Kirsten and Jay-Allen
Remote Team Coaches
April 27, 2020

Interview with Kirsten and Jay-Allen, remote team coaches & collaboration experts

Remote team coaches, Kirsten and Jay-Allen, offer three pieces of advice for new remote workers and reveal the one question every remote job seeker should prepare to answer.

How did you get started with remote work?

We started working remotely when a company we were with had employees located in different countries.

We really wanted to figure out how to build relationships and have effective remote meetings with each of these spaces, so we researched some guidelines on how distributed teams worked.

Over time we developed a set of principles to guide us when thinking about remote work and linked those to practices. The company then decided to have two remote work days a week and saw the benefits of remote work, especially in relation to work-life balance. We now both work for a fully remote company.

Read 114 answers from other remote workers

What are you working on?

We just created an online course, designed to improve remote meetings. Available here. Our book is also available for preorder on Amazon: The Remote Facilitator's Pocket Guide.

We're both currently working as team coaches at eyeo. We're also involved in running company-wide, remote events, such as our Remote Open Space, which happened at the end of January.

Outside of work, we support and train teams and individuals to bring about healthy collaboration in their remote spaces. We also host a session once a month where a group of facilitators can come together and practice remote facilitation and get feedback.

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What do you like about remote work?

Flexibility: We work on our own schedules. On days when we have to take care of admin work, we can handle what we need to, and then just work in the evening or the weekend. It feels like work adapts to your life more.

Diversity of people: We’re on teams with people from Canada, Egypt, and right through to Malaysia. Being able to meet and connect with such diverse people is an opportunity we wouldn’t otherwise have

Focus time: Working remotely gives you quiet time at your desk to do your work. While we have loved working collocated with colleagues, open-plan offices are not always that great for providing focus time.

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What do you not like about remote work?

Disconnecting is really hard: Because work is 100% accessed through your computer and your computer is always there, work is always there. It’s very easy to work much longer hours than you would when work is bounded by a physical location that you literally enter and exit.

Physical aspects: Staring at a screen all day and sitting in a chair can take a toll on you physically, and you have to force yourself to go for walks and take breaks, etc.

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What tools do you use to stay productive?

  • Google Calendar (and it’s reminders)
  • Music apps
  • Standing desk and ergonomic chair
  • Putting phone and Apple Watch on silent
  • Trello

It might be worth mentioning our favourite remote collaboration tools here too:

  • Google slides for interactive workshops (the barrier to entry is low, the co-editing limit is high, and accessibility is easy)
  • Zoom
  • Mural
  • Asynchronous communication - while it’s not a tool, it is a method that is really useful in remote teams, especially when there are many timezones at play.

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How do you use these tools?

  • Scheduling everything - Putting all things on your calendar, even free time, really helps and also helps you to remember to take breaks

When not in meetings, music really helps to feel connected to something. We’ve also created shared team playlists in the past.

  • Standing desks and ergonomic chairs - This prevents you from becoming a hunched over potato

This may be an anti-tool but silencing your devices can really help block out the noise of unimportant things.

Trello helps us prioritise our work and manage workload.

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Where do you conduct your work?

We live in Cape Town and work from home, coworking spots and coffee shops (depending on how we feel on the day).

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What about your space helps you to be productive?

  • Noise-canceling headphones
  • Dual screens
  • Easy Coffee
  • An ergonomic chair

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What does your workday routine look like?

It’s different every day. Some days might be full of meetings, and other days we might be planning a workshop. Some days we might go out for breakfast and work really late that night. Other days we might start working and responding to messages with coffee in bed as we wake up.

One thing we don’t have to do is sit in traffic.

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How do you avoid burnout?

With remote working, especially when working in your home, it’s too easy sometimes to blend your work and home life. Establishing boundaries for yourself is very important. For example, what hours will you work each day? Will you stick to that if nothing urgent comes along?

When your workday ends, that might mean closing your laptop and switching off, leaving work mode, not checking emails or messages.

It might also be necessary to schedule break time.

There have been many times when we have found ourselves in back to back meetings with no space to even eat during the day.

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What is the best advice you have ever received?

Jay-Allen: If you’re feeling overwhelmed or burnt out don’t be scared to stop doing some tasks, and for the tasks you have to do, break them up into smaller bits.

Kirsten: “There isn’t a way things should be. There’s just what happens and what we do.” - Terry Pratchett

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How did you land your remote work job?

We were both referred by friends.

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What advice would you give to a new remote worker?

Create a “workspace”: Whether this means that you join a coworking space or set aside a place at home, having a clear ‘space’ that equals work will help you disconnect.

Trust people: Working remotely can feel quite vulnerable, people may take longer to reply because of timezones, or their responses might feel harsher than you’re used to. It’s likely that you’ll be working with cultures that are very different from yours and so people will communicate differently to what you’re used to.

Be yourself and be clear on what your needs are: Many people feel awkward when they join remote calls, the space feels different. Our advice is that you be yourself and bring your ‘full self’ to your remote teams. Be clear on what you need, and if you’re feeling that you’re not getting something, maybe you were hoping for more fun, and you’re feeling the team space is quite cold and disconnected, ask for this.

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What advice would you give to a remote jobseeker?

Find out about the company’s remote working culture and ask for practical examples that illustrate what they say.

A lot of companies have adopted distributed working without adopting the necessary structural and mindset changes.

Often we see companies that neglect their remote employees or haven’t really harnessed the benefits of distributed working because they are still trying to map collocated practices to remote environments.

When interviewing, prepare to answer questions about potential challenges you foresee working remotely and how you might overcome them.

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What did we forget to ask Kirsten and Jay-Allen?

At RemoteHabits we're always trying to improve our interviews, what question should we have asked Kirsten and Jay-Allen?


Kirsten and Jay-Allen

Kirsten and Jay-Allen live in Cape Town and are both currently working at [eyeo]((, a fully distributed company based in Germany, as remote team coaches. Together they have written a book on remote facilitation, titled: The Remote Facilitator's Pocket Guide, to be in stores in August 2020 and just finished filming an online course on Remote Facilitation. They also host a monthly call for remote facilitators, where people across the world can come together to practice and evolve the craft of remote facilitation.

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