What is remote work?
Remote work is a fairly new trend in the modern workforce where individuals with digital skills are not bound to a single physical location, like an office. They have the ability to produce work from home, or anywhere in the world. Those who travel are often referred to as Digital Nomads.
In June 2017, I made the transition from a full-time office role in Sydney, Australia to a full-time remote role in Whistler, BC with ManageFlitter. This article includes some personal reflections, learnings and insights into the remote work culture and processes at ManageFlitter.
What are the benefits of remote work for individuals?
The benefits differ amongst individuals but typically include:
- A flexible schedule.
- Ability to collaborate with smart individuals all over the world
- No daily commute
- Ability to live in remote areas and maintain a big-city job
Kate’s reflections: Remote work allows me to get the most out of my day. I save 2+ hours per day by not commuting to an office. This frees me up to do things that make my life more fulfilling, like regular exercise and socialising. Remote work also allows me to live in locations like Whistler, BC that aren’t established corporate hubs.
What are the benefits of remote work to companies?
The benefits differ between companies but typically include:
- A diverse team
- Ability to cover multiple time zones
- Higher levels of employee satisfaction
- Less overhead costs
Kate’s reflections: Remote work has allowed ManageFlitter to build a team of smart individuals from all over the world. Developers are in such high demand that it becomes challenging to find good candidates in a specific location. Remote work has expanded our pool of candidates to choose from.
What does it take to work remotely?
Whilst working remotely sounds like a dream come true for some, it does present its own challenges. Remote employees must be:
- Disciplined with their time and schedule
- Prepared and organised
- Strong communicators
Kate’s reflections: Working solo means that you are accountable for your time. There is no clocking in, or a manager to check that you are at your desk. For some, the temptation to lie in bed all morning might be too much. Remote work forces you to be disciplined enough to get up and get shit done.
Organisational skills and an awareness of time zones is a must. ManageFlitter for example, has team members in 8 different countries. Coordinating video conferences and meeting deadlines in different time zones can be challenging, but it’s a fair expectation that you figure this out. I’ve found that Google Calendar is a great tool for scheduling as it converts the time for you.
When working remotely, your primary communication mediums are via messaging or video calls. At ManageFlitter we have an ‘over-communication’ policy where we aim to make no assumptions, ask plenty of questions and say more than feels necessary. The idea of this policy is to compensate for missing communication factors such as body language, individual nuances and tone that are often lost among remote teams.
What tools do you need for a remote team to work efficiently?
Fortunately there are many tools out there that support remote work. Here are some that work for ManageFlitter:
- Slack - Team Messaging, Communication Hub.
- Appear.In & Google Hangouts - Video Calls and Conferencing
- SMART kapp - Virtual/Interactive whiteboarding
- Jira & Trello - Task Management
Kate’s reflections: I don’t know where we’d be without Slack! It’s extremely important to have a hub where team communication can exist and prosper. Not only can you message individual team members, but also set up group channels for specific projects. This helps me keep things organised and relevant. Slack stays permanently open during everyone’s work day which means that you can get responses fairly quickly (assuming they’re not asleep in the opposite time zone!)
As a remote worker you do not want to become just a name on the screen. This is where video conferencing comes in. Tools such as Appear.In and Google Hangouts are extremely effective at providing an outlet for all team members to be heard in a round-table style conversation.
Collaborating and documenting ideas together makes you feel like a valuable member of the team. Virtual whiteboarding tools such as Google Jamboard and SMART kapp help make this a reality. Team members can see what’s being added to the whiteboard in real time. In some instances, remote team members can even add to the whiteboard themselves.
Last but not least, remote teams need task management. Tools like Trello and Jira are great for creating tasks that team members can methodically work through at any time, in any place. Weekly planning sessions also help determine what goes on this list.
What are some ideal environments and workstation setups for remote workers?
The ideal setup really depends on the individual and the type of work they are engaged in. Here are some common options:
- Co-working space
- Home Office
- Ergonomic laptop stand + external keyboard and mouse
- Libraries, Cafes
Kate’s reflections: Having the flexibility to work where I feel most comfortable is one of my favourite aspects of remote work. Personally I find being bound to a single location stifling to my creativity and overall wellness. Having the freedom to pick up my laptop and relocate to the local library or cafe is fulfilling and also a great way to remove yourself from distractions around the home. Taking advantage of the sunshine and working on the patio is also a huge win for me.
For this reason, I opt for a home office with ergonomic accessories that I can easily take with me. Co-working spaces are also great; for some people they make the distinction between work-time and home-time clearer which is important for a balanced lifestyle.
On a side note, if you are on the move and using public Wi-Fi it’s important to protect your machine and the company's assets. Installing a VPN will aid with this issue.
Do you feel ready to learn how to build, scale and be part of a remote team?
How about getting advice from the people who’ve done it and succeeded from it?
The Running Remote Conference 2018 is the place to be, next 23rd and 24th of June, in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. CEO´s and founders of companies such as Buffer, Atlassian, FlexJobs, Github, Dribbble and TransferWise, just to mention a few, are some of the speakers carefully curated to share experiences and challenges managing teams around the globe. This is the conference you have all been trying to find, and here it is!
Make sure you say hi to the ManageFlitter CEO, Kevin Garber, while you're there!