I’m writing this post in my hotel room while I’m taking a weekend trip to Baltimore. And it’s not rare to find me working like this.
In fact, this is actually my “normal” office. I have a desk at home, but you won’t always see me at it.
See, I’m a remote worker, which means that my company doesn’t equate my work to only be the time I’m sitting inside an office. They let me work from wherever I want (as long as I have internet)!
Being able to work remote is probably my favorite “perk” because it lets me enjoy all the other benefits so much more.
Actual footage of an Elastic employee working remotely. That view, though!
I can’t wait til the rest of the corporate world fully embraces remote work… and I think we’re getting close. I truly believe in 5-10 years, the idea of coming into an office to work will be as silly as wearing a suit to work every day.
Just in case I’m about to lose anyone – let me define what remote work is.
Remote work is being allowed to work from anywhere you want – no office required. All you need is a laptop and a good internet connection.
In case you can’t tell, I’m super passionate about working remotely 😀so I wanted to write a post about why remote work is amazing. But I also want to write about how to make remote work, well, work! (For those out there who might be struggling to find it amazing.)
Why It’s Amazing For Me
I could name a lot of things, but I’m going to stick to just a few of my favs.
1. I love to travel, and now I can travel to anywhere with a solid internet connection.
If I could sell my apartment and be a nomad, I totally would.
I love seeing new places, new people, new coffee shops, new foods. But most importantly, I love seeing my people. So when I travel, it’s often to be with the people who mean the most to me. It’s like when you get that extra kick from finishing up your coffee in the morning. It gives me so much energy, ya know?
Being remote lets me travel to my heart’s desire. I get plenty of vacation time, but I’m convinced I’ll never need to use it all because it’s so easy for me to just work wherever I am!
You know how most people get a desk at work and they put pictures up of the people they love to inspire and encourage them throughout the day? Well I get to do that in real life. By being able to travel and work in living rooms, coffee shops, and other offices with my people, it’s like seeing their picture on my desk – but a thousand times better. And I get to do that all the time!
2. Working remote lets me work when I’m most productive.
I remember working office jobs where I’d hit that afternoon slump – you know what I’m talking about! That time when it’s like you’re staring at your computer screen but nothing is happening, yet you somehow appear productive just because you’re staying in front of your computer.
Well now when I hit that slump, I can just go outside and take a walk. I can go get a Sweet Tea from McDonalds. I can play with my dog. Heck, I can take a nap! And then I can come back to my work more excited and more refreshed and ready to tackle it with my sharpest mind. In fact, at Elastic, we’re actually encouraged to take Balance Breaks in the middle of day to refresh our minds.
Do you know how liberating it is to stop pretending to be productive from the hours of 9 – 5 and to actually embrace that we’re more productive at different times throughout the day, even if its 8 – 12 and 2 – 6, or something else?
3. I save so much money.
Do you know how much money I save from not having to go out and get lunch all the time? Not having to drive a car to the office? Not being stressed about what to do if my car breaks down? I can still make an income even if I don’t have a car, which is something a lot of people can only dream of in many cities, and it’s a real privilege.
Why It’s Amazing for My Employer
It’s clearly a huge benefit for me, but why do employers care? Because the truth is, it works out really well for them too.
1. They’re doing what companies are supposed to do – hiring someone to do their jobs.
Too often, I think companies hire someone to fill a role, imply company growth, or just hand-off tasks. But at Elastic, we hire people to help us get things done. I wasn’t hired to sit in an office and click on my keyboard… I was hired to have an impact on business growth and I get the opportunity to do that every day.
I can hear the critics – but how do you know that a remote employee is actually working?? If you let them work outside the office, you won’t know how much they’re working!
There’s a few problems here…
1) If you don’t know how much people are working unless you watch them work, that’s an issue. You should be able to tell how much people are working by what they produce and if they’re reaching goals you’ve set for them. And if that’s not happening, well, it doesn’t really matter if they’re in or out of an office.
2) So what if you don’t know exactly how many hours they’re working? If they’re accomplishing all the things you need them to, they’re asking for more, and always receptive to new tasks, who cares if they’re working 5 hours a day instead of 10? Do you really want someone who is going to just put in hours? Or do you want someone who is going to get a job done effectively and efficiently?
So it doesn’t hurt employers but how does it help them?
2. It gives employers a huge perk over competing companies.
If I’m choosing between a company that has similar benefits and pay (or perhaps even fewer benefits), I’m gonna take the one that lets me work remotely. (See my first section about why it’s amazing for me.)
3. It also encourages better communication.
When you’re not all in one room, you have to work a little harder to be clear about what you’re looking for. When has that ever been a bad thing?? It leads to fewer mistakes, more collaboration, and more community among employees.
How To Make It Work
Remote working is amazing, but it’s not always easy.
To really enjoy all the best parts, you have to put in the work. As someone who has now done this full time for over a year, (and part time for nearly 3 years), here’s some advice for remote employees.
- Figure out how you work. (I like using Pomodoro timers to help me focus, I know my analog tasks are better for the morning and my creative/thought inducing tasks are better for the afternoon. Figure out how you work best and do it!)
- Talk. A lot. (If you’re feeling left out as a remote worker, then you’ve got to find more ways to get plugged in. Slack channels are a great tool – make some fun ones, even if they’re not work related. Don’t stick to business 100% of the time when it comes to talking to coworkers. Make time outside of work to check in and have “watercolor” conversations with your coworkers.)
- Make friends. (Part of talking… truly get to know your coworkers and their lives, and you might find that you have more in common with them than you think. It’s important to have that camaraderie.)
- Get face time when you can. (Talk to your manager to see if you can get together with other people on your team a couple of times a year. It really makes a big difference to occasionally see people on your team in person… something technology still hasn’t totally replaced yet.)
- Don’t assume malice. (Credit to Elastic’s source code for this phrase, but it’s so good, and I think it applies to everything in life, not just working with people. When you’re frustrated or feel like you’ve been wronged, don’t assume that others are trying to be malicious. Let’s just try to assume people are generally doing the best they can and aren’t out to get us.)
- Get good internet. (Pay for the good internet at your house, pay for the hotspot on your phone, and when you travel make sure to do research on what places are going to have the best wifi. This is truly the only technical element you need – besides your computer – to be an effective remote worker.)
- Also, get good noise canceling headphones. (I personally recommend the Bose QC35 headphones – super comfortable, very good at noise-canceling, and amazing sound quality. You’ll be glad you have them no matter where you work.)
- Know your schedule. (It requires some planning, but try to be courteous when you have meetings where you’ll be doing a lot of talking and make sure that you not only have solid wifi, but also a quiet background. It can be annoying to try to listen to someone speak while all you can hear is other conversations and coffee cups clinking in the background.)
- Always use your video on calls. (Someone gave me this tip when I started working at Elastic, and it’s a great piece of advice. It helps you stay more accountable to focusing in meetings, and it’s a good way for both you and your fellow meeting attendees to all feel like you’re in the same room together.)
- If it takes more than 10 total slack messages back and forth, just hop on Zoom. (I’ve found this is approximately the right number of messages. If you are still trying to solve something and you’ve gone back and forth with more than about 10 messages, it’s probably going to be better if you both/all just hop on a call.)
- Be flexible. (Don’t complain about taking a call after work hours if you’re also taking 3 hours off in the middle of the day for a long lunch with friends. Get flexibility, give flexibility.)
- Use a project management tool that lets you communicate updates asynchronously. (We typically use Github, but I personally think Trello is a better tool for this. Something that lets you keep multiple people in the loop with the status of a project, and/or ask questions, but doesn’t ping them on slack or require an instant response. This is fantastic for people who are working on projects together but are in different time zones.)
Okay, that’s all for now.
I’m planning to come back and periodically update this post as I discover more pro tips for working remote, so feel free to bookmark and check this periodically. And if you have other comments, thoughts, concerns, questions, or ideas on remote working, post them in the comments!
Where to find a remote job:
- Come work at Elastic! We’re hiring!
- Companires Hiring Remote Workers (Zapier Blog Post)
PS – I mention Elastic quite a bit in this post, but they didn’t ask me to write it! I’m just that much of a fan. 🙂 There are also a few referral/affiliate links in this post, but I stand behind every recommendation made here!