It's Still Work: How to Solve for Common Remote Work Challenges

By Becca Williams

In 2015, my husband and I made a bold decision to leave behind our lives in St. Louis and move our family to Colorado. As our boys neared elementary school age, we knew a move of this type would get a lot more difficult very soon.

I worked for a Fortune 500 financial services company at the time and was given a transition period to keep my job after the move. For six months, I was the only remote person within the IT org challenging its butts-in-seats culture. (I do not recommend this.)

Since then, I’ve worked remotely for a half co-located/remote organization, a fully distributed company, and then self-employed for the last two years.

As a result, I have compiled a long list of opinions in this space. 

Below is a snippet of those tips for navigating common remote work challenges based on my experience.

Listen first.

Be kind and direct. Hiding or avoiding confrontation is not the answer. Did I mention be kind?

Ask colleagues how they are and mean it. And when they ask you, you can answer how you are with something other than “fine.” But sometimes if you want the conversation to end, you can still answer with “fine.”

Language matters. Be crisp, clear, and to the point in asynchronous communications. Minimize jargon, gossip, and sarcasm.

Don’t stifle hard conversations like Basecamp did.

The world will not end if you step away from your desk to put in the next load of laundry. You might, in fact, gain a new perspective on “spin cycles” while you’re there.

Your job is not your identity. Your job is not your identity. Your job is not your identity.

Sometimes walks are billable. 

Vulnerability is hard and uncomfortable and useful. GIFs, kids, pets, and honest imperfections can strengthen bonds.

Lipstick, purple hair, dancing and singing loudly to 80s music, and showers can increase joy.

Participate in highly visible conversations when you can add value (so your leadership doesn’t forget about you. Mostly joking.) 

Think carefully about the inclusion of attendees before scheduling an end-of-day or end-of-week alcohol-focused happy hour. Team building can be built into the work day and does not have to require an after-hours commitment or alcohol.

You don’t have to be the rightest or the smartest.

That meeting probably doesn’t have to be a meeting. (“Could you really not just put this in an email?”)

It’s OK to decline an agenda-less meeting invite.

That email can almost always wait. 

Breathe before hitting send. And maybe don’t send it.

Use your vacation time, even if you just stay home and unplug.

Remote work is isolating. Find ways to maintain friendships and contribute to your local, IRL community. 

When the work day is over, turn off computers, mobile Slack and work email notifications, and change clothes as evidence. Create natural transitions in the day to establish boundaries for yourself.

What has helped you survive and thrive as a remote worker?

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Read more of Becca’s thoughts on remote work in Building and Facilitating Self-Managing, Agile, Remote Teams: An Operating Manual.

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