Category Archives: Remote Work

6 Must-Haves For The Perfect Remote Job Posting

6 Must-Haves For The Perfect Remote Job Posting

Hiring might be hard, but hiring for remote work is even harder. Recruiters need someone who is skilled in their area of expertise and able to work remotely—a duo that isn’t always easy to find.

For candidates, job postings are the only way to communicate a job description, your company’s culture, and team dynamics. Writing a great job posting for remote workers takes additional information that you might not think about for traditional office positions.

Accurately Describe Your Remote Situation

Few companies are actually open to remote work, even though many advertise otherwise. Various terms used to describe remote work further confuse people, so it’s important to choose the right one for your team’s situation. Below are three common terms and the differences between them.

Remote First
A remote first company means everyone works from where they wish, usually because the founders worked this way early on and kept it up. These companies typically have strong internal enthusiasm for remote work and a culture that supports distributed teams.

Remote-first essentially means “remote-only”. There might not be any office space and people might have to get on planes to visit a coworker.

Remote Friendly
Being a remote friendly company carries inconsistent meaning and ranges from “you can work from home on Fridays” to “we have entire teams that are remote-first”.

Experienced remote workers are usually wary about this term, especially if other parts of the job description don’t clarify exactly what it means. Some remote friendly companies require everyone to be in the same city or expect people to be in an office several times per week.

Distributed
A distributed company quickly describes a team with remote and/or onsite workers. As the name suggests, people might be all over the place. Sometimes this applies on a per-team basis, so the job description should clarify if just the team or entire company works remotely.

Communicate Logistical Requirements

Once the job description uses the correct term to describe remote work expectations, it’s best to focus on the logistics of distributed work.

Remote workers value the ability to control their own schedules. Many tailor their work to accommodate family needs or personal hobbies. Save time by being clear with exact requirements regarding geography or online presence. Some examples:

  • We get together once a year in person at our headquarters for a yearly meeting.
  • We expect you to be at your desk and online using instant messaging software during traditional EST business hours, 8 – 5.
  • We only check-in with each other once a day at stand up, and you are free to do a solid day’s work at any other time.

Experienced remote workers are sensitive to these requirements, and being upfront in the job posting can save you time and future disappointment.

Explain Why A Company is Remote

Managing remote workers is in itself a manager skillset and an organizational competency.

Tell this story in the job description by explaining what made the company remote and how long it has worked that way. Were the founders of the company on two different sides of the country? Are you on your second year of this team being remote, but the rest of the company is not remote-friendly at all?

If this is too much, a simple explanation of why a company is remote can speak volumes. For example: “We value results over physical presence” or “We feel that remote workers can concentrate on hard problems, and we solve hard problems.”

Mention Your Communication and Collaboration Process

A common challenge for remote teams is staying in sync without relying on constant physical check-ins and ad-hoc discussions. Experienced remote workers know this, and adapt by writing stuff down and working asynchronously.

Candidates can get a clearer picture of a job if the posting explains what systems the company uses and how it handles coordination. There’s no need to reveal logistical secrets here, but a simple explanation can clarify communication expectations and weed out unqualified candidates.

Company Health

Remote workers want stable jobs with future opportunity. These candidates tend to stay at jobs for longer simply because they have arranged their lives around a remote job and finding another one is harder.

For this reason, they are sensitive to company health. Remote workers can’t take a chance on a company that might not be around next year.

If possible, indicate in the job posting whether you have a high-functioning team and company. Experienced workers know their team matters more than the overall company—but only as long as the company stays in business.

Red Flags

The biggest red flag for experienced remote workers is being told that they will be in the minority of the company. Remote work is a cultural, procedural, and personal change for a company and a worker. Remote companies communicate and work differently than in-office ones.

If only some teams work distributed, be honest about this. If only this team member will not be in the office, explain that but beware that this is a huge red flag. Talk about why you might be testing this arrangement and how the company will work to avoid the “two-team” effect.

Also, don’t overemphasize how great your physical office is. Remote workers don’t care as they won’t get to enjoy it, and it might turn them off as they might fear you will ask them to move there two years from now.

Creating the perfect job posting for remote workers

Job postings for remote workers need to be updated to include additional information and answers that candidates expect upfront. Ensure that your job description properly describes the company’s work style, explains logistics of remote work, and provides a glimpse into the future of the company.

Making these changes to job postings will save you time and set expectations for the role from the start—helping you find the perfect candidate even faster.


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6 Challenges and Opportunities of Long-Term Remote Work

6 Challenges and Opportunities of Long-Term Remote Work

Some nice unexpected effects of my 9+ years of working from home.

Most articles about remote work focus on finding a remote job or making the transition to distributed work.

These are great topics, but the thinking is short-term. It’s like those initial quality tests car-makers trumpet: how well does the car run in the first year?

Making big decisions requires longer-term planning. Car buyers should consider how well the car will run a decade from purchase, just like how workers should think about what distributed work provides and prevents over the longer term.

Loss of Networking

Let’s start with the negatives, all of which involve other people.

The typical remote worker meets less people over their years of working from home than they would in an office. If you work from home for ten years, you might be working with the same literal number of people but won’t meet as many in person and therefore might not consider them part of your professional network.

This is compounded by the tendency for remote workers to “cave” and stay at home in situations in which they used to go out frequently. Once you get used to not driving every day, a party that’s 40 minutes away suddenly feels like a waterless hike through Death Valley.

Both of these issues can be remedied by putting in the effort to network outside of work. Your coworkers might not become friends, but you can certainly attend user groups, go to more parties, and introduce yourself to everyone at the coffee shop.

Slower Rapport with Teammates

Related to the previous point, remote workers tend to have very different relationships with coworkers than those in a traditional office environment. Casual small-talk, exchanged smiles, high-fives, or other typical social graces simply don’t apply to coworkers that you only talk to over Internet chat or perhaps video.

In a typical in-person job you might feel as if coworkers are something above a loose acquaintance, but in a remote job they’re just helpers or obstacles. Unless you take the time to establish rapport, there isn’t anything to see.

But this isn’t to say that you can’t build relationships with your coworkers—you just have to do it differently. There’s no law saying that you can’t send an instant message to one of your coworkers on Monday asking them how their weekend went, or if they saw the game on Sunday, or any of the other safe small-talk mechanisms you would use in person.

Loss of Promotion Opportunities

One of the primary fears of someone starting a remote job is turning off the Interstate onto a nice quiet road, full of a few miles of pleasant views that eventually become dead-ends. Fear of missing out on a promotion because you’re “out of sight, out of mind” is a legitimate long-term concern. Much of the risk here has to do with local vs. global currency.

Local currency is how valuable you are to your current company, and global currency is how valuable you are in the market. Seeking promotions at a large company where most workers are in-person and you’re remote puts a focus on local currency, or how much value and visibility you have at one company.

If you’re early in your career and expect to shift jobs a few times, loss of promotion isn’t as much of a concern. It probably won’t bother you that remote-friendly companies have lots of competition for the same promotions.

In both cases, there are ways to over-communicate or let your work speak for itself. As with in-person work, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your reputation reflects your work. Remote work does not mean that you can’t establish the sort of close relationship with those above you in the management food chain, it simply means that you might have to work at it differently.

Take the extra hours remote work provides to build local and global currency. You used to spend almost an entire other weekday (30 minutes x 2 times a day x 5 days a week) in your car, so spend some of this time getting ahead or reflecting on what you can do better.

Perhaps this could be spent building more local value by preparing extra reports for your boss, or by providing visible global value by attending or presenting at a local technical conference.

Part of Your Community

Remote work isn’t all sunny skies, but it’s also an incredible opportunity. Having more time to spend in your community provides many benefits for your personal and professional lives.

Before I began my ten-year remote work career, I had a traditional office job in a suburb of Atlanta 45 minutes from my house. I spent about 10 hours a day in this other suburb between commuting, eating lunch, and staying late at work.

Over five years of working there, I gained a lot of knowledge into the best restaurants, the ideal spots to ride my bike, and who worked in my office building.

Despite my familiarity with the suburb I worked in, I didn’t know much about the one I lived in as I only spent Saturday and parts of Sunday exploring it. My evenings there were spent indoors recovering from a long commute.

But once I shifted to working from home I became part of the community in which I lived. The people who I met at coffee shops, the post office, bank, and car wash were my neighbors. People I ran into during the day were either retired, worked close by, or worked from home. I met more people and established relationships over time.

I didn’t know anyone at the local coffee shop when I started working from home, but now I can’t walk in without saying hello to a few people. I even find myself reading my local paper and caring more about local activities such as a new library, a new amphitheater, or a local brewery.

None of this would have been possible if I worked elsewhere for 10 hours a day.

Express Your Priorities Over Time

My priorities have shifted to caring for my local area, but they have shifted even more dramatically in my family life.

Being at home during the day means my kids see me more, a powerful benefit to remote work. Extra time to eat lunch with them and take them to school has brought us closer together. I know their schoolmates and can even call out neighborhood kids by name when they aren’t behaving.

It’s also meant me being more present in their school lives—I know their librarian, P.E. coach, and principal. I’m not sure if they know me as the father of the two sweetest girls in school or simply as the man who wears shorts every day. But in either case, I’m there.

Invest Your Extra Time

If you transition to working from home from a typical commute, you can gain almost an entire additional workday of free time. My 45-minute one-way commute added up to a lot more time and less need to visit dry cleaners or gas stations.

An entire additional day is an amazing thing — no modern diet, get rich quick, or productivity hack gives you more time like remote work can. This can be a massive gift if you choose to be productive with it.

I’ve used the extra time for obvious things like precious sleep, working more, keeping up to date with my industry, and enjoying downtime. But it’s also contributed to more subtle, powerful changes including:

More proactive forward-thinking work.
Starting a side career as a writer.
Learning about some things I’ve always wanted to try: drawing, making music, meditation, hiking.
Riding my bike, a form of exercise I never used to have time to do.
Spending more time with my wife and kids.

These regained hours can add up to something truly great and would never be possible with a traditional office job.

Remote Work Is a Give and Take

Remote work over the long term comes with opportunities and obstacles. Compared to in-person roles, remote workers must grapple with a loss of networking opportunities, slower building of relationships with teammates, and different positioning for promotions.

But in exchange, they’ll be able to become part of their home community, put certain priorities first, and get back hours in the day to recharge and improve.

As with anything in life, it’s up to you to determine if the perks outweigh the challenges for your goals.


If you’re ready for a new challenge, find your next job on AuthenticJobs.com!

Working Remotely with your Partner: How to Not Breakup (Or Get Fired)

Working Remotely with your Partner: How to Not Breakup (Or Get Fired)

Filed under “Things I Do Not Recommend,” my partner, Patrick, and I changed jobs on the same day. We accepted remote job offers within hours of each other, ending one of the most stress-filled weeks of our 8-year marriage.

But every time we shared the news, we were met with “I could never work with my partner.” or “Good luck with that.” While I’m somewhat offended by those comments, let’s consider the subtext. Can you work at home, with your partner, and still want to remain a couple? And how can you still be an effective member of your team?

Your Mileage May Vary

First, a disclaimer. I work on a website. I’m not a marriage counselor or a couples therapist. Real professionals exist to help you with the relationship side of things. If you need them, use them! They’re super smart and pretty helpful.

When you start this adventure, your first order of business should be having a candid conversation about each other’s needs for personal space, and focus. You’ll also need to discuss your employer’s expectations for the work day, your availability after hours, and your office environment (i.e., are you expected to have a quiet place to take client calls). Speak as frankly as you can, because this is the time to set out your ideal work day.

What works for us

We transitioned from jobs that were very regimented- commute, clock in at 9, lunch at noon, wrap up around 5, commute. When we began working from home, the thought of ditching the schedule was tantalizing.

My team is fully distributed, Pat has slightly less flexibility. His team is based in Dayton, Ohio, so he’s got to synch up with the office.
So to respect his co-workers, and to structure the day, we act like we’re still in an office. We go to our workspaces around 9 AM, resurface at noon for lunch and to walk the dog, then go back to work until 5-ish. We’ve found that the afternoon dog walk has been invaluable. The dog forces us to get away from our desks and gives us a chance to bounce ideas off of each other.

The most critical part of this is what happens after 5 PM. At 5, barring anything being actively on fire, we both leave our work laptops plugged in on our desks, and walk away. Establishing a barrier between work and life is crucial when you work from home because failing to do so will lead you quickly to burnout, frustration, and exhaustion, which are bad enough as an individual, but partners both burning out at the same time will greatly diminish your ability to help each other cope.

I need some space

Physical space is critical to being an effective work from home duo. I advocate each person having a workspace in a different location whenever practical. Pat and I are fortunate that our home enables us to work in different parts of the house. We can listen to our music at an obnoxious volume. Team calls can remain private. I can dance at my standing desk in my running tights and fluffy slippers (Remote work has its upsides, eh?). My messy organizational system remains my problem.

This separation also makes it possible for us to feel “at work.” We joke about “congestion on the morning commute” (meaning the dog is sleeping on the stairs), but even that small physical act of going to a space devoted to work helps to cue the brain for work. Conversely, leaving at the end of the day marks a transition to home life.

Work Style

That said, it doesn’t mean we can’t enter/visit each other’s spaces during the day. As the extrovert in our relationship, I need to talk to a human being during the day. Pat is also a social human but requires more time to focus and find a groove in his work. To respect his work style, I had to learn some of his signals.

If the door is closed, he’s on an important call, likely with clients. That’s a clear do not disturb sign, unless the house is literally on fire.

If the door is open and he’s wearing his big black headphones, that means he’s just listening to music and can be briefly interrupted.

If the door is open and he’s wearing white iPhone headphones, that means he’s on a call, but it’s a standup or company call. Still not to be disturbed, but if I cross the hallway, I can wave to his coworkers.

No headphones? Fair game.

Having a discussion about what type of things help you focus, and what the signals will be when focus time is needed, and when you can and can’t be disturbed is valuable. Most of the time, it’s headphones, but you can also revert to the good old dry-erase board on the door, or maybe a “Do not disturb” tag borrowed from a hotel?

Office Slack

Related to discussing Do Not Disturb signals, might I suggest having an office Slack? Yes, I send Slack messages to the person who works two floors up. Yes, we are the only two people on the team.

Why should you Slack with your significant other? Well, for both of us, Slack is already a tool we use for our work lives. It’s ingrained in our minds as “place where information lives” and is relatively unobtrusive. If something comes up and I need to run out while he’s on a call, I just send a Slack message, knowing he has his notifications set as he wishes.

It also is a way to have searchable documentation of your conversations. “Wait, did they say they had a call today at 1? Let me search our Slack channel.”

Get out

While spending a lot of together time with your partner and your dog is undeniably excellent, spending 80+ hours a week with anyone is a lot. While Pat and I share many interests, a key to our 16 years of bliss has been having our hobbies and respecting the time needed to enjoy them.

I recently bought a classic car, and the restoration process is a dirty, loud, infuriating labor of love that only I enjoy. My spouse has the distinction of being a former Nintendo Master, and recently resurrected his classic SNES system. Spending significant chunks of time doing these separate activities, and time alone doing things like reading, shopping, or going for coffee outside of the house, is good for the soul.

And the mind.

And your relationship.

Divide the labor

There’s no getting around it. Working from home drastically increases the amount of mess in your home. Dishes, paper, chargers, cords, mail, etc. I cannot stress this enough: have a grown up discussion about chores. When you work and live together, you have less space to go and be angry, and a disagreement over chores can be distracting and disruptive to your workflow. If it’s necessary, make a chore chart, or have an agreed upon level of disorder. Do whatever you need to do to find a balanced, equal, shared agreement around cleaning and cleanliness. Might I suggest Slack’s /remind command for this? Or a shared Google calendar?

When it’s not working out

You may decide this arrangement is hell, personally or professionally. But to avoid getting to that point, set up check-ins to see how it’s going for each of you. Think of it as your standup meeting. It’s a time to pipe up about what you need to work more effectively, and harmoniously with your significant other.

If you share an apartment or your home lacks sufficient soundproofing for you to ignore your partner’s glorious rendition of “The Rhythm of the Night,” it’s time to consider a membership in a coworking space.
Others have adopted work sheds – fully wired, sometimes very upscale, prefabricated sheds plopped down in their back gardens – as a way of putting a barrier, albeit small, between home and work. While this is resource intensive, it might be worth it if you desire solitude while still being able to be close to home, and may up your property value.

Can it be done?

Well, eight months into this arrangement and we’re still married, and, at last check, still employed. So our answer is yes, but with the recognition that it can’t happen without work, compromise, and communication. Being open about your needs for space, quiet, and focus will set you up for an efficient workplace and a harmonious home.


Ready for your next adventure? Find a new job on Authentic Jobs.

Continuing Education for Remote Workers

Continuing Education for Remote Workers

A pro stays on top of the game through continued education. Modern trends and tools allow you to retain a competitive advantage, and the best way to stay current is through continuing education. For home workers who run the whole show – from production to marketing and HR – this is crucial. Whether you’re a writer or a designer, a coder or a wedding photographer, you must stay current to stay competitive.

Telecommuters face a similar challenge. Those working within a reasonable distance from the home office may spend the day at the building for an in-service, workshop etc. Workers who are truly remote – in a different city or state – face a greater challenge. In that case, getting to the office is more difficult. Throughout this article, I’ll highlight options for both the freelancer/small business owner and the telecommuter.

However, getting that education isn’t easy.

Many industries have employee betterment built in. For example, my wife is a public school teacher who’s required to attend a certain number of classes and workshops, all tailored to address the latest regulations and teaching techniques. When an appropriate workshop or conference is identified, the school arranges enrollment and foots the bill, and the school day proceeds as normal when she’s away.

As a telecommuter, you’ll probably get paid during an in-service day, which is an advantage over your freelancing brothers and sisters. What’s critical for you is to clearly communicate where you’ll be for the day. Remember, you coworkers are used to not seeing you. For them, it’s just another day. Be sure that all collaborators know you’re unavailable for the day, and when they can expect you back.

If you’re a freelancer or a one-person shop, the story is different. In addition to taking the time to find a good event, you’ve got to register, possibly travel and definitely pay out of your own pocket. Additionally, time spent at a conference or workshop isn’t billable, so no money is earned on that day(s).

In this article, I’ll list several ways you can stay on top of what you do, without sacrificing a huge amount of money or precious billable hours. There are many great resources available if you know where to find them, and many are inexpensive or free. But first, a look at determining the true cost of attending an event.

Bang for your buck

The cost of attending say, a workshop goes beyond the price of admission and maybe a sandwich for lunch. There are a finite number of billable hours in a day (unfortunately we have to sleep sometime). For me, cost = money spent (tickets, food, travel) + time spent, where the latter refers to time that cannot be devoted to billable work. True, the education acquired will hopefully enhance billable work and maybe even your rate, but you’re starting out “in the hole” if you will. If I’m taking a sixty-minute workshop with an entrance fee of $1200 and my rate is $100 per hour, I’m out $1300 for that day.

To offset this, I put a few dollars away each month specifically for continuing education. It’s not a lot but is there when I want to sign up for a webinar, workshop or conference. With some money set aside, it’s time to find an event worth attending, starting with a freebie.

To the library!

Despite predictions to the contrary, the internet did not kill your local library. Those run by forward-thinking staff see them has hubs of information for their communities, not merely housing for paper books. A part of this revival is workshops and talks, often given by community leaders across disciplines. These are typically totally free and offer one-on-one time with a person who really knows their stuff.

If books are your thing, interlibrary loan can let you find exactly the title you need. Again, library cards are free and the time commitment here is very low.

Here’s a quick tip for books you own. When I’m reading a business book that I’ll refer to later, I take notes on an index card as I go. For example, when I come across a great little nugget of information, I’ll make a quick note on the index card with the page number. Then, when I’m through reading, I’ll tape the card to the inside cover, giving me an analog, custom, book-specific wiki. No more flipping to remember, “Now where was that part again?”

Local Schools

Is there a college in your area? She what they’re offering for adult education. There’s a community college in my neighborhood that offers adult classes in the evenings, conveniently accommodating a working person’s schedule.

You can also find business classes, like guidance on writing a loan proposal, working with taxes for the self-employed and more. When I started writing on my own, I took a class like this and discovered that I had to register myself as a business with my town office. I wouldn’t have know that otherwise.

Entrepreneurial Resources

No college in the area? Look into small business support organizations. These groups are set up to help small business owners get off the ground. You’ll learn regulations that I described earlier and have some time for networking, too.

Web Based Training

There are so many great resources online for the self-motivated (that’s you, home worker). DeVry, Lynda and more are ready to go and are free of travel expenses (note that Lynda access is also sometimes offered free through libraries). If you’re a coder, check out Udacity, Treehouse, CodeSchool and others.

Conferences and workshops

Finally, the biggies: conferences and workshops. Definitely the most costly but often the most beneficial. Why not the family along and make a little vacation out of it? Also, look for a smaller, less expensive (both tickets and travel) local events if you can’t get to the biggie.

It’s important to stay good at what you do, and that means staying current. With a little work, you can find the venue that’s perfect for you. Now get to it.


Ready for your next adventure? Find a new job on Authentic Jobs.

Managing Working from Home During School Vacations

Managing Working from Home During School Vacations

The good news is that summer is almost here. The bad news is the same.

For the home worker who’s also a parent, summer break means the pitter-patter of little feet is about to invade your office. The noise is the least of your concern, as feelings of guilt could permeate your work hours. “It’s summer, I should be spending time with the kids!”

Here are our tips on dealing with all of that, plus dealing with clients around vacation time and why you do, in fact, deserve time off.

First, the kids.

Set expectations

The most important thing is the set expectations, both for yourself and for the kids. Be honest about the fact that you won’t be able to work for seven uninterrupted hours anymore. Additionally, explain to the kids (depending on their ages) that you need some time away to work. I recommend working in “kid breaks” to spend time with them, as well as adjusting your work day into smaller chunks of time. I like to get out of bed an hour or two before they do to work on my most important tasks for the day.

If you really need extended quiet time for work, consider a co-working space. Desks Near Me and Share Desk can help you find a clean, professional co-working space close by. There’s often a fee associated with these, but it’s much lower than the cost of renting an office and, for many, worth the investment in quiet productivity.

Vacation Levels

Something else to consider is the family vacation. For as long as I’ve worked from home, I’ve experienced what I call the three levels of vacation. Each has you traveling while adjusting how and when you work.

A Level One vacation is really just a change of scenery. Perhaps you’re in a novel city, state, or country, but your work schedule remains intact. You’ll rise from bed when you typically do, put in a full work day and stop at quitting time. When the day is done, you’re free to explore your new environment. Some would call this a “working vacation” but that term is entirely too depressing to me. Stick with Level One. Which brings us to the next step up.

Level Two features an abridged work day in a new setting. Perhaps you’ll put in four hours instead of a full eight, and use the extra free time for leisurely pursuits.

Finally, a Level Three vacation features no work at all. You’re offline, off the grid and enjoying time away from the grind. It’s a rare, coveted arrangement that many home workers, especially freelancers, can’t pull off without proper planning. It’s difficult but not impossible.

Addressing client needs

First, let clients know you’ll be taking time off. It’s easier said than done. It’s natural to want to be seen as that person they can always rely on or reach out to. The problem with setting that precedent is they might take you up on it. Once that happens, it becomes very difficult to get time away as that client expects your accessibility to remain consistent. Set expectations well ahead of time.

Depending on the client, note that you’ll be traveling and have limited (or no) availability between certain dates. Start this conversation weeks ahead of time. That way, when you get that “urgent” email about the update that must be in place within the next 24 hours or the world will cease to exist, you can remind that person that you won’t be around, as described earlier. Also, you should have a Plan B person waiting in the wings.

Years ago, I was doing copy editing on the side and had collected several clients. I also knew a few other copy editors with whom I’d swap war stories over a beer, including a guy we’ll call Chris. Chris was talented and efficient, and he became my go-to guy when I was unavailable. If that civilization-threatening emergency did come up, I could let Chris know, confident that he’d handle it, and receive a little pay from me in the meantime.

When choosing a Plan B person, consider that their work will reflect on you. Identify someone who’s trustworthy and good at what they do. You don’t want to return from a week of fun in the sun to discover that you’ve got to undo some damage. Additionally, be willing to reciprocate when your Plan B person wants some time off.

Next, create a budget and stick to it. One downside of being a freelancer is the lack of paid vacation time. When you aren’t working, you probably aren’t earning. Crunch the numbers and determine exactly how much you’ll lose and save accordingly. This planning also informs how much you can safely spend while you’re away.

Should you take time off?

Now let’s consider: when you work from home, do you really need a vacation? Don’t be fooled by the fact that you work from the comfort of your own home. You’re still working after all, and your batteries (for lack of a better term) drain just as quickly as the cubicle-bound. In short, you need and deserve time off.

Here’s a bit of fun for the person who can’t bring themselves to abandon email entirely: create a secret vacation-only email address. Give it to that small handful of mission-critical contacts. You’ll feel like you’re getting away with something will remaining in contact with important folks ALL while avoiding the vast majority of messages you typically receive.

Yes, summer is coming and that’s a good thing. Take some time to manage your expectations and those of the kids. Take frequent kid breaks to recharge your batteries and to let them know they’re on your mind. If you do take a vacation, clearly define how and if you’ll work while away and finally, find a co-working space if quiet productivity is of the utmost importance. Have a great summer.


Looking for a new job? We’ve got your next great opportunity on Authentic Jobs.

Show Your Face: The complex psychology of video chat, Part 2

Show Your Face: The complex psychology of video chat, Part 2

In Part 1 we discussed the objections to using your video camera in a remote job, and how, for some, video chat can feel like too much of a burden, come across as unprofessional, or simply offer less than its promised communication value. Let’s turn our attention to the upsides of video chat for a remote team – why should we push through these challenges and make use of this tool?

Upsides of Video

Video conferencing allows a personal feel and increases accountability. Establishing trusting relationships with your coworkers – inside jokes, empathy, understanding of who they are as people – is easier when they are more than a voice and an email address. You can’t tell if anyone has grinned at your corny joke or gotten excited about your project pitch with just audio, but video communicates these other dimensions almost as well as being in person.

Accountability

Showing your face also improves your honor at keeping your word. Telling your manager that “it will be done by Tuesday” over email is different than saying it to them while looking them in the eye. The subtle body language observed over video calls is irreplaceable as well. “Sure, he says it will be done by Tuesday, but he looks unsure, perhaps I should ask another question?”

Improved Meeting Mechanics

At this point, everyone knows that in-person meetings can be an effective way to not get anything done. The natural human tendencies are:

– When in doubt about something, “get everyone in the room” instead of figuring it out yourself.
– Use the entire period allotted for the meeting, filling up any dead space with small talk or repetition.
– Let extroverts dominate the meetings, talking over meeker employees.

Video meetings are different that in-person meetings because they reduce small talk and tendency to avoid being rude. It is very hard to have 5 minutes of small talk in a video meeting with ten other people staring at you, and on the other end of the meeting, there are many ways to warn the moderator that the time is wrapping up, or that you have to leave. In effect, a video meeting is a more barebones form of meeting in which you don’t have to jump through social hoops to start or stop.

Video meetings are also a compromise between in-person meetings – in which it is rude to multi-task – and audio-only conference calls in which nobody can tell if you put your phone on mute and just work away on other things. You might check your email, play Crossy Road, or simply keep working during a phone conference call but you won’t do any of those things if everyone can see your face. Meetings are expensive operations, so they should feel expensive to discourage people from creating them without a true need, but video meeting offers a nice social mechanism if a meeting is not a good use of your time: you post a message to the chat saying so and leave, or subtly multi-task.

Dealing with Personalities

The previous point is a small piece of a larger issue: personality is normalized somewhat over a video chat. We have all seen meetings in which the loudest and most talkative person dominates the discussion over the more shy attendees. In some cases, this dynamic can simply transfer to video chat, but in many cases, this dynamic goes down over time. Everyone is sitting in their own comfortable environment for a video chat, and their confidence is up. Some that are shy in a large conference room do not feel this sitting at home and simply seeing larger personalities as little boxes on screen. Video chat can equalize, allowing you to hear all voices on the team.

Moving Forward

Video conferencing is powerful, but experienced remote workers might object to the daily use of video because they want to be in control of their schedule and appearance. Other workers might not like replacing existing meetings with video meeting because they feel that video conferencing is casual or makes them appear unprofessional. The solution to overcoming these challenges is direct and relies on personal empathy and effort: ask people why they don’t want to turn on their camera and explain the benefits of remote video. The overall benefits of working from home greatly outweigh any downsides of the use of video.

Show Your Face: The complex psychology of video chat

Show Your Face: The complex psychology of video chat

With high-quality video chat available to everyone with a mobile phone we find ourselves in a spectacular time for remote communication, one that ten years ago would seem like science fiction. Five people can chat, looking at each other’s faces, in real time from thousands of miles away – for free. Skype, Hangouts, Zoom, Facetime, and even the Android built-in phone interface all provide free good-enough solutions and paid high-quality solutions for video presence.

It would seem that with the rise of remote work this technology would allow direct transfer of traditional meetings to video meetings. But it isn’t this simple. Video chat has not replaced in-person chat because it works just differently enough to cause different emotional reactions. As with all change, and all new technology, their adoption faces psychological barriers.

Friction with Video

The most common objections are simple: video cameras are hard to setup, and the quality is not always as magical as you might imagine. Because the video and audio quality rely on your Internet connection, quality can dramatically alter during a conference call, making it hard to adjust to slight delays, frozen screens, and garbled words. Because video calls are good enough we feel these errors acutely, making us uncomfortable and frustrated. Many people simply prefer talking on the phone where we are all aware of the protocols in place; the slight differences in rhythms throw us off over video.

Unprofessionalism

Another objection is that video usage is “unprofessional.” Digging a little deeper into what this means, this appears to be a cover for other complex issues.

Many workers use video calling in their personal lives or were first exposed to it in a social context. They have a strong association with casual chatting with friends or having their kids talk to their grandparents. This first impression is hard to shake – just ask Google Apps which has faced a similar problem: many people used @gmail.com addresses for personal use and therefore using it for business feels too casual.

We are just now at the point where software that allowed for video sharing appears professional. The old guard of conference calls tools, such as GoToMeeting, feel professional but have not kept up with the quality of more casual tools like Hangouts and Facetime. The third generation of tools, such as Zoom and JoinMe, offer professional features like shared whiteboards, audio recording, and proper mute functionality. These tools are easier to use as they feel like “work tools.”

Unprofessional is also a code word for something else: the appearance of professionalism. Staring at your face during an entire meeting is not fun and feels casual. There is a reason a typical office conference room doesn’t have mirrors on the walls. Besides, the default angle of an open laptop makes most people look like they are looking at a fun house mirror.

And for many distributed teams it is easier to imagine the other parties on the call in suits if you can’t see that they aren’t. We would rather have the feeling of strict professionalism than seeing that we are all working, but wearing t-shirts.

Privacy and Power

When you work from home, the power dynamic between you and your employer shifts in your direction. Instead of them making you wear certain clothes, drive to an office of their choosing, and be present based on their schedule, you now are responsible for your work and your work environment only. Because of this remote workers feel a freedom and empowerment with their working schedule that can block being open to a video chat throughout the day.

If I’m in charge of my schedule, then I can spend the early morning at Starbucks just thinking with a notebook, but if you make me dial into a video call, you are removing some of this creative freedom. Likewise, I can no longer go to the gym during lunch if an early afternoon video call won’t allow me time to get back in time and take a shower. These seem like small issues, but the requirement of *being presentable* shifts the power dynamic back to appearances and away from raw work output. Some remote workers, sensitive as we are to this relationship (after all, this is why we are working this way), don’t think it is worth the benefits.

We must also remember that people who work from home are in a different privacy landscape that those in an office. I might work best with a messy office or in an ugly sweatshirt, and maybe I don’t want to share that I’m currently in my car picking up my kids from school. Perhaps my home office is off to the side of an open floor plan, and simply having a camera in my home feels like an invasion of privacy.

Wrapping Up

If video chat has so many downsides then why are there so many companies working to improve it, and why does every modern device come with a high-quality webcam built-in? Because despite these downsides video chat is still the best way to get to know someone remotely, to feel connected to someone from afar, and to build rapport between coworkers. In the next post we will list some of the other benefits of video chat for remote work, and how to overcome some of the downsides we detailed here.

Personality type and working from home

Personality type and working from home

Quick, which personality type is best suited to work from home: introvert or extravert? The tempting generalization to make is that solitude-loving introverts will shine as home workers while their gregarious counterparts will suffer. I’m not sure it’s that cut-and-dry.

Personality certainly affects a person’s ability to work from home successfully. Right off the bat, there are several traits that will benefit any home worker:

  1. Self-motivation
  2. Superior communication skills
  3. Resourcefulness
  4. Tech savvy

Good communication skills are so important for someone who rarely, if ever, works in the office with the rest of the team. The same can be said for self-motivation, resourcefulness, and comfort with tech tools, as those tools will often foster communication. But is that the entire recipe?

You might be tempted to add another item to that list: an introverted personality. Home-workers often spend hours at a desk without seeing another person. Virtual meetings happen, yes, but that’s not the same as working face-to-face. Does this mean extraverts are doomed to telecommuting failure? Not at all.

Let’s get scientific with it

The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), is a questionnaire designed to identify psychological preferences. It’s where we get the terms “introvert” and “extravert” in the first place. The questionnaire was designed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers. According to Fast Company, about 80% of Fortune 1000 companies use it to help employees the relationship between their personalities and their professional lives.

The MBTI says of the extravert:

“[I get] energy from active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities. I’m excited when I’m around people and I like to energize other people.”

Likewise, introversion is described like this:

“[I get] energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside my head, in my inner world. I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with.”

Which one would you add to your remote team? The tempting answer is the solitude-loving introvert. However, Michael Segovia, lead trainer for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, says that anyone, regardless of their personality, can work from home successfully.

So which works best?

The key, according to Segovia, is to recognize how you feel energized — and productive — and take steps to make that happen. For example, a person who is extraverted receives energy from a bustling environment where he or she can bounce ideas off of others. A daily video check-in maybe what that person needs.

Meanwhile, a mostly introverted person may struggle to find the quiet he needs in a busy or noisy household. Likewise, these quieter folks could struggle to ask for the interaction or support they need. Again, a regular video check in is a good idea.

These two types also tend towards traits that are very beneficial for the home worker. The people-driven extravert is often a great communicator, which is crucial for a home worker.

Likewise, he or she is often self-confident and fond of talking with others. These qualities make it easier to network, land deals, talk with potential clients and customers.

On the other hand, an introverted worker is typically energized by time spent alone, protective of their privacy — important for remote work — and thoughtful. These folks won’t struggle with extended periods of alone time.

In either case, employers should be sure to offer plenty of face time. The benefits of face time have been demonstrated scientifically as well. A study published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest in 2015 suggests that “…a balance of face-to-face and virtual contact is optimal” for all home workers, regardless of personality type.

Of course, the world isn’t simply divided into introverts and extraverts. Really, the ideal telecommuter is structured and disciplined, regardless of personality type. A self-motivated individual will be more successful than their counterparts.

 

Solving Communication Problems on Your Remote Team

Solving Communication Problems on Your Remote Team

Communication is one of the first-order problems of distributed work. Everyone has heard of it and points to it at the top of the scoreboard of issues with remote work arrangements; even those who have never tried working in this way fear drifting out of touch with their team.

If we are honest, we all know that it isn’t as if communication within a traditional office is automatically wonderful and efficient. Perhaps we are just used to having constant status meetings and project managers who wander around “syncing up” with workers. A co-located team has these built-in compensation mechanisms, and a remote team doesn’t.

Without the arguably poor and crude move of “get everybody in a room,” remote teams are left to develop new methods to stay in touch and coordinate work. As a manager and individual contributor, there are methods that can make a distributed team even more effective than a large team working within smell-distance of each other. Our thinking just needs to change, and our first change is to move away from transient verbal communication and start writing it down.

Sync vs. Async Communication

Before we do that, we need to understand why it is important to write stuff down. A co-located team has synchronous time – time in which you can gather everyone, stop them from working, to all focus on the same thing – in surplus. You can easily coordinate schedules and “grab people” for quick chats. A manager can walk around spreading a message for each person to help people coordinate, and there is a general expectation that people show up for any meeting that is called. I won’t go into why meetings might be an inefficient way to coordinate work, but I’ll take one stab at it: have you ever been in a meeting in which it wasn’t a heated discussion? If so, you have been to an inefficient meeting.

A remote team does not work like this; these teams trend more towards Results Only Work Environments (R.O.W.E), and additionally might have workers from different time zones. This means that synchronous time is rarer and must be used with extreme care. Synchronous time should be used for the much rarer situations where real-time collaboration is actually needed, and the rest of work should be coordinated online asynchronously.

The ideal mix for remote work is situational, but intense collaboration followed by large blocks of time for concentrated, uninterrupted work is a worthy goal in most configurations. Writing is the simplest method to allow for archiving the decision-making, status, and issues with work for async coordination.

Write it Down or Forget It

When you work in the same building you might do some documentation for your future self, or for training other people – outside of email you probably don’t do a lot of “current events” style writing. But a single source of truth for current status information, project documentation, and work items as they progress through whatever process you have in place is required for a remote team.

To see the difference let’s imagine that we awake for our work day and half of our team has already had the majority of their work day. We can’t have a daily standup meeting where everyone gathers together during preferred work hours, so I need to read and respond to what happened on the project while I wasn’t working, and later my coworkers need to read and respond to what I’m planning on doing for the day and how it goes. I’m essentially journaling my day and making clear notes on obstacles, opinions, or solutions that I’m coming up with. The manner in which you do this might need to change based on what type of work you do, but at a minimum, it should include the following:

  • What did you do yesterday?
  • What do you plan to do today?
  • What obstacles are blocking you?

This information can be tracked in a tool like Basecamp or iDoneThis, and it provides great information to multiple audiences:

  • Coworkers can make sure that you aren’t planning on doing the same thing they are (or have done it already!)
  • Managers can help resolve obstacles, and notice trends in the difference between what their people plan to do versus actually do over time.

Single Source of Truth for Task Status

In addition to this, you need to ramp up your documentation of actual work status. Whatever ticketing system you use to manage work needs to be current every day, every hour, every minute. This replaces some of the status ceremonies that you see in a co-located team.

If probably have one of these systems already but update it at only a high level. It might be a work-tracking system like GitHub issues, Asana, Todoist, Workflowy, your custom support system, or your CRM or (what feels like literally) thousands of other options. A meaningful thought experiment to see if you are documenting in enough detail is simply how well your paper trail prevents people from interrupting to ask about how work is going. “It’s going well, I wrote it all down already” should be your answer.

Learn to Write

All of these methods mean that you might need to level-up your skills with the written word. Your bubbling personality will have to stay on hold for a bit (and saved for video chats discussed below) while you work on communicating clearly your ideas, feedback, and objections clearly and concisely.

The 5-minute way to improve your writing:

  • Read more clear, concise language. Trade magazines are a good start,  and newspapers also have a gift for saying much with little space.
  • Before you send something over a page, see if you can decrease its size by 20%. You will be surprised by how often this leads to clearer thinking and more impactful writing.
  • Practice: There are quality classes that you can take online, such as Gotham Writers Business Writing, but re-reading everything you write can help. From comments to emails,  see how well you get your point into others heads – is there confusion or follow-up?

Time to Sync: Video and Chat

Even if you write everything down as you work, there will always be times when you need to coordinate in real-time to make a decision or clarify an issue. Real-time coordination is typically required at the beginning of projects: “What are we going to work on?” and end: “Hey guys why isn’t it working?”

The tools for real-time collaboration have improved considerably in the last few years. Audio-only conference calls between people sitting in offices from fifteen-pound desk phones feel ancient now – we look each other in the eyes on video chat from our phones in airports and coffee shops across thousands of miles. To improve communication for conference calls, I’d recommend using video tools such as Skype, Hangouts, Slack video, or Zoom and encourage people to turn on their cameras and require single-tasking in the meeting. Although you do need to allow for some flexibility with personal space for camera usage, it is a professional requirement that people pay attention during these rare real-time sessions.

But before we ask everyone to get camera-ready we have another tool that we can use for real-time discussion: chat systems. Our options here are also powerful and growing. Slack, Hipchat, Google Chat, there are many options here. Defining what tool your organization uses is less important than how it uses it: if you use a tool like Slack to discuss work items in an agendaless manner then you are just creating a way to interrupt everyone in your company.

There are two good reasons to use real-time chat:

  1. To discuss non-work items in an opt-in way: create a room for people to discuss drones, or dogs, or dance moves. Nobody is required to participate, and it is used to build rapport among coworkers.
  2. To discuss specific items or emergency events: a support channel with a small crowd makes sense, a group dedicated to figuring out what to work on next between two options makes sense. A general channel with everyone in the company talking about the weather does not.

Playback and Rephrase

Regardless of which communicate method or tool you are using, when you communicate you must make sure the message gets to the right person. Asking “What did you hear?” is a way to do this, and when you get an assignment, play it back in advance to make sure you understand it before going off and getting started. This can be done in writing or over video, and including this acknowledgment step can drastically improve your success rate.

For collaborative meetings, rotate people around for note-taking to allow for people to practice being the listener and the person who plays items back. Conclude meetings and online discussions with simple summary statements that are acknowledged and committed to.

With these simple steps, you can influence and improve your team communication, and if you do it well, you can even be more in step than if you were working in the same building. One of the greatest ways to test the health of a remote team is to get them in the same building and see if they shift the way that they work or not; many times you find that they keep working as they did before – getting together for quick heated discussions, and then get back to work – writing it all down as they go.

 

How to Prepare for a Remote Job Interview

How to Prepare for a Remote Job Interview

You’ve got an interview for a sweet remote working position. Congratulations. Now it’s time to prepare. Of course, you should follow the advice that any candidate should adhere to, like researching the company and your interviewer, appear enthusiastic and so on. There’s also prep work that’s unique to a telecommuting interview that you must not overlook.

There are questions you should ask, others you should expect, as well as things you ought to do before and during the interview to demonstrate that you are the very person to join a remote team. Here are the best practices we suggest for anyone preparing to interview for a telecommuting gig.

Do your Homework

Whenever you interview for a job, you’ve got to do your homework. There’s the usual stuff, like learning about the company and the people you’ll be talking with, understanding the field and so on. There are also a few key things you should do before interviewing for a telecommuting position. These things will help identify you as a person who can work from home successfully.

First, demonstrate that you’re comfortable using the tools that of a self-reliant home worker. If your would-be employer suggests a time that won’t work with your schedule, suggest alternatives. This seems obvious, but it demonstrates the flexibility that a remote worker just has. A tool like Doodle is great here, as it’s just the kind of communication tool that those managing remote workers love.

Also, send a calendar invite, and provide times for your location as well as your interviewers. In doing so, you demonstrate an awareness of the time zone dance and accommodate for it. Finally, suggest several options for speaking, such as Skype, Google Hangouts, UberConference, etc. With that done, it’s on to the interview itself.

Interview Logistics & Preparation

Understand that the interview for a remote job will likely be conducted remotely. You’ll probably have an audio call (phone, Skype, etc.) and a video component. Each has unique preparation steps.

If you’ll be interviewed by phone or other audio call (Skype, etc.):

  1. Don’t “check out” during the conversation. It’s easy to be distracted or otherwise let your attention drift when the interviewer can’t see you. No looking out the window or letting your gaze drift to Twitter for a second. Act as if you’re in the same room as your interviewer.
  2. Be aware that you can’t rely on facial expressions or body language to convey information. If you’re smiling, they don’t know it. Therefore…
  3. Your voice takes on increased importance. Since you can’t rely on visuals to convey enthusiasm or interest, speak clearly and with energy. They can’t see the spark in your eyes, so let them hear it in your voice. I’m not saying to be artificially animated, but be aware that of how you sound.

If you make it past the phone- interview, you may have to participate in a video interview via Skype or Google Hangout. Additionally, I once had to record a video of myself answering questions I received via email. Both are common practices when interviewing for a remote job. Here’s how to prepare for this bit and do well.

  1. Look presentable. Again, this goes without saying. Yes, you’re home, but this is not a casual affair. Get dressed.
  2. Be aware of your background. That epic Led Zeppelin poster is awesome, but an interviewer doesn’t want to see it. Ditto the pile of laundry. Make sure your environment looks professional.
  3. Be aware of lighting. Is your face visible and easy to see? Sit aside a window for nice, natural light.  
  4. Be aware of audio. No, you don’t need a professional mic but if you’re in an echo-y room, move. Even the mic on your ear buds will often be better than the one that’s built in on your computer.

Remember, a part of a video interview is to test that you can work with the tools you’ll need to communicate with your employers. If you struggle with a simple video call, the probably won’t want to have regular remote meetings with you.

Lastly, just before you get started, kill bandwidth-hogging apps like Dropbox, etc., turn off any unnecessary noise in the area like the TV or a noisy air conditioner and finally, wear headphones and a mic, even a cheap one.

Questions to expect

First off, you’ll hear the questions that pop up in most interviews, like “What do you know about the company?” and “Why should we hire you?” Prepare for these remote-specific inquiries as well:

“Have you worked remotely before?”

An interviewer will want evidence of your ability to work independently. Past remote experience will be good here. If you don’t have any experience with remote work (or very little), emphasize the experience you do have. Did a snow day force you to work from home on a wintry day? If so, how did you cope? Does your current brick-and-mortar job require a lot of independent, self-directed work (for example, photo editing at your desk)? Explain how this demonstrates your ability to be self-directed without a lot of interaction/supervision from others.

“Do you have a home office?”

While an employer may be happy with having you work from home, they might not want you at the coffee shop where prying eyes can look over your shoulder and see something that ought to be confidential. Additionally, they may require that you have certain basic equipment in place, like a certain internet speed or a scanner. If you’re on an audio interview, do your best to paint a picture of your workspace.

“How do you handle distractions?”

You know this question is coming. Have an answer ready.

Questions to ask

The questions you ask can be just as important as the answers you provide. As someone interviewing for a remote position, these three should be on your list:

  1. How do remote workers communicate with each other and people back at the office?
  2. How long has remote work been offered at the organization?
  3. How many employees work remotely?

By and large, interviewing for a work-from-home position is much like any interview you’ll take. With the tweaks and preparations mentioned above, you’ll greatly enhance your chances of nailing it. Good luck.