How I stay productive and connected with my team as a remote worker
I’ve worked at Astro for over two years now and I love my job. It’s fast-paced, I have a ton of responsibility, and we’re always working on something new. But when my boyfriend started a new grad program, I was faced with the possibility of moving from Minneapolis to the Los Angeles area.
Because Astro is designed to be a remote company, I thankfully didn’t have to choose between being with my boyfriend or keeping my job. I can essentially work from anywhere — so I just packed up my car, drove across the country, and continued to work remotely for Astro from California.
One of the biggest adjustments in this move was making the shift to 100% remote work. There are many pros and cons to this lifestyle, and it’s definitely not for everyone. While the flexibility can be nice, it can also be quite lonely sometimes. Here are six things I’ve done to make my transition to the remote lifestyle a little bit smoother:
1. Over-communicate online
People always say that communication is key… and well, they’re not wrong. Working remote means that you are extra accountable for keeping your teammates up to speed on what you’re working on and how it fits in with the bigger company goals. If there are gaps in communication, over time you might start to feel siloed and disconnected from the rest of the company. Like many other teams of our size, we rely on Slack for the majority of our communication.
Within Slack, we’ve also integrated tools like Geekbot and Donut. Geekbot is a replacement for daily standup meetings that helps the team keep everyone updated on what they’re focusing on for the day. Donut is another bot that randomly pairs team members for a weekly meeting with the purpose of getting to know each other over a video call. It’s the digital equivalent to grabbing a coffee with someone at the office that you’d like to get to know better.
We also rely heavily on Zoom video calls for longer conversations that can’t be properly discussed over Slack. In addition to our company-wide meeting each Monday, I regularly check in with my boss twice a week over Zoom.
2. Compromise on time zones
There’s a two-hour time difference between Minneapolis and Los Angeles. But because the majority of the people that I work with are back in the midwest, I’ve found that it makes things easier if I stick as closely to their work schedule as possible. That means starting my work day a bit earlier and ending it a bit earlier than most people on the west coast. This ensures that there’s enough overlap with my team members in case I have any questions or need to hop on a quick call. Plus, it helps me to avoid LA rush hour traffic, which I can’t complain about. 😉
3. Create a daily routine
If you’ve never worked remote before, you might be under the impression that remote workers just sit on their couch all day and take video calls in their underwear. Sorry to disappoint, but that’s not the case! At least for me it isn’t. You’ll learn quickly that it’s extremely hard to get work done if you’re too comfy.
A trick that’s helpful for me is to get ready as if I’m going into the office. I do my makeup, get dressed, and have a cup of coffee all before I sit down at my computer. Weirdly enough, putting my shoes on makes a big difference in my productivity too. It’s all about tricking yourself into being in a productive mindset. Much like you have a nighttime routine to signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep (wash your face, brush your teeth, put on pajamas), you can build a morning routine that signals that it’s time to get to work.
I also like to schedule breaks into my routine. It’s easy to just sit at your computer and eat lunch, but instead I like to take a deliberate pause for lunch and spend time away from my computer. Sometimes I’ll go for a midday run to help clear my mind and think about work in a different light.
4. Join a coworking space
If you’re like me, you’ll probably get sick of working from home after a few weeks. I’d go days where I didn’t leave the house except to go to the gym, and after awhile it starts to take a toll on your morale. So, I joined a coworking space! It’s an open office space with a big mix of remote workers, freelancers, artists, and small startups — with coffee, beer, and kombucha on tap. I got a flexible membership so I can come and go as I please. I typically work from my coworking space three days each week, and I spend the other days working from home.
Not only is the coworking space a great way to switch up my work environment, but it’s also an awesome way to meet people. Since I’m new to the state, it can be hard to make friends when you’re a remote worker — but coworking has offered me opportunities to get to know other people in my situation.
5. Have the right tools for your workspace
Just because you’re not working out of an office doesn’t mean you don’t need the proper tools to do your job. I personally have three must-have tools for my setup — strong WiFi, a standing desk, and Luna Display.
A strong WiFi connection is a no-brainer. Since most of my collaboration with my teammates is done over Zoom video calls, I don’t want to deal with video issues due to a poor connection.
Having a standing desk in my home office is more of a personal preference. So much of my day is spent on the computer, so I like to offset that by standing and working.
Finally, I use Luna Display every day to turn my iPad into a second display for my Mac. Part of the reason that we built Luna was because as a company, we understand the pain points of a remote workflow. I love it because it’s easy to travel with and super simple to set up — whether I’m at my coworking space, a coffee shop, or on an airplane.
6. Schedule time to hang out with your team IRL
Even with the slickest remote setup, nothing can fully replace the value of face-to-face time with your team. Something I’m very grateful for is the two years that I spent working in the same city as my boss before going fully remote. During that time, if I had a question or a new idea, I could just turn to him and have a quick conversation right there. It was casual and effortless. That time really helped to give me and my boss a solid understanding of our working styles, so by the time I went remote, there were minimal opportunities for misunderstandings.
As a team, we also have biannual “Astro-weeks,” where everyone flies into Minneapolis for a week to work side by side. These weeks are less about being productive, and more about hanging out. We go to a lot of happy hours, share meals, and just spend time getting to know each other. Our Astro-weeks are what makes the rest of our remote collaboration much more genuine and smooth.
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If you’re thinking about making the switch to full-time remote work, remember to approach it as an iterative process. You and your team should always be striving for ways to make the experience more natural. It might feel awkward and frustrating for awhile, but it will get easier over time.
Interested in joining the Astro team? We’re hiring! View our open positions here.
Also published on Medium.