Remote First: 10 Insights on Working Remotely

Jun 4, 2019 · 8 min read

by Lu Couto and Victor Hugo Barreto
with contributions by
Rodrigo Turra and Sarah Brito
Editor and preface by
Gustavo Nogueira (Gust)

Leia aqui em Português

Our guest: Victoria Haidamus, Vic, is a Digital Product Designer and helps companies and Startups in Brazil and the Silicon Valley to develop and leverage their digital products using design and technology. She was one of the co-founders of the Officeless movement, which believes in working relationships based on autonomy, purpose, and trust, which aims to help people and companies implement remote work. Today she uses all this experience on design, remote work and project management to work independently with her network of partners, which includes Torus.

Torus today is a global distributed movement thanks to this world view that we can be anywhere in the world and yet in connection. At the time of this meeting, we began a series of projects and initiatives with Vic as our consultant in designing digital and remote experiences. Between synchronous and asynchronous learning, this partnership has pushed us to the next level of our journey.

Sandglass is part of our ongoing program of time studies. The social infrastructure of affection in which TORUS invites a specialist to share knowledge about their vision of the time around us, for about an hour, weekly. As the sand grains of our hourglass run, we strengthen our network, narrow relationships and experience, in a safe space of knowledge exchange.

Gustavo Nogueira (Gust)⏳❤️

Sandglass ⧖ Torus : Remote First with Victoria Haidamus

This week we intend to think about the relationship between time and work. In what time and space does your work take place? What technologies and mindsets do you use to work?

If we stop to pay attention, with the networked world, what many of us need to work really is, after all, a computer, the internet, and a lot of self-knowledge.

Inspired by reflections on time and the dematerialization of workspaces, we in TORUS — Sandglass group of studies — invited Victoria Haidamus together to open our experiences and talk a little about what we have discovered so far.

The talk yielded 10 insights for anyone who wants to start working remotely and some philosophical sparks.

Reflecting on time, motivations and personal processes seem to be the zero step towards the dematerialization of workspaces. The technology and the internet that we have at our disposal is of the 21st century, but the culture of corporate environments and our own mentality still seems to operate in the 19th century.

by André Dahmer

And as the book “REMOTE: Office Not Required” by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier points out, this difficulty strikes both employers and employees.

Questioning the current model of work is also questioning the education that has taught us throughout school life from a prison model. Four hours locked between four walls and half an hour of sunbathing. A form of control: over the other and over productivity. We continue in the professional life believing that this is the only way and without the hours locked, the rest is somewhat without credit.

The initial shock goes even to the possibility of facing remote work as a real form of work: “But is it possible to make money by doing this?” This also leads us to rethink the whole construction of professional roles, activities, and ways of remunerating functional time. Challenges, possibilities and, above all, potentialities in the face of technological innovations.

The technology allows us to communicate and work in real time from various parts of the world, but still, the way that most of us operate — “face/badge” — has s fixed time and place, command and control.

The question we must ask ourselves is: how can we bring a new mental model into work and not just the “slack-trello-and-a-third-tool-of-your-choice” combo?

In a world where many people know each other over the internet more than IRL, re-signifying presence, also at work, seems to make sense. Even more so when we remember what this new model has to offer us: the possibility of geographic expansion, the freedom to work where we feel best and quality time for our personal and professional tasks.

It’s a Small World, Debbie Smyth

# 1 Work is a state of mind and knowing yourself makes all the difference.

# 2 Working from a propositional and non-reactive model is what wins the game.

# 3 You have to be your own trigger of motivation.

# 4 Agreements need to be pre-set and be clear to everyone. In the traditional work teams, everything seems to be very clear and the answers were instituted more than 200 years ago. To dematerialize this space and leave this dependency behind, you need to make agreements on everything with your team and the client.

# 5 Learn to handle your time and your way of balancing it.

# 6 Over communication has never killed anyone but has indeed saved projects.

# 7 You will need to understand and practice asynchronous communication.

# 8 Forget the mental and communication spasms: ‘Hi, there?’ With no context in Whatsapp does not help anyone. Get to the point, expose the whole picture and wait. Which brings us to item 9.

# 9 You will need to learn to deal with your sense of urgency. Being connected all the time does not mean that we are all available all the time.

# 10 Transparency is the soul of the business. Remote work requires a lot of honesty because when you are not seeing the person, all you see are the results.

Of course, each team will find its own agreements, the format that is most convenient. There are no replicable processes. First, there are people who have a day-to-day life that becomes the process that uses the tools that serve them best. This involves the learning and (de)estrangement from the habits of each other.

It’s funny, because we only see the tip of the iceberg, the final file of a remote team, and do not even imagine that underneath it has a complex objective and subjective construction: organization time, processes, tools, personal knowledge, transparency, vulnerability. Reasons that demonstrate the greatest need for empathy with the team.

Likewise, working remotely involves techniques and rituals that each one can (and should) develop to make work happen as comfortably and productively as possible. It is not because there is freedom to act in any space that we we are free from stress or deadlines.

A very common fear also perceived in all this is, ‘If I do not show up every day, will they think that I’m not needed?’ The answer to this fear is: if you are needed and not what you are able to do, you may not really be needed.

We tackled the challenges and possibilities of remote work in partnership with SOKO and THE GRID — startups that integrate the FLAGCX group — in a series of contents for the initiative “I want to work in my underwear” promoted by the brand Mash. (Access the website and download the guide to check the results.)

Remote work necessarily involves a process of self-knowledge. About our capacities, our sense of responsibility and our organization, autonomy and even self-control.

“Autonomy is a skill that needs to be developed and trained. Although it is in our essence, we are not born knowing how to do it. But to evolve and understand our circumstances to live with more purpose, we need it. And of course, when we work remotely, this also comes up against our relationship with the distributed team.”

People participate in what they create. The process of sharing our process hurts and is often chaotic. It’s difficult because we have to open up, but what it brings is wonderful. At the end of the day, people get more involved and we understand that this talk of personal life and professional life is just one of the many dualities that we need to overcome in this life.

A more than stimulating challenge, for sure.

Participants (from left to right, from top to bottom): Victoria Haidamus, Gustavo Nogueira, Rodrigo Turra, Lu Couto, Morena Mariah, Victor Hugo Barreto e Sarah Brito.

We are the TORUS, a global movement based in São Paulo and Amsterdam, which promotes changes in organizational cultures, as well as a cultural awakening in society.

We develop experimental and proprietary methodologies based on translating and sharing relevant knowledge about the transformations necessary for our time.

Together with a network of partners and experts around the world, we invest in original studies and the development of a safe space for learning and exchange, as social infrastructures necessary to the world today.


Time Lab


Written by


Estudos do Tempo (Time Studies)



Time Lab

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