What it’s really like to work remotely

I’ve been working remotely, both in my role as community marketing manager at Quuu and in my job prior to that, for two and a half years now.

Despite the fact that this lifestyle is growing in popularity, a lot of people still struggle to wrap their heads around it. I’ve written about this topic before, but I want to set the record straight on a more serious note this time. So in this post, I’m going to answer some FAQs I’m not at all sick of hearing (😉) as a remote worker.

But don’t you get lonely?

This is always the first question on people’s lips — and the one I find most annoying!
 
Let’s kick things off by pointing out that remote working is better suited to some personality types than others. As an only child, I’m admittedly used to my own company — and comfortable in it. In fact, I find this the most productive way for me to work; I’m very self-motivated and focus much better when I’m on my own (I always kind of resented group work at school!). I studied English at university, which involves very few contact hours, so I’ve been working independently for a long time.

Having said this, I’m no recluse! Something that I’ve realised after two plus years of working remotely is that I get a lot of energy from other people. If left to my own devices for too long, I get introspective and down in the dumps.

The solution? Get out of the house! The beauty of remote working is that you’re not restricted to one place. Head to your favourite coffee shop, your local library, or even join a coworking space. I’ve been lucky enough to live in very friendly neighbourhoods in the bustling cities of Bristol and London, and it can make such a difference to your day just to have a quick chat with a new face. Particularly in London, I’m surrounded by other people doing the same thing, so I get talking to new people all the time.

I would also like to point out that no, I don’t get lonely because — wait for it — I have friends. Who I see in the evenings and at weekends. And when you don’t have to commute to and from work each day, it makes it a hell of a lot easier to make space for them.

Do you ever go into the office?

The next thing people want to know is where Quuu is based and whether I ever get to pop into our headquarters. The answer is that we don’t have an office. At all.

Quuu is a software-as-a-service company and nothing we do requires us to be physically together under one roof or use any resources apart from our laptops. When you’re launching a startup from scratch, not having to pay rent makes a huge difference to the speed at which you can grow. This is a choice being made by many tech startups who’ve launched in the past few years: Buffer, MeetEdgar and Zapier are just a few companies built on fully remote teams.

Have you met the rest of your team?

Honestly? For all I know, my coworkers might be aliens from Mars.

Just kidding. When you choose to operate as a fully remote team, it’s crucial that you still cultivate a distinct company culture and foster a sense of team spirit. We do this two ways.
 
 Firstly, we’ve put a lot of effort into finding tools that help us communicate effectively. The most valuable to us at Quuu is Slack, which acts as our virtual office. Slack offers us:

  1. Accountability: we use it to let Matt and Dan, Quuu’s co-founders, know when we’re starting and finishing work, as well as any breaks we take.
  2. Clear communication on business matters: we have channels dedicated to specific areas e.g. #social, #techqueries and #contentteam.
  3. The opportunity to get to know each other: we don’t just use Slack to talk shop, but also as a way to socialise. This is something that might feel strange when you first start working remotely, but oversharing (to an extent!) is a good way to show some personality and build relationships with your teammates. Don’t be afraid to announce what you had for lunch or tell your colleagues which playlist you’re currently jamming to. You’d naturally discuss these topics if you were working together in an office, and it needn’t be any different in Slack.

Secondly, we make sure to meet up in person. At Quuu, we aim for four team days in a year: two training days, a fun activity in summer and our Christmas party in December.

So can you just work from bed?

In theory, yes, but I would never do this. When you work from home, it’s vital to create some distance between life and work. I will always work at my desk — maybe the sofa — when I’m at home, otherwise it’s a slippery slope into a super lazy, unhealthy (and kinda sad!) lifestyle. Psychologically, it’s never a good thing to bring work into your bedroom; this is a space that should be reserved for relaxation and sleep.

Actually, I rarely spend a full day working from home. Usually, I would spend either the morning or the afternoon in a café/coworking space, or at least break up my day with a lunchtime yoga class.

I bet you work in your pyjamas, though?

As with my location, what I’m wearing contributes to whether I’m in work mode. It’s tempting to skip straight out of bed to your laptop and you do, of course, want to be comfortable.

However, I’ve made it a rule to always shower, put on my makeup, do my hair and get dressed in the morning. Personally, what I wear makes a big difference to how I feel, influencing my mood and confidence.

Me when there’s a big day ahead at work

Also, do you really want your boss to spring a video call on you when you’re wearing a fluffy teddy bear onesie?

I’d watch Netflix all day. How do you get anything done?

Like I said earlier, I’ve always been very self-motivated and hard-working, so this isn’t much of a problem for me. What I will point out is that most of what I do is highly visible. If no social posts, emails or blog content are going out, my employers might notice!

The main point here, though, is that I genuinely enjoy what I do. It’s a challenging and rewarding role that exercises my core strengths and abilities, as well as continually requiring me to learn new things. I like and respect my bosses and teammates (hey guys 🙋), and none of us are the types to slack off and let the side down.

When you work at a startup, you’re building something brand new from scratch. It’s not like working at a huge corporation, where you’re just one little cog in a huge machine. Everything you do can make a difference to whether the company sinks or swims, and the payoff can be massive. Not just financially (we all have shares in Quuu, so we would seriously benefit were Matt and Dan to sell the company), but also in that you have a much bigger platform to create a name for yourself in your industry. Everything moves faster — ideas, promotions, pay rises — accelerating your career to a level that would take years in a more traditional route.

Would you do it forever?

Who knows what’s going to happen, but, honestly, the idea of going back to work in an office isn’t very appealing. Working remotely gives me a much higher quality of life than most of my friends, and I’d be incredibly cautious about throwing this away.

Not having to set my alarm at an ungodly hour to spend a fortune on cramped public transport, being able to go to that lunchtime yoga class, working in a lovely cafe instead of a stuffy office, the opportunity to take my work anywhere in the world (last summer, for example, I spent a month in Madrid, just because I could) — would you give these up? Because from where I’m standing, it seems like a pretty sweet deal 🙂

Which questions do you often get as a remote worker? I’m sure I can relate!

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