As more workers leave traditional jobs for remote work, it pays to understand what to look for in a remote-first employment arrangement.
One of the Commit team members sat down with Commit engineer Prit Patel to talk about what questions workers should ask themselves before pursuing remote-first work, what skills can help people thrive in a remote position, and also how to tell that an organization is truly remote-first. See the first post here and the third post here.
On skills that help workers thrive in a remote-first environment
Prit: If you do decide that you want to join a remote-first startup, there are a few specific skills that can help you thrive.
Team Member: There are many skills that will make you a great developer at a remote-first organization, but three of them are especially important: communication, autonomy, and collaboration.
In an office, you probably spend a lot of time just chatting. You’re close to people, you ask them quick questions when you’re running into a roadblock or grabbing lunch from the cafeteria. At a remote-first startup, you have to be a bit more flexible and willing to communicate in multiple formats.
At Commit we have synchronous meetings, we use Google Docs, send Loom videos, and we’re also really comfortable saying things so often that it starts to feel redundant. The reason we do this is because people aren’t necessarily going to tell you when they’re confused, which can be really hard to tell without body language. Communication skills are super important when you’re working for a remote-first start-up.
The second skill is autonomy. Anybody who’s looking to join a start-up in general is already probably pretty autonomous. That’s a big perk when it comes to working remotely: you essentially get to be treated like an adult.
People aren’t going to be hovering over your shoulder when you’re running into a roadblock or finishing something really quickly and you have free time. That’s why being proactive and building processes on the fly to solve problems without someone asking you to or communicating when you’re running into a roadblock are all really important skills in a remote environment.
That leads us to collaboration. Most people think collaboration is about helping other people, which is important. But it’s also about being brave enough to ask people for help.
Many of us simply don’t out of fear of looking dumb. But I spend the vast majority of my week talking to dozens of startup founders, and every single one of them says that they appreciate when people ask questions early and often.
Prit: At Commit, one of our mantras is ‘working out loud.’ We showcase our internal work publicly because the best way for us to learn is to try and teach it to others.
Working out loud in a remote environment is also important because it facilitates celebration. Celebrating your accomplishments and the small things that no one can see anymore because you’re at home by yourself brings us back together.
Team Member: Staying productive when you’re working remotely can be a challenge, so we also wanted to talk about some of the organizational skills that are important in a remote-first environment.
The fact is that sometimes I feel much more productive when I’m working remotely, but sometimes it’s the opposite because I don’t have my co-workers there to keep me motivated and feel like they’re in the trenches with me.
Prit: I used to hate making lists or anything, but at Commit I’ve had access to life coaches who helped me do some habit building, and one of those habits was to make sure I get a list done every night so that the next day I know exactly what I’m doing. Now it’s ingrained in me to such a point where I can’t really sleep unless I’ve made that list because I feel like something’s missing.
Team Member: I’m a little bit opposite to Prit in that I love lists and tasks. My philosophy is very much to schedule things into my calendar and make sure that there’s a clear thing I’m working on at any given time.
When I have those unexpected pockets in the day, I take that as time to relax, be more creative, go for a walk and think more strategically. It’s really helpful for me to think about what needs to be accomplished in any given week and make sure that there’s time for it on the calendar. When my calendar is free, it means that I’m free and I can go do something else. I love my job, but I also love those parts of my life outside of my job as well.
Prit: Learning how to take a break has made me more productive than before, where my approach was that I’ll just hammer everything in one go. I take walks almost every day now, during which I get to mull over thoughts for some software or project.