How to remote work like a pro

Jul 20, 2023
How to remote work like a pro

Find Your Superpower newsletter 019

Read time: 6 minutes

Topics covered: Remote work, hybrid work, work from home, work from anywhere, work-life balance


 

A week ago, I wrote a post about the benefits of working remotely. I explained that after 3.5 years of remote work, I am now a convert to the work-from-home (WFH) or work-from-anywhere (WFA) movement.

Why? I get to sleep in for an additional 1h or exercise in the morning, I get to say hi to my kids as they come home on the school bus, and the best part, I get to have an early dinner with my family every evening. I also calculated I save an entire month each year in another post, which is mind-blowing.

And I received many likes, comments and DMs from all of you agreeing with me and sharing your own stories.

But something didn’t sit right with me about the remote-work post. It felt like I told you what you wanted to hear. I was preaching to the choir.

It was LinkedIn-kosher.

You see, I didn’t tell you about the dark side of remote work.

 

In reverse: from pro-remote to pro-office

Earlier in June, Google released a memo mandating that its workers return to the office. As per news reports, the company says it may even track in-person attendance when conducting employee performance reviews.

Meta has also since adopted a RTO policy. A longtime proponent of remote work, Meta will require employees to return to the office for three days a week beginning September 5.

I can understand why Google and Meta have both issued RTO mandates. After managing people remotely for many years, and before that in the office, I have made some key observations:

 

1/ Not everyone is suited for remote work

My own anecdotal experience suggests that 10-30% of remote workers will struggle with it, with 5-10% severely struggling, affecting both personal, team and company productivity.

There could be many reasons for this: not being able to create a quiet and comfortable place for deep work, especially those with a large family in a small unit; excessive distractions such as social media that they cannot tune out; time management problems; poor boundaries leading to the collapse of any semblance of work-life balance.

 

2/ Some find themselves isolated and disengaged

Remote work requires a team of extremely strong communicators. This discussion on communication is very different from introversion and extroversionintroverts could be strong communicators and vice versa, extroverts could be poor communicators.

Feelings of isolation can arise when colleagues do not know how to ask for help, or on the contrary, they may not know how to offer help to their virtual colleagues. They may end up working in silos, which means companies don’t get the value-add from teamwork.

 

3/ Mental health issues are now even harder to detect

It is estimated that more than one in five adults in the US live with a mental illness, ranging from mild to clinically severe. It was already hard for supervisors and managers to support and detect mental health issues in the office, and it is even harder to do so when the team is fully remote. These individuals also suffer in silence if they are unaware of it or unwilling to seek help.

 

Work-from-home like a pro

And at the same time, there are many companies that have gone fully virtual after getting a head start during the COVID-19 pandemic. These companies are convinced that their teammates are equally—if not more—productive working remotely.

Having spent a fair bit of the past 3.5 years traveling and working on the road, I’ve put together a few tips to suggest how we can all WFH or WFA better.

 

1/ Communicate, communicate, communicate

If ever in doubt, overcommunicate instead of undercommunicate. When your team works across four countries like mine does, you need strong communication tools that mimic the way office water-cooler conversations take place. In our case, we run weekly meetings and townhalls, as well as 1:1 check-ins with team leaders, who are alert for mental health and workload management issues.

This is YOUR moment to shine! You could be that ‘superglue’ that brings everyone together. If you are a cat lover, post pictures of your cat on the cat-lovers-central channel. Start social conversations that are not work-related. If you see someone struggling in virtual meetings, offer to have a 1h coffee chat where you discuss the most recent movie you watched or plans for your next vacation. And of course, if you need help, ask for help. Don’t suffer in silence!

 

2/ Organize intentional meet-ups to fight isolation

Human beings crave physical contact and interaction—everything we lost in the COVID-19 pandemic. The office is not just a place to attend meetings; it is also a place where we can socialize and form human connections.

While it is tempting to curl up in bed all day, take the initiative to invite your colleagues (or industry mates) out to coffee or lunch to fight isolation. And given that we’ve separated work and play, we get to… just play when we meet. Ask about each other’s lives and holiday plans, and share stories with each other that are not work-related. The key word here is: intentional! We have to make the effort.

 

3/ Remember your “why”

While any company’s mission has always been fundamental to the success of the company, it is even more important in a remote setting. Because remote work is intrinsically isolating, and because challenges can arise unexpectedly from any corner, having a shared purpose and mission is a panacea to feelings of disengagement. A shared “why” allows us to feel like we are all part of one community, despite being thousands of miles apart.

 

4/ Pick up time management and work-life boundary skills

The beauty of working from an office is that, no matter how inconvenient it may be to fight traffic to get there, it also acts like a binary switch—you get to leave your work behind and head home after your job is done.

Remote workers need to adjust the way they work. For example, we need to be stricter with our work-life boundaries, such as when we work, when we eat, and when we end the day. We also need to factor in exercise—the time we used to commute to work would be a good place to start.

In my company’s case, we send a message within our smaller teams to let them know we’re “out”, so that we stop getting messages from our teammates. We also implement one meeting-free day every week (imagine being able to do deep work for 20% of the time without distractions from your colleagues)!

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Before I wrap up, if you’re finding yourself blurring the lines between work and life, you may want to consider taking a course on time management and productivity in a remote setting. Finding an 1:1 executive coach or joining a business community may also be another option for more customized support.

Here’s the thing: the world is moving towards being one borderless, global, virtual office. Instead of failing at it, let’s get good at it.

Wishing you all the best in this new normal.

Remote work for the win!

 

Thanks for reading issue 019 of my weekly Find Your Superpower newsletter.

See you next week. 


 

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