Remote Work: Over Communicate with Context 🙏
Being able to work remotely is probably one of the coolest fuckin things that's ever happened to me.
For well over a decade I've been able to wake up and commute myself 20 feet to my home office, sip a cup of my favorite fussy coffee, and work in the comfort of my favorite pair of sweat pants.
It's truly amazing 🙌
Being a remote worker is basically the same as being in an office with some important key differences.
You have to over communicate.
You have to toot your own horn.
On a constant and ongoing basis you need to consistently inform your co-workers of the cool and useful work that you're doing everyday. If you quietly do work and don't let anybody know did the wild bear actually shit in the woods?
Inform people in the context that matters. Ask people what they think of the work you did and try to relate it to some piece of work that they did that might be related.
On the flip side of this you should consider asking your coworkers what they are working on and take the opportunity to brag about their accomplishments too. Point out things you like. Mention folks and share your opinions and feedback.
It's hard to get collaboration in a packed meat space office full of people, but the effort required for remote work goes up considerably.
Be the person that puts in the effort.
This is the worst fucking message.
"are you there?"
This is a close second.
Who fucking cares where I am in space and time.
I know that we've been conditioned to send a greeting before engaging in conversation, and in some cultures that is more important than others but...
"Hi, can we discuss the thing that we have mutual interest in?"
"Can you please answer this question when you have a chance that I will write concisely in this request?"
These are both polite. You can have your graceful cultural norms covered while still providing rich context to your collaborators. And that's the key, it is essential that we provide context, share links, get to the point, and ask really good questions if we are all going to survive this thing together.
It takes very little extra work on your part to layer in context. You have it right there.
When you message a collaborator (or potential collaborator) it vital that you respect their time and space. We don't need to play "phone tag". This is the information age my friend, so supply some information.
After you've worked remotely for awhile and maybe managed remote teams a while longer you start to "feel" the patterns of remote work.
Somebody will be silent for a period of time.
There will be unresponsiveness, no commentary, less commits, the bare minimum.
It happens. It happens to all of us.
But with remote work it's easier to slip out and fade into the background.
It's vital that we support one another and reach out as needed.
Burn-out, depression, illness, chronic pain, boredom, and general malaise are all real things that we all have to deal with.
Check in with your co-workers and make sure they are ok.
"Hey, how's it going? Working on anything interesting? Can I help you with anything? Let's catch up!"
This is something you can paste directly at folks on a regular basis and see what responses you get.
On the other side of the coin, as a remote worker, you absolutely have to figure out how you can be in your comfortable space and still get shit done.
If you start to slip, if you can't manage to do it, somebody will notice and you will face the consequences.
Let's be real, I've worked onsite jobs where I went fuckin months where nobody noticed that I wasn't doing anything, nobody cared.
That's probably a thing you could do as a remote worker, but a skilled manager is going to notice at some point. There's a lot of telltale signs and it will come up.
This is where communication can come into play again.
If you're having a rough patch, speak up. In my experience talking about it and being as open as possible is going to give better results than trying to hide and hope nobody notice.
Hiding feels like lying.
It fuels anxiety and can crush you even more.
We, as a society, all have to "just do the work" when we often don't feel like it. Remote working is not a solution to that, and for some people it's really hard to get past that fact.
If you need to get up, put on crisp clothes, commute, and sit in a room with other folks to do your best work?
That's totally fine.
Remote work can be isolating to many, and if that's not how you prefer to work, don't let all of us remote zealots make you think you are off track.
Know yourself and your limits.
If you really want to read about remote work in long-form, I highly recommend the book Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. They also wrote Rework which I love. Basecamp is a remote first company that I respect and am constantly inspired by.