. To avoid that, as a Remote Work Rockstar, or RWR in-process, first, discuss topics such as hours, communication styles, your work and your contribution, priorities, PTO, and any other dynamics as soon as possible, including weekly, yes, weekly, one-on-one video meetings. Ensure you have good habits such as a consistent sleep schedule, sound eating for your body, and times you are not working! Setting timers each day and sharing your plans with anyone else in your space will keep you organized and on-time…and likely sane!

  • Master your mindset. Mindset may first strike you as a bit “woo-woo” for a business article, and yet it is not something I’d ever want to overlook for the Remote Work Rockstar. A Remote Work Rockstar mindset is one of “Can do”, and it is one of “Let’s go”, and “Bring it on”, and yet it is not one of “It’s all on me” or “I have to do this alone”, or “My team is not a team, so who is going to handle this if I don’t handle it”, and has the following approach:                        

R – Realistically setting and accepting expectations

O – Opening your approach to collaboration

C – Checking in on time, resources, and progress   

K – Keeping focused on what is best, and not just being right         

S – Setting incremental hurdles to overcome en route to the bigger win     

T – Talking with others (not just “to” others about the what, how, when and who)

A – Accounting for each person’s commitment, and especially your own   

R – Reflecting on what is going well, what can be improved, and stating gaps and goals 

  • Communicate effectively. Remote Work Rockstars see communication as not one-way or two-way, rather as every way, meaning it is about the verbal, written, non-verbal and visual communication…and the timing and perspective on all of it makes an impact as well! For communicating as an off-site contributor, often extra effort is required, meaning your impression on others is based on emails and phone calls along with video representation across a platform of choice. Watch accusations, use empathy in tone, and focus on collaboration, versus being right. Practice your Emotional Intelligence. Think of Emotional Intelligence as "the ability to recognize and assess one's own and other people's emotions, while discriminating among the various emotions and label them appropriately in order to guide perspectives and actions as a guide to thinking and behavior". Remote Work Rockstar Leaders level up communication through approachability and adaptability. Much like in the Real Estate market, the thoughts go to “location, location, location”, in leadership, and especially in Remote Work Rockstar leadership, it is all about “communication, communication, communication”!

  • Get video savvy. Video sessions are not calls, they are meetings or webinars. Calls are on the phone. People get confused and even blindsided when someone asks for a call, and then there is video involved. To have meeting magnetism via video, be prepared for video at all times you are working your designated work hours. Tips such as checking your camera for functionality and for a quality picture, registering for meetings, getting on early to check sound and how your professional appearance is being conveyed, go a long way. Resist being that person with a hat, no video, or a bad connection when you can avoid it by being ready and engaged with a virtual background and camera at eye-level, minimally for looking and feeling good about video exchanges.

  • Stay connected. Even though you are a Remote Work Rockstar, you still want to engage with people socially and professionally within your company and outside of your company. As a result, ensure you have interests outside work, reach out on professional social media, such as LinkedIn to get connected, stay engaged, and participate in posts and groups, offer to assist, mentor and/or coach someone else to enhance that person’s life, and eventually, be a small (or large) part of creating a new Remote Work Rockstar through your interest and involvement.     

There you have it, ROCKSTAR! From getting defined as remote work to getting set up, working, and staying connected, you have a glimpse into a handbook for your continued success. Congratulations!

Please use this as a reference for your efforts and those following in your footsteps. Remember to encourage others to embrace the approaches, tips, and tools to propel them forward in whatever work they are doing. My book, REMOTE WORK ROCKSTAR, available at or

Here’s hoping you were intrigued, inspired, and called to action through the ideas you just. Remember, not only that remote workers and team members can be, and are ROCKSTARS, it is also that being off-site can be an asset and not a disadvantage.  Additionally, striving to be a Rockstar is meant to empower the remote worker and the leaders of remote workers to assess and respect what makes us alike as well as different, and not set an unrealistic standard for performing telework.

Remote work, as we know, is not “working from home”, and Remote Work Rockstars are not about being the rock of a team or company, solely, and yet they, you, can rock your world by being a professionally engaged, dynamic contributor from anywhere as you continue to engage in all you can to enhance your impact on your journey as a Remote Work Rockstar!


Debbie Lundberg believes "how you present is how you are remembered"!

She is the principal of Presenting Powerfully where she is both an educator and an entertainer. In her practice of "edutainment" she is "Reversing the Slobification”™ of America" in the areas of effective communication, professional behaviors and thriving relationships through four offerings: Keynotes & Talks, Strategy & Facilitation, Teaming & Training, and Employee Development & Executive Presence Coaching.

As an 11-time published author, certified life coach, certified leadership coach, and certified image consultant who speaks, facilitates, trains and coaches/consults nationally, She is a monthly contributor with a business etiquette column feature in the Tampa Bay Business and Wealth magazine. Her 2020 book, REMOTE WORK ROCKSTAR quickly became a guide for leaders and workers in the virtual environments of today.

Additionally, Debbie is co-hosting two podcasts: The Business Of Life (TBOL) Master Class Podcast with her colleague, where the under-20-minute interviews provide listeners with inspiration and encouragement for life and business, and Lipstick Leadership, where she and her co-host focus on quick tips for overcoming leadership challenges.

Debbie earned her BA at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI, and holds an MBA from Edgewood College in Madison WI. Debbie, Michael, and their four-legged daughters, Lexi and Daisy, known to many as "Team Lundberg", enjoy living in Tampa, FL, where they settled in 2004.