My first encounter with remote work was back in 2008. It wasn’t really successful, and after several months of working remotely, the company decided to open an office in my hometown.
Now when I reflect on it, I think it was partially because the quality of internet connection twelve years ago was far from what we enjoy now, and partially because I and several of my coworkers were fresh graduates.
I’m still not sure if hiring junior employees remotely is a good idea, especially if you’re not a fully-distributed company.
My second attempt with remote work began about two years ago after I joined Reintech. It’s a hiring platform for tech companies looking to hire remote software developers in Eastern Europe. Naturally, Reintech embraced remote work from day one, and so far, it works great.
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My title is business development manager, so my tasks mostly revolve around Reintech’s marketing projects. I also spend a fair amount of time with our clients.
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We only focus on one task each day. Sometimes two, if they are smaller, but one of them always has a higher priority than the other.
What’s important here is that we rarely have tasks with conflicting priorities. It really helps, as it’s much easier to stay on track if you’re not distracted by other tasks with the same level of importance.
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Having a flexible schedule is probably the biggest perk of remote work, in my opinion.
This mindset that values what is being done over when it’s being done is very dear to me.
Being able to concentrate on what I’m doing and control when I can be distracted is just as important.
I also like the freedom to change my scenery. So, for example, when I’m working on blog posts, I often move to a nearby coffee shop. A cup of hot Americano there helps to get my creative juices flowing a bit faster.
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Social interaction is something that I probably miss the most.
I also miss being able to poke a coworker nearby and discuss the idea that just popped up in my head. Not sure if they miss it just as much as I do, though! 😀
Other than that, remote work doesn’t really have any disadvantages for me.
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As a team, we rely on G Suite for email, calendar, and video calls. We also use Trello and Slack. I don’t use any special productivity tools.
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While none of the tools we use are specifically designed for remote teams, I believe it’s not about what tools you use but how you use them.
Proper communication and coordination between team members are some of the most critical areas that need to be addressed in a remote team. The tools we use help us with that.
For example, we use Trello to keep track of our tasks. All communication related to a task is linked to a corresponding Trello card. This helps us to have both a broad overview of what the team is working on and easy access to details on each specific task, should that be necessary.
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I used to work in a coworking space, but I recently moved to a dedicated home office.
The most important benefit of working from home is being close to my family. I can take a half-hour break to bring my daughter home from kindergarten or take a stroll with my baby son right after I’m done with my days work. I absolutely love that.
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I couldn’t be productive without a second monitor, wired internet connection, and professional headset.
A comfortable chair and a standing desk help to prevent fatigue, and I’m guessing that helps me to be more productive, too.
I believe the key to being productive when working remotely is setting up a dedicated workplace with a proper desk and a chair, even if it’s a little corner in the apartment. Just make sure that you can control any background noise and minimize distractions—that seems to work well for me.
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My workday actually begins while I’m still in bed by checking my emails. After a short breakfast, I reply to emails that require attention and plan activities for the day. At 10 AM each morning, I have a stand-up call with my team, where we share and discuss our daily plans.
Each of us has one task that we focus on each day, as well as a set of smaller tasks. These smaller tasks help us remain productive when we face roadblocks with the main task or when the main task is complete.
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As a team, each week, we focus on one major task that needs to be accomplished. Each Monday, we have a weekly sprint planning meeting where we decide what needs to be done during that week in more detail.
We also discuss what we’re going to focus on in the forthcoming weeks. Our roadmap is usually sketched out for the next 4 to 6 weeks.
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I jog. It helps to clear my mind and keep burnout at bay. My schedule is pretty flexible, so if there are no calls scheduled, you might see me jogging the streets of Lviv in the middle of the day sometimes.
What’s also helping is going for long strolls with my baby son after work and spending time with my family cooking something tasty.
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I have received a great deal of good advice throughout my career, so it's hard to pick just one piece of wisdom. So instead, I'll try to summarize all the good advice I've received with one famous phrase attributed to Henry Ford: "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't – you're right."
This phrase is all about positive thinking and having faith in one's strengths. If you believe you can achieve a goal, it's very likely that you will. And not just the big goals — it equally applies to simpler tasks, too.
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When hiring freelancers for a short-term gig, we only look for the hard skills that are necessary to do the job. When it comes to hiring a new team member, on the other hand, the list of requirements is a bit longer.
Working remotely is not easy, and there are certain personality traits that help people succeed while working remotely.
So, we’re looking for emotionally mature people who are empathetic, able to work independently, and have a good work attitude. Good communication skills are, naturally, very important too.
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I plan to run a full marathon, master my Ruby skills (programming is my hobby), and get to 100k followers on Twitter (I mostly tweet about remote work at @mikesvystun).
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I don’t think remote workers can be productive in the long run working from coffee shops. So my advice is very simple: get a dedicated workspace.
It can be a dedicated home office, a desk in a coworking space, or even just a corner in your apartment. It doesn’t really matter as long as it’s a space dedicated to work that has a good internet connection.
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Landing a remote job is hard, and it’s very easy to get discouraged. So, be persistent.
Also, instead of applying for multiple positions, you should focus on a handful of remote companies you’d really like to be a part of based on their mission, values, culture, etc.
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At RemoteHabits we're always trying to improve our interviews, what question should we have asked Mike Svystun?
Mike is a remote work enthusiast and founder of RemoteMasters. He works in marketing but his hobby is software development. When not traveling, Mike is based out of Lviv, Ukraine.
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