5 Insights from 5 Years of Working Remotely

“A picturesque landscape with a wooden cabin in the middle of a field near a tall mountain ridge” by Karsten Würth (@inf1783) on Unsplash

I live in Montreal, Canada and work remotely for a Toronto company. I’ve been doing this for 5 years.

I spend five weeks working from Montreal and one week in the office to spend time with the team.

Every morning I bike to a local “working” cafe. Sit down and check e-mail and log into Slack. At 9:30 am I check-in via video call with the Toronto team to get project updates and the days schedule.

According to research by Regus Canada, 47% of Canadian employees work from outside one of their employer’s main offices for half the week or more.

This aligns with a 2017 Gallup survey that found:

Last year, 43 percent of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely, according to the survey of more than 15,000 adults.
That represents a four percentage point increase since 2012, a shift that meets the demands of many job seekers.

I can back this trend up anecdotally. Within a 5-minute bike ride, there are now over 8 co-working spaces where 5 years ago there were just a couple. More “working” cafes have popped up and from where I’m sitting, there are roughly 20 people on laptops.

In addition to the local Montreal uptick in remote working, there seems to be an increase of those who have their feet in two cities. In this corner of Canada, it happens to be either Montreal and Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa or Toronto and Ottawa. Many people travel to and from these cities on a monthly basis.

Canvassing other remote workers and from my own experience, there are things that can make you a successful tech nomad.

  1. Get up, get dressed and get out
    Remote working isn’t about staying in your pj’s, lounging on the couch with your laptop and getting “some” work done. To stay on your game, motivated and productive, you need to simulate going into the office. Get dressed and get out of your home. At the very least, create a separate work environment in the home and close your door. Getting out could be at a cafe, library, event meet-up or co-working space. Co-working spaces are becoming much more than a table and chair. Many have events, pub nights, lectures by industry leaders and guest startups. Whatever it is, your mantra should be — get up and get out.
  2. Know thyself
    How do you work best? What keeps you motivated? What keeps you productive? If you’ve never worked remotely, it’s not as easy and relaxing as you might expect. You need to know how you work and each day might be a little different. Sometimes you need isolation. Other times you need the energy from a busy environment to keep you productive. And sometimes you need both. There are many ways to achieve this, but one that is helpful for this is Coffitivity. This service recreates the ambient sounds of a cafe from wherever you are.
  3. Communicate, communicate and then communicate
    You need to make your presence known and as tangible as possible. It’s easy to fall into the “island” mentality — like you’re on an island without communication. You need to communicate frequently, at the very least chat via Slack or something else and at the very best by video. Maintain daily communication and don’t fall into the black hole of isolation.
  4. Champion or contribute to company culture
    It’s not all about work. It’s easy to feel not part of the company, especially when it’s a colleagues birthday and cake is being passed around. :) Be a part of the company culture or better yet find a way to champion it. Slack about life, text good morning, contribute to Instagram or write an article. Whatever it is, make sure they see your name and photo on a daily basis.
  5. Make office time
    Spend time in the office. This not only helps your team keep you on their radar but also helps you stay energized. It also creates flow and adds variety to your weeks and months. Create a regular weekly or monthly schedule for being in the office.

Happy remote working! :)