Remote Work Tips and Tricks

Posted in generic on March 18, 2020 by Adrian Wyssmann ‐ 5 min read

Update 2020-05-02

One of the readers of my blog - I’m actually glad I have some - asked me to have a look at Toptal’s The Suddenly Remote Playbook. I’ve updated the article slightly though cause I think is worth mentioning it beside the other ones.

The corona pandemie forces people to stay at home and work from there. For me this is nothing new, as my company already gives me to opportunity to have home-office days. However there is a huge difference of having some people having single home-office days to having everyone working remote all the time. There is no physical presence anymore so the way you work together and how you communicate changes significantly. It is not easy and even more difficult when you newer worked remote. The good news is, there are some great remote-first companies like [Gitlab](], Zapier or Toptal which already know how this works and they provide great tips.

There are two main things to consider, the personal behaviour and the Company Culture

Personal behaviour

This is about you and how you behave in order to work and to be productive. When you work in an office, you have to get up, take a shower and get dressed, cause you have to be at the office at a certain time. If you work from remote this is not the case, you can start working in pyjama if you want. I believe this lazyness also is reflected in your day, so it’s important to get your day started right.

Also is there much more distraction at home - you see dirty plates, so you may quickly wash them and then go back to work. Thus it is essential that you avoid distraction and ensure that you stay focused and motivated to do your work. Find a place where you can work quietly and get less distracted - also not by your family members. If this is not possible cause there is simply not enough space, you can put headphones on and make clear that there are only some time which you accept interruption. Really improtant is to avoid context switching cause this kills productivity - this is also something to consider for the company culture. To improve your own situation I recommend to have a look on the following sites, they provide a bunch of nice tips which will definitively help you:

Company Culture

This is about how you interact and work with your colleagues, and also how your company interacts with you. In the office you are sitting together and you can easily talk with your colleagues whether it is about work related stuff or just simple chit-chat. This helps bonding with people and also you know what’s going on in your work environment. All this is not possible in full-remote work cause you are not sitting in one room - at least not in the way you used to be. However, you still can by using collaborative tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams to chat and having video conferences. It’s maybe easier said than done, cause some companies may not have such a tool in place and just introducing a new tools is not possible just from one moment to the other. In addition some companies cannot simply use such a tool due to constrains or restrictions - sharing sensitive data like chats with an external company may not be accepted or possible. Sure they are tools which you can host yourself, but this is even more challenging to bring into a company. Thus you may not have the best tools, but try to use what you have the best way you can.

I think regardless, you have to align the way your company and your co-workers communicate - it shall be clear to everyone and all should do it the same way. The following pages give you some very good tips what to consider

The first link is indeed the most comprehensive and I recommend to read trough it. There are a lot of good ideas which you already can apply. But also the other are very interesting and I recommend to read them.

The foremost rule is that your communication is transparent to everyone. Make sure you discuss publicly and people can join your discussions. This also implies that you document everything even so things are not final and make it available to everyone. If you have a look at Gitlab’s Manifesto it says exactly this

3 Writing down and recording knowledge over verbal explanations.

4 Written down processes over on-the-job training.

5 Public sharing of information over need-to-know access.

6 Opening up every document for editing by anyone over top-down control of documents.

9 Formal communication channels over informal communication channels.

I anyways believe - although you are not a remote company - this rules apply regardless. At least for me, cause I am known to document very thorough.

I also mentioned above you should avoid context switching cause it kills productivity. This is an aspect which should be considered in the way the communication happens. Setup pre-planned meetings instead of having ad-hoc discussion for decisions to make. Also be aware that people might be busy, so don’t expect an immediate answer when you ask a question in the chat - communication is asynchronous and not synchronous anymore.

A final word

For people and companies which suddenly start full remote it is difficult but not impossible. Start little by creating some ground rules so that there is a common way of communication. Document and make documentation available to everyone. At last, don’t forget communication is asynchronous.