Making It Work Remotely

Recently at home, I needed a contractor to fix something in my house I didn’t have the talent to attempt on my own. When the guy came to do the work, he realized I worked from home and started asking me all sorts of questions about what kind of work I did, where my company was located, etc. He said, “I could never work from home like you’re doing. I’d never get anything done.”

Photo of Chuck Mallott in his home office.

I found that comment a little odd, so I asked him what he meant and he said, “I’d probably just sit around and watch TV all day, or go outside and work in the yard.”

I told him, “Are you kidding? I love my job so much those things would seem boring in comparison.”

I consider it a privilege to work at a company that trusts me with important projects critical to our success, and I truly enjoy the people I work with on a daily basis. Why would I sacrifice that just so I could watch a TV show? It’s inconceivable!

As sad as I personally felt this observation was, maybe it’s proof that working remotely isn’t for everyone.

I first worked as a remote employee in 2006 with a software company called Rosetta Stone. My team was truly distributed, with individuals working from home across several different cities. At the time, we didn’t think we were doing anything unique or special. It had its share of challenges, but our distributed team worked really well together. The reason it was so successful was because our formula for success included three key ingredients for any positive remote-work environment:

  • responsible people who love their jobs and are committed to quality work
  • good technology, tools, and workflow
  • remote-friendly corporate support

Remote working is more common than ever before, as more than five percent of Americans (that’s eight million people) are now working from home. There can be challenges and perceived stigmas, but make no mistake that remote work is on the rise. Qumulo is on the forefront of that trend with the aforementioned key ingredients for success.

How I Make It Work

We have a remarkable corporate culture where I work that supports remote work. We’re provided with modern technology tools to do our best work regardless of where we work. Our team is comprised of responsible individuals and we’re committed to the company’s success. Beyond those core elements, I’ve learned a few best practices to avoid the common pitfalls of remote work and to get the most out of this unique working setup.

Put Some Clothes On

The stereotypical remote worker wears her pajamas all day and doesn’t brush her teeth until noon, right? A stereotype is all it is, and I recommend against it. Before I ever sit down at my desk and “log on” for the day, I make sure I take the time to get dressed, brush my teeth and even put my shoes on. That’s right, I wear shoes all day. Subconsciously, it helps reinforce that I’m in “work mode.”

Develop a Routine

My typical day usually looks something like this: Wake up, eat breakfast, get the kids off to school, shower, get dressed (don’t forget the shoes), fill my water bottle, kiss my wife goodbye and then head to work. But instead of getting in the car and sitting in traffic for an hour, I just walk downstairs to my desk. Just as important, I try to stop working around the same time each day. And when I’m done working, I put the laptop to sleep and I don’t open it again for the rest of the night. Keeping a routine with discreet working hours is critical to balancing that work/life harmony.

Take a Break

A couple of times each day, I make a point to get away from my desk. Occasionally, I’ll work through lunch, eating at my desk. But most of the time I try to go upstairs and eat lunch in the kitchen, or meet a friend somewhere for lunch outside of the house. A couple of times each week, I’ll go to the gym to get some exercise, either in the morning before work or during lunch. Taking a couple of smaller breaks throughout the day — to walk the dog, check the mail or chat with my wife — is also helpful. I find these periodic breaks help clear my mind and give me the opportunity to fight against an otherwise sedentary mode of work.

Don't Be a Stranger

One of the drawbacks of working remotely full-time is the potential to feel isolated from the rest of your team. To prevent this, it is important to be a proactive communicator. I make a point to check in with teammates daily and to be an active participant in group Slack chats. As often as possible, I turn a Slack text chat into a Slack video call instead. Hearing a coworker’s voice and seeing their face helps me feel like I’m in the same room. Also, don’t be afraid to have your video camera turned on – that’s one of the great benefits of the fast internet connections so many of us enjoy in today’s modern world, so take advantage of that “face time.”

Remote Leadership

As a remote leader, good communication is key whether the people you’re managing sit in the desk next to you, or on another floor, or in another time zone. I’ve been fortunate to work remotely in a variety of roles and location arrangements — as a sole contributor and as a manager. Managing remotely is not that much different than leading a team on-site, it just takes a bit more work, since more deliberate communication is required. As a people manager and leader in the Marketing organization, I make a point to talk directly to each person on my team “face-to-face” every single day. Slack calling makes this seamless.

Remote leadership requires a more concerted effort to make your voice heard across the company. Some periodic travel may be required to supplement the day-to-day efforts of making yourself known. In a remote working situation, there is no such thing as too much communication.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to working remotely, the formula for success can be pretty simple, to be honest. A supportive company culture that supports highly engaged employees with top-notch technology doing work that matters in a comfortable environment — that formula works no matter who you are, what you do, or where you work.

About the author
Bitmoji image of author: Chuck Mallott
Chuck Mallott

I write about design and UX, family, religion, sports, mountain biking, and dumb observations. I'm a web, mobile, UX, and product designer living in Colorado.