To remote or not to remote, that is the question 🤔
Every once in a while people approach me and ask what it takes to start working remotely, so I figured I could turn my talk into a short post.
First of all, remote work isn't a silver bullet! Don't assume that all companies will become 100% remote in the future.
Are you experienced enough?
For people who are just starting out, working remotely from day 1 might not be the best choice. Some juniors tend to get into rabbit holes, are afraid to ask questions, and need face-to-face guidance and reassurance from their peers/managers. In order to be a good remote worker, you need to be a 100% good communicator and used to this style of work first.
Do you need face-to-face communication?
Some people prefer talking to writing. Not every meeting is useless, and don't assume that everything is best sorted out in writing. A lot of things can be discussed asynchronously, but nothing beats live team brainstormings, postmortems, or reviews.
Also, some people feel at a loss if they don't get to see their colleagues face-to-face every day. Moreover, some people prefer having structured environments and dedicated offices over working from home. They might get distracted by the rest of the Internet, family, pets, you name it ... so they end up being not so productive.
Is your home better than an office?
My first full-time job was 100% remote. At that time I was a student and I shared a small flat with my cousin. My room was a living room, kitchen, study room, work room, and bedroom at the same time. Basically, I spent most of those 2 years between those 4 walls.
I can't even put into words how depressed I was during that time. I couldn't get my mind to relax and just chill. I was tense 99% of the time and even woke up randomly during night. For those of you who don't know me, I usually sleep longer than a bear during winter. The fact that I was going straight from bed to work was just too much for me. It felt as if I were working all the time.
If you're living in a studio apartment, same rules apply. After some time, you get the feeling that you're trapped inside your own apartment. Unless you're very strict with your working out regime (I'm not unless my gf starts a 🔥 under my ass), you might consider working from other co-working places just to break that routine. Make sure you have other places you can work from other than your room and that you get out of your apartment on a daily basis.
Can you adjust to working in other time-zones?
I get up at 6 AM and start working from 7 AM. This works out great for me since I turned into a morning person during the past few years.
You'll definitely need to overlap with your team, so ask yourself where is the company located before applying for a remote position. In the past, I had the opportunity to collaborate with an Australian company. That was super difficult since I had to stay awake super late just to jump on a call with that client.
I do wanna go to Australia and see kangaroos and koalas, but if I get another chance to work with companies operating in the same time-zone, I'd most likely decline such an offer.
Are you a good writer?
If you can't express yourself in writing, and just don't have a knack for it, erm, you need to work on that skill. In order to be an effective remote worker you need to be organized, concise, and clear while communicating with the rest of your team.
Our top hiring criteria — in addition to having the skills to do the job — is, are you a great writer? You have to be a great writer to work here, in every single position, because the majority of our communication is written, primarily because a lot of us work remotely but also because writing is quieter. And we like long-form writing where people really think through an idea and present it.
Also, some things sound harsher in written. "Hey, you made a mistake..." sounds way worse in writing. Not grasping these nuances between speech and writing is a huge issue when you're a manager in a remote team. As a manager, you need to make sure that you pass positive feedback in public channels so that everyone can celebrate team victories, and discuss issues in private.
Do you have all the things you need in your home office?
Do you have a good chair, a table that's not your dining table, and a strong internet connection? Yes? Good, carry on! No? Erm, reconsider getting a good chair first!
I have double scoliosis and kyphosis just because I worked on a shitty chair for 2 years and didn't know how to keep my posture. Oh, and I'm almost 27, so yeah, I'm pretty young to face these problems, but it is what it is. Take care of yourself first!
Can you work remotely and legally at the same time?
In order to work remotely, you need to make sure you understand the legal terms of such work. In the United States, people can work remotely from anywhere in the country. In my case, I had to register an agency in order to be able to collaborate with companies outside of Serbia.
I used the term "collaborate" on purpose. I'm not an employee, and I can't be one according to the law of my country. This is why I have to do my own accounting, taxes and a shitload of other paperwork. Working with Hashnode is one of the best things that ever happened to me, but there are times I wish I can just forget about paperwork completely.
Hope you now understand the challenges of remote work a bit better. I'm 100% into working remotely, but don't want to make it sound like that's the best and the easiest thing in the world. Every style of work has its challenges, and remote brings some unique ones.
I think for remote working to be a win/win from both a company and employee perspective it is incumbent on the company to have in place a good (and agile) project management system and a project management culture.
This puts the focus on achieving the goals and timelines of the project rather than on individual tasks and where they are being performed.
Unfortunately a lot of companies don’t do this and eventually suspicion can form on whether the employee is working from home effectively and productively. There is a famous example where a former icon of the computer industry (starts with a “Y”) had a great remote working culture which was then actively discouraged by the new incoming CEO.
I suspects the inability to accurately show and measure results from a project perspective across the Enterprise was definitely a factor in this decision.
Fortunately we have great remote working tools these days to help an employee feel connected to the team without physically being in the office.
As Milica has said in her post there is a mindset involved in remote working plus getting your environmental factors right.
I think it is inevitable that more and more people will be remote working in the future, across a wide range of different industries, so it’s important that we continue to get this right.