Remote work can be great or burning. But 95% of remote workers encourage others to go remote. So this guide goes through what it takes to have a great remote career so you can work remotely the right way.
Let’s Clear The Myth of Remote Work First
Contrary to a myth that’s promoted by travel Instagram, remote work is not travelling around the world and being on the beach. 80% of remote workers usually work from home and 66% travel less than a month a year. Also, if anything makes you think remote work is easy work, that’s not the case.
Remote Work Is Normal Work
Andreas Klinger, Head of Remote at AngelList says:
“ In 2018 it’s no longer a question if you work remotely or not. You already work remote. You replied to that email on the commute, you worked from that cafe yesterday, you worked while travelling. The only question is how much, and how enabled you are.”
Core downsides to the remote work are also present in the on-site work as Emily from Help Scout’s remote design team says:
The real downsides to remote work are just amplified versions of problems that exist in co-located environments.
By knowing this, we can take lessons from what people like and dislike about on-site work and apply those to remote work.
What We Got In The Office:
Let’s split the on-site work into its core elements:
- Office Space: You have a set place just for work.
- Schedule: There’s a set schedule of when work starts and ends.
- People: There are your work friends around
- Snacks And Drinks: When your hungry, you can grab something.
- Work Setup: Desk, chair, monitors, or lighting.
And there could be a couple of negative elements:
- 😳 Distraction.
- 😴 Uncomfortable schedule.
- 🎅 Less family time.
- 😦 Stress.
- 🚕 Commute.
- 👀 Having to pretend to work.
All you need to do is to take the elements you like about on-site work, throw out the ones you don’t like, then recreate your own workplace and schedule—this time specifically for you and the way you like.
7 Tips For Enjoying Remote Work
1. Join A Good Team
Join a team that’s set up to support working from anywhere. When remote work doesn’t work for you, it’s usually the company’s fault.
If you’re interviewing with a company, ask the current remote employees about how they feel about remote work and take notes. If you’ll be the only remote person, be particularly careful. It could be a recipe to be left out.
Once you’re remote, you should start forming new habits and accommodating what you’ve been getting for free at the office.
2. Form Remote-Friendly Habits
Being remote usually can’t burn you on its own, but unsustainable work habits or unfriendly remote culture certainly can.
- Meetings: Have meeting agendas. Write meetings notes in the team wiki for others—remember we don’t want to exclude people. See how team Wildbit is doing their weekly check-ins and standups.
- Focus: Write long format messages instead of meetings. You’ll set an example for others. Set 1–3 hours of focus time and enable do not disturb—and encourage others to do so. Try writing your thoughts in a note app while you’re focused, instead of sending chat messages. Also, check out Twist which is a calm communication app.
- Clarity In Tasks: Communicate what are your tasks. Ask others to do so in a transparent way.
- Ask For Help: Ask for help and help others without worrying about time when they face problems. Ask your manager if something could be better. They’ll want to help and enable you. If they ignore you, you might not work there after all.
- Coffee Chats: Have coffee chat meetings weekly or monthly where it’s open for people to join but it’s not work-related and you can talk about anything—from personal, news to hobbies and family—in a circle.
Step up for making the workplace better.
3. Where You Work Better: Home or Cafe?
Do you enjoy working from home with a good office setup? Or too much distraction? What about cafes? Co-working spaces? Or you cannot focus? How about renting an office with a few remote friends like how Andreas has solved loneliness?
You have plenty of time to try a couple of different environments and conditions. Even rearranging your room might be the key.
4. Learn From Other Remote Teams
Well-known fully-remote companies tend to talk about their experience and share tips. Those are gold. Here are the interesting and well-written ones:
- How Doist Makes Remote Work Happen with 68 people in 25 countries. They believe remote work will be the norm soon.
- What Most Remote Companies Don’t Tell You About Remote Work including isolation, anxiety, and depression in the remote workplace.
- How Help Scout’s Design Team Collaborates Remotely by Buzz Usborne.
- Gitlab’s All Remote, Remote Tips, and on How They Work as a remote organization.
- Asynchronous Communication In Remote Teams explaining how communication happens at Help Scout—a fully-remote team.
- What Help Scout Learned Building a Remote Culture which is geared toward managers and companies, but has valuable insights for anyone.
5. Set A Work Schedule
Our brains like cycles. That’s why you should keep your sleep time similar across the nights. Same goes for your work hours. Once you find which hours work best for you, have that as a schedule and stick to it.
It can be any schedule. For example, I wake up at 8 am and start working until I have lunch at 2 pm and continue to work until 6 pm. Then I go out to a cafe, bookshop, for a walk, gym or to meet someone.
6. Buy Some Snacks And Put a bottle Of Water On Your Desk
You might forget to drink water or eat something while working. Especially if you drink coffee, you won’t feel hungry. If you skip eating, you’ll have a crash in a few hours. You’ll also feel sleepy without water.
Remind yourself to drink water!
Different Types Of Remote Work
When a job description says “Remote OK” make sure to understand what they mean by that:
- Fully-distributed teams: No office. Everyone is working wherever they want.
- Remote-first teams: Mostly remote, but there’s an office for some people.
- Remote employees: Most of the team in an office. Some individual people working remotely.
- Work from home: Everyone in an office, but you can work from home a few days a week. (the most traditional form of remote work.)
- Satelite teams: One or multiple teams in different offices.
They are all unique and have their own set of benefits and potential challenges. For example, it’s more common to feel left out in a Type 3 team. Or you might like Type 4 more if you can’t meet people outside the office.
It’s a flexible work schedule, not lack of a work schedule
In a survey in 2019 remote workers say that a flexible work schedule is the biggest benefit to remote work. You can work anytime. But is that sustainable?
On the other hand, in the same study, remote workers say their biggest struggle is unplugging after work, followed by loneliness.
Having no schedule is the recipe for being at work all day, yet not being able to focus as you always need to be alert for non-work stuff all day. It means not getting a chance to truly unplug after work since there’s literally no “after” to work.
Be Mindful Of What You’re Going Through
Can you see how that leads to loneliness? You don’t get a chance to go out and catch up with a friend unless you block some time for it. Unless you pause and think what’s missing.
For example, you might not know how much going out could help you, as you haven’t gone out that you’ve forgotten. But don’t stay home all day for a week. Here are some ideas for you to try:
- A shopping allowance per week: You have to go out and grab what you love as a fun activity. I do this with books!
- Meet with friends to help them: We have a weekly meetup and usually, people ask me questions and while beforehand I think it’s going to take my time, afterwards it makes me feel better.
- Walk without internet for 1 hour.
- Travel to a close city with a friend or alone: I’m not a travel person, yet I felt refreshed after a 4 day trip to another city right in the middle of my busiest days.
- Music, book, cafe or Podcast, tea, cosy cafe: The magic combo to sink in your thoughts and relax.
- Lifting weights: Going to the gym at first was hard, people were weird. But as soon as a few sessions passed, I started to feel the extra energy. Also, starting to see the change in my body has a nice confidence boost.
- Contribute to your favourite open source project: If you’re a developer or designer, consider helping a project on Github. It’s the same as helping people in a meeting. They need a logo, an enhancement to their website or another entry in their FAQ.
Or mix a couple of above items! Make something you look forward to after work.
Pay Attention To The Red Flags
If you’re constantly stressed and nervous about what others think of you. If you’re feeling bad when you work repeatedly. If people are ignoring your achievements and pushing you to work even more. If no one answers your questions. If your voice isn’t heard. If you feel you can’t do your best work.
Do NOT ignore these feelings. Either you talk to solve these or think about the cause — which is almost always not you — or when there are a couple of following issues present at the same time, you should consider leaving. There are amazing teams waiting for you.
If you’re in such an environment, you can DM me and I’d love to talk.
Ask for help when you think you don’t need help
I go to therapy and coaching. I’ve learned a ton of skills at the age of 18 that I’m sure many people haven’t learned as simply no one has helped them. You don’t have to be those! Please, working remotely is a new life-style.
There are thoughts, moods, and feelings that you might go through but they don’t feel tough now. If you don’t seek coaching or help, it can add up.
If you can’t afford to go to the therapist, you can DM me on Twitter and talk. I’d love to help you with listening and chatting. Seriously, just say hi now.
State Of Remote Work In Numbers
You can see what remote workers are thinking about it, what are their common struggles or habits by looking at these studies and surveys. Buffer has conducted a State Of Remote Work report. Owl Labs has put together 23 key insights into remote work in a post. DigitalOcean has also published a report of 4,500 developers about their experience working remotely.
If you think we should add a tip to this guide, please reach out to me, I’ll add it!
I’m Mo, cofounder of There. I’m helping people thrive in remote work, while I’m going through learnings of remote work and talking about it with other remote workers over calls and chats on Twitter.
PS. If you work remotely, you can request access to our new product making remote work a lot easier by providing team transparency and scheduling across timezones. Also, you can download our free timezone menubar app.