This Year Will Be The Year Of Remote Working

Birgit Pohl
10 min readMay 28, 2021


Companies have changed to working remotely and many of them will do so after the pandemic. But how do you maintain a good relationship with your employees?

The biggest question right now is how to adapt to the new remote situation. We all have been surprised by how fast we needed to change. Before Corona, we went to the office every day, talking directly face to face whenever we need. While we did this, we felt comfortable. There was always a person who spontaneously had a conversation with us. Nowadays we need to make an appointment explicitly or extend the time for meetings to have space for that.

Now we are mostly in home-office, having kids around, not being able to reach the colleague right away, and even struggling to handle the program one is supposed to use for a video call.

I’ve talked with a lot of startups and listened to CEOs and CTOs as well as agile coaches whose biggest challenge is to adapt the administration departments to work digital before starting with coaching agile work.

I collected plenty of knowledge throughout my research and here I’d like to present challenges and their best practices.

Topics ranging from remote work and communication to onboarding and hiring.

Working Remotely (Suddenly)

Those of you who didn’t introduce home office or even flex work will learn a lot from now on. There are two big challenges to overcome:

Setting Up The Technology

This is the easiest part. Many systems are restricted to the computers in the offices, basically curated by the system administrator. Maybe it’s time to think about a system that can be accessed from the browser from any computer?

All you need is an easy-to-use proxy and an easy-to-use and secure user management. Two examples are Ldap and Microsoft. Even here many companies restrict access to a certain browser, though the three major browsers have a similar set of capabilities.

Adapting To The New Situation

This is the mental aspect. You will be at home physically talking to no one except for the ones you have at home and they are less likely to be involved in your work. You will have babies crying, dogs barking, cats running over your keyboard, your spouse running around in the background in underwear. So not only you have to get used to it. I believe that we all need to get used to the situation, that we all are somehow a little bit more involved in the privacy of our colleagues.

Next to having regular video calls you have to learn to use messengers, emails, and how to communicate asynchronously. These will be your time savior of effective working and your tools of focus. While you are constantly out of working flow when you rush from video call to video call, you can decide when you read and react to asynchronous communication.

Furthermore, you need to figure out how many calls and video calls you can handle mentally. This is an important point because it drains plenty of energy, which today we know as “Zoom-fatigue”.

Information Flow Through Over-Communication

Many of us certainly were in the position, when we didn’t understand why the 10th person has asked for information you have presented in the meeting last week and is documented in the company wiki as well.

We need to understand, that information flows much harder in remote environments. While in the offices it naturally spreads, because picking a small conversation, while they see each other, is not the case for remote work. The number one information distributer is you and you have to make sure, that everyone gets the info. Also, you have to be aware that not everyone will get it, meaning don’t blame the person, also don’t blame yourself for it. Just accept it and distribute the information to the person who needs it.

As a remote worker, you need to adapt and change your communication behavior. You need to over-communicate and let your colleagues know what you are working on. Transparency will give them a certain feeling of security and connection.

Transparency vs Controlling

A daily standup as part of scrum is not about a status update, it’s about developers communicating.

There is a great tendency from supervisors and bosses to have the feeling of losing control over their employees. One of my former bosses though, that people wouldn’t work, because he didn’t see them working. He saw the office, which was empty and he was worried. It is only in your mind. Especially the hint about the boss being worried is not a sign of the employees not working. The interesting thing is, people have been quite productive while they have worked at home. Sometimes even too productive. How you can measure it as the boss of your company? Do measure it as usual. You probably have deadlines, OKRs, KPIs, sprint reviews, etc. Track the progress there. You will see, your employees have not left you alone. In fact, they may feel certain insecurity from a different angle.

There is a big challenge for those who don’t use computers very often, especially those in governmental administration environments. I suggest getting a coach who can teach you how to work remotely or apply “New work” strategies. If you get stuck somewhere the coach can figure out where you got stuck and will find some suggestions for you on how to solve the problem. Sometimes it’s just about handling the programs at home and setting up regular meetings.

Don’t underestimate the Water Cooler Conversation

Watercooler conversations are a great way of creating trust, especially when you are new in the company. And they are also a great way of maintaining it. I had several superiors who used it in order to know what is going on and they would come to you for help spontaneously during a water cooler conversation.

Ideas are made during a water cooler conversation. The problem that has been there for a week is solved by a simple tip from someone else. When we are not working on our desks and are inside the world of our thoughts, we are trying to solve problems by talking about them.

This is of course more difficult on a remote basis. In this case, I have tried out three strategies that may help.

  1. Whenever they think they need to solve a problem and solving it takes a little longer, I would encourage them to ask anybody in the broader channel. This works a bit like StackOverflow, where a developer asks the public audience, only that the person hopefully ends up in a par programming session with the helping person.
  2. Extending formal meetings and make the extended time informal, will release a lot of tension. We are humans. We have emotions and psychological needs. If we only act the professional way work can become quite stressful. The people we are working with can be perceived as quite intimidating. So in order to release the tension, one needs to be able to offer some personal information. For example, talk about the cat, or the dog that you have in your house and what funny things they do. Movies you have watched recently, games that you play. Anything another colleague can relate to. Of course, the easiest and most common topic is the weather. Talk about the weather, if you find it difficult to talk about your hobbies.

Maintaining Work-Life Balance

For you and your employees, it’s important to maintain a balance between the living room as an office and the living room as outside of work.

There are several productivity strategies you can take.

“Working from home can be tricky, I know, I’ve done it for 7 years. Set your phone timer to the amount of hours you usually work. This way you know when it’s time to stop.” — Telmo Goncalves

Set a time for availability. If you have many people requesting time, set a time on the day when you want to answer those questions. Schedule meetings. And be aware:

Many meetings could have been an email. Meaning, if you have a one-sided communication, write an email. If you have something to align with people, that requires communication, have a meeting.

This helps you to maintain energy during the workday.

The other point about time is to set a time when you start and stop working. Have them set up on a regular basis. Have a bigger break for lunch and several smaller ones for a small walk around the house and getting a tea/coffee.

Do drink plenty of water. Everything that is not water, doesn’t count. It will help you in many ways to stay healthy and focused.

Get plenty of sleep. Since you don’t need to commute to the office, it should be easier for you to spend time sleeping. So get the well-deserved sleeping time. A fresh bed sheet will do the rest.

Exercise will help you to stay fit. There are plenty of things you can do. Do at least two days of endurance training. I recommend jogging because it is easier to get shoes than spending a lot of money on a bike. Do yoga. This can even be done in a group with the right distance to the other people.

You can do these activities with your kids as well.

Go into nature. Nature will recover your mental health. As we learned above, plenty of online communication will drain mental energy. Nature will recover it. Try to take pictures of animals living nearby. It will grow the awareness of what kind of nature you have.

I would recommend visiting a zoo, but I have noticed that they can be quite full. But botanical gardens and any place outside of the city might be worth visiting.

Take On New Challenges.

If you start jogging, finish your first 2, 5, and 10kms. If you do bike tours, grow from 40 to 100kms. If you like other hobbies like painting doing the #inktober event in October. Do you want to start coding try the 100 days code challenge, or if you like bodybuilding try any of the many 100 day challenges. Learn a new fun fact about our planets and the universe. Is Hubble still the best telescope, we have?

About Sick Leave

I have the feeling that many people still believe, it’s good to go to work with a running nose or a bad feeling in the throat. It is totally fine and more beneficial for you to rest than taking it into the office.

Once one person carries a virus into the office up to 70% of the colleagues might be affected by it. Some of which will have heavier symptoms. I learned myself the hard way. We, my colleagues and me, went with a running nose into the office. My former team lead then caught this and was home not for one month, but for two months, because it hit him so badly, that he was out of white blood cells and therefore without any safety from other diseases he could catch from other people. By the time 50% of the colleagues were ill at home, the other came into the office with throat problems and running noses.

We changed policies after that and learned to accept the rest day and the sick leave. If we felt sick, without the doctor’s permission, we could rest at home for three days and we learned to accept going for sick leave is not a shame.

Now with Corona, you want to care about you recovering physically, but also recovering mentally. Do you feel like having low energy? Do you have a headache? I also felt ill for no reason, though I think this was because of too much sitting for too long. Take a day off and rest. This is better than dragging this with you and making it worse.

Let’s jump back to the office environment.

Create A Hiring Process With Personality

How do you know if a candidate fits if you can’t see him or her in person? Many companies have turned down hiring because they don’t see how it is done. This might be a mistake because it also keeps the companies from growing. And with the Corona, we have seen, there is plenty of growth potential.

With me and my colleagues being laid off, we have experienced plenty of good and bad situations and we can tell, they are all similar to the physical situations.

You might not figure out the height of a person, but you still can ask the same questions and get potentially the same direction of answers and in addition to that you have more possibilities.

First of all, adapt from the physical world. Make sure, that the candidate will become relaxed and will show more of the personality. Does the person do inappropriate jokes? What is the candidate’s background? Does he talk a lot about knowing something? As an interviewer always remember, that you want your candidate to succeed. It’s your goal to figure out if you can work with the person or not and it doesn’t take longer than one or two hours.

Lately, I started the interview from a personal perspective. I wanted to learn to know the candidate personally before I went into the hard skills. You want to know if you can work with the candidate together. This was also very refreshing for the candidates themselves. Because while their previous with companies was to discuss their coding experiences, which was too professional, they were very positively surprised and happy about the process that I have set up for them. They felt relaxed and even more motivated to come to the next interview and then more likely to sign a contract with the company.

Most Of the Routines Are Business As Usual

We have realized that working from home might not be so different than working from an office. Yes, we might not rush into a meeting room with the laptop and the freshly brewed coffee, but we do rush into the meetings online. We do have our flow hours and we do progress on a daily basis. What I really appreciate is, that companies have found a way to hire. At the beginning of the pandemic, many companies have stopped hiring and this resulted in a delay in company growth and difficulty for a candidate to get the right job.

To Sum Up

But you see, life goes on and with the crisis, it also has changed our way of working. Many employees prefer flex work and are looking forward to seeing their colleagues in the office, as well as learning to know the new colleagues, but also still would continue enjoying the work from home. I believe that the governments should act on this new trend and regulate and de-regulate specific laws to make remote work and working from home easier.



Birgit Pohl

Your leadership coach and knowledge curator | | @devbirgit 📸 Instagram, 🐦 Twitter, 🎥 Tiktok