My remote journey all started when I was hired as an IT consultant out of college. My first client requested that I be on site but I saw my senior team members work on-site part-time and work remotely the rest of the time. I learned how to work on teams with people who were out of state and in different time zones.
After I proved I was a trustworthy worker on that project, my boss said I could work from anywhere (as long as I was close to an airport). I decided to move to Detroit, MI to be closer to my family and boyfriend (now husband). I set up my “office” in my one bedroom apartment.
One of my favorite things to do was take my laptop and explore all the different coffee shops in the area.
It felt natural to switch to remote work since that was my company’s culture. People would get online around 8 AM their local time and work until 5 PM their local time. Hours were flexible but I still have a bit of anxiety when I think of my status light going to “away” for too long on IM. We were given tools for success like company phones and instant messenger apps.
Plus, I was still traveling a lot so I saw my team members in person on a regular basis.
I started Doghead Simulations with my cofounders Mat Chacon, Chance Glasco, and Elbert Perez to change the way we work and educate with virtual reality.
After working in the software industry with distributed, remote teams, we thought there had to be a better way to collaborate than video and phone calls.
We put our heads together and developed rumii, a multi-platform meeting and education app. It’s an immersive environment which brings together the best of working in an office while being remote.
We, ourselves, are a distributed remote team. We meet up in person every few months but the rest of the time we meet in rumii and VR.
It’s been fun building a company with the majority of people remote because we had the opportunity to build the remote culture from scratch. It wasn’t built in like my previous job.
I think whether in the office or remote, having a good team is all about open communication and willingness to work with your teammates.
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My typical work routine isn’t too exciting. The first thing I like to do in the morning is take my dog for a walk around the block. While making coffee, I boot up my computer and get to work!
Experts say you should start the day with your most difficult task but I tend to check email and Slack first. Meetings are normally in the afternoon, which I’ll get up from my desk and hop in VR for. Throw a couple more dog walks and a trip to the gym around lunch time and that’s my work day.
I recently gave my office a makeover to make it more work friendly. I moved around the space to make more room for stand-up VR (so I can walk around without running into my desk).
I added some decorations, like a bamboo plant, because I think they help inspire creativity. Besides that, it’s a standard office setup with my laptop being the main focus.
I think the perception of remote work means you can stroll online at whatever, do whatever you feel like working on that day, and move from coffee shop to happy hour all while getting work done. That isn’t necessarily the case, especially when a team is depending on you.
Working on a remote team requires someplace that can be quite for meetings. Many remote teams use an instant messenger program to see who’s online and expect to be able to talk to the rest of the team during set core hours. In those ways, working on a remote team isn’t so different than being in an office.
Successful remote teams have extra characteristics that let them excel. They are made up of self-starters, good communicators, and dependable co-workers.
These characteristics, while important for any team, are essential for remote teams since the boss can’t walk over to a teammate’s cubicle and enforce some of these behaviors.
People who work on remote teams have to want to work. They have to be excited and motivated by what they’re doing. There is no sitting around pretending to be online unlike when you can sit in the office and seem to work. With a remote team, much of the work is deliverable based.
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My favorite tools are:
Work cell phone seamlessly integrated with the apps on my laptop. I like a work cell phone separate from a personal one so that I can turn it off, setting a clear delineation between work hours and personal time. Also, you don’t accidentally risk sending something to a co-worker you didn’t mean to.
HTC Vive VR headset for immersive meetings
A good old-fashioned pen and notebook for taking notes and writing down ideas.
The best productivity tip I can recommend is to set aside dedicated work time and build it into a routine.
For example, one of my routines was wake up at 7 AM, take my dog for a walk, make breakfast and get to work. At noon I took my dog for another walk and then finish my work and shut down my computer at 5.
For me, having core work ours was the key to my productivity because I knew I wouldn't have time later in the night to get work done.
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The best thing I like about remote work is that it allows me to be more active and overall healthier lifestyle.
Instead of spending an hour in the car commuting each day I can walk my dog or get a workout in at that time. Instead of eating out (because who has time to pack a lunch?) I can make something from my own kitchen and am not as tempted to stop by Starbucks.
The thing about remote work that I think worries most people is the lack of human interaction. To make up for that, I make sure to plan lunch dates with friends and have activities outside of work.
Plus many remote jobs require some amount of travel which gets you out of the house and have in-person time with your co-workers.
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At RemoteHabits we're always trying to improve our interviews, what question should we have asked Lily Snyder?
Lily is a seasoned consultant in delivering enterprise software. She has almost a decade of remote work experience implementing large-scale IT projects.
Her most recent venture is cofounding a virtual reality company, Doghead Simulations, to fundamentally improve the way we collaborate and educate in a distributed, global world.
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Betsy Ramser is a content manager, blogger, and teacher who helps other remote workers thrive while creating a daily routine that works.
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