11 Tips for Working Remotely

It’s been well over a year since I joined Telligent as a Remote employee.  I wasn’t sure I’d last six months working outside of the main office.  I’m sure these aren’t the only tips, but they are the ones that work for me. Maybe some of the other remote peeps at Telligent can offer their 2 cents after reading this.

1. Get face to face

image There is nothing like actually meeting the people you work for and with in person on a regular basis.  Before I started at Telligent I made sure I had met several of my co-workers in person during the interview process.  Shortly after was a well timed trip that took us all to Dallas for some face to face meetings.  This time isn’t always the most efficiently spent for us remoters, but it’s highly valuable social capitol. Simply energizing.

2. Get Visual

NOTE: Actual co-workers appearance may vary.If you can’t meet in person you can use a number of applications for 1-1 & many to many video chats.  Joe would tell you that it’s landlines FTW, but our teams have spoken. Despite the choppy audio, the glitching, CPU usage, and comcastic outages nothing beats video for knowing when your co-workers are rolling their eyes at what you are saying.  So far tokbox & Oovoo have been the most used by our teams.

3. Find your water cooler

No really, these are NOT your co-workers! It doesn’t matter if it’s twitter, facebook, or IRC… it’s important to have a virtual water cooler with your team.  You need a place to talk about things that aren’t precisely what you are working on with your team.


4. Get out of the house and be "that guy"

imageYou need to get out of the house when you start to feel the walls close in around you and productivity drop.  Some of my most productive afternoons have been at the local coffee shop with Wifi, music, and good headphones.  It’s extremely energizing just to be around people.


5. Shower and get dressed slacker!

imageBased on our daily video calls I’m not sure if all of my co-workers agree with this one, but the couple of days I’ve broken this rule it’s cost me in productivity. I just don’t feel ready to work unless I’m showered and dressed well enough to appear in public.   You are already saving yourself the 15-30 minute commute you can afford a 10 minute shower.


6. Work a regular schedule


This is another one that may just be me, but just because you work remote doesn’t mean you should take advantage of the fact no one will notice you golfing, shopping, or visiting your out of state girlfriend in the middle of the day.  I never realized how important my online status was until last year.


7. Take breaks


Just because you don’t take off golfing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take breaks throughout the day.  I’ve found myself, too often, speeding through lunch at my desk while doing e-mail only to realize I hadn’t moved much in hours.  That’s not an effective break.  Use this time at the virtual water cooler, take 5 minutes to clear the dishes around your desk up, or go outside and get some fresh air.


Update: This was published as a draft before I wrote the last few so enjoy. No sense putting the cat back in the bag… that’s painful.

Update 2: Scott posted a list that included some that I hadn’t written up yet here: http://simpable.com/life/working-remotely/ 

To 2nd two of his and add more…

8. Work in a remote culture

image If the rest of your team sits in a cube with one another and doesn’t leverage shared communication protocols you’ll probably find yourself on the outside.  Like Scott said… drill them about their culture before you sign up.


image Since you don’t see each other every minute you need to realize that every time you do talk to each other the messages you send are amplified to a degree. E-mails may be read more carefully and hints of sarcasm that go over well with people you see in person don’t travel through the series of tubes well. 

10. E-mail etiquette… know when to drop out of mail

image Related to 9 standard e-mail etiquette rules apply, but my addition is that I’ve seen too many threads carry on when it would just be faster to grab everyone and hop on a sharedview, call, or chat.  Maybe something to apply is if there are more than 2 replies from 2 unique people… it’s time to drop out of e-mail before more people get sucked into the vortex.


11. Evolve your thinking and your Intranet

image I know I’ve personally felt a lot more connected to remote and non-remote employees since we, as a company, started using our own Evolution product.  That’s my biased sales pitch, but the idea is the same no matter what software you use… get people using the social media tools on the intranet that they use outside of work to stay connected.  Get people blogging, creating groups, sharing ideas, posting status messages, etc inside the firewall.

Bonus: Forward thinking

image I believe that the tools that enable truly collaborative online working experiences are in their infancy.  Things have evolved so quickly in the last 5 years that the innovations of the next 5 years are going to reshape how people view the need to be sitting next to each other.  They are going to continue to enable you to hire the best people for the job regardless of geography.  It’s going to make us all more efficient.  I think we’re only 10% of the way there today and there is significant room to grow & improve.

9 Responses to “11 Tips for Working Remotely”

  1. RE: 11 Tips for Working Remotely

    Josh posted a list of tips for working remotely . Here are a couple of additions.

  2. Scott says:

    I disagree on the shower first thing in the morning. I love to do the daily shower midday as a way of breaking up the day and giving me an opportunity to restart the day.

    Of course if you are not careful you can find yourself still in the clothes you slept in at 5 PM. :)

  3. Karthik says:

    Invest in a good patio with electrical outlets and a roof cover. Also be sure to have a router with a strong wifi signal. Days when I work from home and do it outside are awesome.

    And I agree with the early shower. Between IMs, conf calls, and phone calls, you may or may not get a long enough break in the middle of the day to do your normal morning routine.

    Nothing worse than having your wife come home after 5 and you’re still in your PJs.

  4. RE: 11 Tips for Working Remotely

    I accidently published my last post too soon. This morning I published the last 4 tips. Enjoy here: http://evolvingwe.com/social/x-tips-for-working-remotely/

  5. josh ledgard says:

    @Karthik The patio thing is something I’ve thought of, but not yet implemented. I’ll have to give it a try.

  6. I can also recommend the patio idea. It only works for me part of the year because I live someplace with an actual winter but in the warmer weather it is great.

    I also like the mid-morning shower. I like to hit the ground running in the morning and mid morning I am ready for a short break.

    I also eat brunch rather than an early breakfast or lunch most days. My lunch time is start of the day for people in the west coast so I like to be ready for the rash of concalls that tend to start at noon eastern time. Since my wife works 7 to 3:30 we tend to eat dinner earlier so this works well for us. And it helps me eat less food as long as I control the evening snacks.

  7. Steve Chazin says:

    Great article! I’m still in my pajamas and loving it. BTW, if you need a really good free, open source web conferencing solution to keep in touch with teams at the office try Dimdim – it lets you deliver synchronized live presentations, whiteboards and web pages while sharing voice and video over the Internet – with no download required. Enjoy!

  8. Hello from a fellow "at-home-worker" As someone who is still fairly new at this, this certainly helped! Does anyone have any other resources/blogs/forums for this kind of information?

  9. Randy Rutledge says:

    I worked remotely for a year and for me it is not something I would do again, given a choice. Josh’s suggestions are all good and many of those I followed. For me there were two negatives that outweighed the positives. First and foremost, I feed off the energy in the workplace. I was unable to find a substitute for being around my coworkers. The second consideration, and this is something that might have been solved, was the inability to "meet" on a moments notice. I enjoy the ability of having "executive" meetings in the hallway or the breakroom.