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Shannon Crabill
Shannon Crabill

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Advice for (first time) remote workers

In a week, I start a new job, at a new company. My team is all, or mostly remote (telecommute) which is a change from what I am used to (in the office with occasional work-from-home days).

What advice do you have for me?

Specifically curious with how best to keep in touch with your boss about what you have been working on, so that you can show progress, stay top of mind etc.

Top comments (8)

peter profile image
Peter Kim Frank

One big thing for me in adjusting to remote work was "turning off" at the end of the day. I actually started a thread which generated some great replies:

As to your specific question about showing progress: in addition to whatever project management and/or issue tracking software you might use, I think it's reasonable to have a weekly routine of writing down your goals for the week on Monday, and reflecting on how things went on Friday. It provides a regular cadence to share your plans and progress in a repeatable format, and it's nice to look back at over time.

You can even do the above fully in private, and only ever bring it up if you think your boss would appreciate more visibility. I've found this to be a helpful routine even in "single player mode."

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Good luck!

I feel like folks from our team will all have their own takes on this!

cc: @jess @peter @liana @aspittel @andy @lightalloy @maestromac @mariocsee

There are plenty of angles to approach this from, I'd say: Get a consistent setup, consistent audio/video, good internet, same thing every day.

If you need to change your setup for the day, say coffee shops etc—be aware that there are a lot of moving pieces in terms of your flow. IMO your default should be pretty consistent as if you were in the same office chair every day.

I wrote this on the subject:

peterwitham profile image
Peter Witham

Living on both sides of this as a remote worker to my team and having to manage my remote team, here are my thoughts.

  • Start each day as if you were going to travel to an office. Set a start time for yourself and try to stick to it even on those '5 more minutes in bed' days.

  • End each day around the same time if you can, and make yourself stick to it. Once you start out of hours email replies and commits, people notice and that will become the new normal for you as far as they are concerned.

  • Stay in constant awareness of what is going on with the rest of the team. If you use agile and have daily standups then this gets a lot easier, but we use Slack all the time so it should always be open.

  • Be sure to reach out and connect with team members, there is nothing wrong with a little digital water cooler conversation now and again for everyone to feel connected.

  • Keep distractions to a minimum, don't be afraid to isolate yourself from everything around you even when you are home alone. It is too easy to see the mailman and run to the box, it can wait.

  • Pomodoro is indeed a wonderful thing for training the brain to stay focused regularly without burning out.

  • If you are at home, designate a place to be the office and don't let work stray out of it for too long, for example, leave the laptop there and don't take it with you at the end of the day to the couch.

  • If you manage people, schedule a recurring meeting once a week to just tag up with them in person as a one on one. That's what I do, that gives everyone a chance to discuss anything they want in a private conversation whilst at the same time keeping a scheduled discipline in place.

These are just a few thoughts.

erikaheidi profile image
Erika Heidi

I've been working remote for a few years, and it's the best thing that ever happened in my professional life! In terms of advice, I'd say:

  • Keep a morning routine, like you would have if you were going to an office. I even use some make up :P it kinda helps me get into the mood.
  • Separate your physical working space from the rest of your house if possible.
  • It's tempting, but don't work on pyjamas! This is all about having a healthy separation between personal life vs your job
  • Have regular breaks to walk around etc

In terms of keeping in touch with your teammates, it's important to discuss with the team what tools and practices can be established, if they're not there yet. Tools like Slack will help a lot. Weekly meetings with video to catch-up can also be a good idea, and having the camera on is important IMO to make it more personal.

workingwebsites profile image
Lisa Armstrong

Find out what your team uses to communicate and what the expectations are.

Communication really is the oxygen of remote work, without it you die. Your boss wants to see progress, so tell them what you did all day.

I like to outline what I'm working on, then report how it went. It's always great to mark something as done, but don't be afraid to note where you got unexpectedly hung up. Maybe someone can help or they're having the same issue, or maybe it is a tough problem.

  • Do have a separate space for work.
  • Spend the money on a good economic set up.
  • Find the routine that works for you and stick with it
  • Have office hours and stick with those too
  • Be diligent about separating work and personal time.
  • Look after yourself. Get out of the chair and go for a walk. You'll do better work and be a better person for it.
ssimontis profile image
Scott Simontis

Ask for clear expectations from the beginning. It makes sure everyone is on the same page. I would expect a good supervisor to clearly establish expectations within your first few days, but asking of your own volition at the beginning demonstrates that you are willing to have direct conversations, which is a great first impression.

Also, follow their flow. You might have a lot of ideas on how to tweak things and improve the process, but get adjusted to the team and understand why things are the way they are before making recommendations. I see this quite regularly in consulting, where I want to make a ton of snap judgments about companies right away, but after learning the background story of a lot of policies, everything suddenly made sense and I was glad I paused for a moment before instantly making my recommendation.

remotesynth profile image
Brian Rinaldi

I've been working from home pretty much full-time for about 8 or 9 years at this point. The advice others have already given about keeping a routine and separating home/work are great. It's best if you have a separate office to work in - I worked at the kitchen table in my old house and it was terrible for my back and for my ability to focus (especially once the kids got home).

As for keeping in touch with your boss and showing progress, that is largely up to the boss. I wouldn't stress on it too much as, while you are new to a fully remote team, they have been managing a fully remote team already and probably already have tools and processes in place. When I've had bosses who were not remote or used to managing remote teams, showing that I was "doing enough" was important. However, the bosses who have managed remote teams or were comfortable managing remote employees didn't need me to constantly keep them updated to know I was getting my job done.

That being said, regular 1:1s and weekly email status updates can often be helpful.

Congrats and best of luck in your new role!

chrisrhymes profile image
C.S. Rhymes

I work from home one day a week and I find it helps me focus without interruptions, but I don’t think I could do it full time as I miss the banter in the office.

We have a stand up each day which really helps with communication so maybe a daily conference call or video call would be good to keep in touch.