Communication: The #1 Factor to Success in Remote Work

By Becky Petty, CP APMP

So you have experience managing virtual teams and landed a remote proposal position. You can count on quickly encountering basic pros and cons.

Working from home comes with some sweet benefits:

  1. Great coffee (I’m currently sipping a cold brew with oat milk)
  2. Lax dress code (fuzzy bunny slippers anyone?)
  3. It is easier to work those non-standard office hours

We can’t skip over the cons:

  1. More dishes (spoons seem to reproduce on your desk)
  2. No visual cues to help in discussions
  3. It is easier to work those non-standard office hours

What is next? How do you survive the demands of project management and creating a compliant/responsive bid when you can’t step into someone’s office to discuss technical content or tap a colleague’s shoulder to work through the Word document that just crashed for the umpteenth time?

The Solution?

Communication is easily the single largest factor to increase the likelihood of success for remote employees. Especially proposal professionals.

Serving internal customers with clear details

All proposal teams, remote and office-based, must negotiate clear expectations and deadlines with sales and subject matter experts (SMEs). The regular formal communication is even more critical in the remote environment. Working from home means we miss the opportunity to pass folks at the proverbial water cooler, chat while we’re in the cafeteria lunch line, or any of the other informal opportunities to build relationships and touch base.

In a similar vein, remote workers no longer reap the benefit of the one-off ad hoc conversations. We must be more aggressive in filling any knowledge gaps, whether about products and services offerings, process, company, etc.

Peer team building

The greatest difference I have found in relationships in working remote is how much more deliberate I am in making time to communicate with other proposal writers to foster a social connection.

My team has a standing weekly team meeting to discuss projects. Instead of sitting in dead air while waiting for others to join, those first few minutes of the call are very much like an office setting where you catch up with whoever walks into the room first.

We also have a Microsoft Teams proposal team where we share information like new resources, new employees, or new content. 1:1 and team chats help with urgent specific questions and to keep updated in one another’s lives. We even have virtual parties to celebrate life events like bridal and baby showers.

Remote work is on the rise reports that the U.S. Census Bureau estimates remote work among the “non-self-employed population, has grown by 159% since 2005”. Even if you do not work remote today, more employers are beginning to offer it, and the trend is expected to continue increasing. Most proposal writers, even those working in an office, encounter virtual collaborations in which more frequent and defined communication will be helpful.

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Do you work from home? Please let us know your best tip or ah-ha moment.

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Becky Petty CP APMP is an APMP Practitioner and has over a decade of proposal experience. She is currently a Pursuit Strategist at Ernst & Young. When Becky isn’t working on proposals, she enjoys sewing and spending time with her family.