At The Glue we work remotely most of the time. We’re young and small so it started for cost reasons, but even as we’ve grown, it’s hard to imagine we will ever go back to the 9-6 office cube lifestyle. There are just too many advantages to remote work, and so many tools that make staying connected a cinch.
Sure, there are lots of times when an in-person working session is crucial. And regular celebratory lunches and happy hours are a must. But the days of being locked into someone else’s schedule are gone for The Glue and disappearing for many other businesses too.
As veterans of the practice by now, here’s our handy guide to working remotely in six easy-to-follow steps.
When you work remotely, and you work from home, you can erase the most infuriating part of most people’s day, the commute. And in Los Angeles, there’s almost always a crummy commute. Our art director, Victor Hwang puts it best, “If your typical commute is about an hour each way, you gain back at least 10 hours of your life each week.”
For most of us, this is a no-brainer all-good situation. But for me, I often find myself going straight from toddler care to work, back to toddler care with just 14 stairs in between. I admit sometimes I miss that nether-world of commuting, where, besides the tiniest bit of patience and civility, there is basically nothing required of you. Maybe you prepare for the work day and de-stress from home and vice versa on the way back. Or maybe you zone out to some music or NPR. Yes folks, I just became nostalgic about commuting!
But seriously, I am. Often I’ll take the dog for a walk or jog with a podcast before and after work hours to get a little decompression in before switching roles.
For some of us (millennials or Gen Zers — you know who you are), working remotely will be second nature, like breaking up on Snapchat or Meerkating your utensils drawer. But for others, it’s an adjustment. Your back will never forgive you if your workspace is on the sofa, and you won’t save money or be more efficient if you go out for three lattes a day.
Try some things and figure out how you can be most productive. “The two things I like best about my home office are my standing desk and the great natural light I get through my living room windows,” says developer Joe Cuanan. It took testing out a few setups to get there though: sitting, co-working, coffee-shopping.
“For figuring out and working through ideas,” explains our UX designer Nick Swardt, “it’s at home or in-office. Once the idea is laid out on paper, there is nothing I enjoy more than taking my laptop to a coffee shop, putting in my earphones and listening to music really loudly while wire framing. It’s meditative.”
Go shopping for good office furniture and you are in for a surprise. It’s pretty much all priced to gouge the facilities departments of big companies. Even so, don’t skimp on your setup, because you will spend most of your waking hours in it. Use Ikea or Craigslist or the swap meet, but give yourself a nice work area with reliable tools.
“Invest in a good WiFi connection, a landline and get a Mac computer,” advises Paula Campos, Chief Perfectionist. A landline might sound positively elderly, but when you are remote, you spend a lot more time on the phone then you ever did at an office. We use Google Hangout internally, but with clients, we are on the phone all the time. And if you sound like you’re in a tunnel or at the bottom of the ocean, you sound like an amateur.
“My ideal working environment is one where there is common sense, diffused light, Spotify, Jura (espresso machine), Coke Zero and an iRobot,” says Paula. My robot is named ‘Gomes’ and he speaks Portuguese. And if your remote office is part of your house or apartment, make sure you have a door to close.”
It’s true: your remote friends are in their pajamas half the time and in workout clothes the other. Far from from being slobs, we know that highly productive people, from Obama to Zuckerberg, wear the same thing everyday, so they can save their brainpower for more important items and avoid “decision fatigue.” It’s also far cheaper not to have to replenish the rotation of work clothes on a regular basis.
As women, it’s especially liberating (and money-saving) to reduce the time spent thinking about our appearance. That extra 10 minutes scrutinizing one’s face and hair and pants and nails, along with being a waste of time, takes a psychic toll. How many times have we slunk into the office worried that our pants didn’t fit right or the shoes were all wrong, while we could have been crafting a brilliant business strategy, solving a problem, reading a magazine, or just zoning out — truly anything is better than the abyss of appearance reflection.
And for client meetings, just wear the uniform!
When you work remotely, your day (and night) is your own. Is there a wave you need to ride at 3pm? Go for it. Want to miss the 6pm crunch at the gym? Go earlier. Doctor’s appointment for that inexplicable rash? Honestly, I don’t need to know.
“Freedom,” says Nick. If I need to take a run to clear my mind because I’ve hit a brick wall, or stand on my table to get a different perspective à la Dead Poet’s Society, I can.”
“When you work at an office, there are times when you stretch the work out to fill the day,” adds Victor. “When working remotely, if you get your stuff done early that remaining time is for you — not sitting around watching the clock.”
For Jamie Mayer, writer and all-around fixer, it’s the flexibility to balance family time with work time: “I can shift some of my work schedule to the evening when needed, which, with a small child who is not yet in full-time school, is usually needed!”
The fact is, no one is looking over anyone’s shoulder, which means we have the freedom to make our day into what we want. If someone isn’t pulling their weight, it has nothing to do with when they show up “at work” or if they take too many long lunches or personal calls. The proof is in the work and that’s all that matters. Let’s say you are one of our designers and, like that erstwhile Verizon employee, you manage to outsource your job to China. At The Glue, if the deliverables are good you’ll probably get promoted.
There’s no reason why one of us couldn’t Airbnb swap our places and go work in Costa Rica for a month. Make sure there is good WiFi and enough Skype credits for client reviews and you’re set. You don’t have to be a slave to your work situation, or miss out on adventures and experiences. Make those things a part of your work life. Get inspired by the world, and make better stuff!
“There is a level of trust that you have to have with your team, that you know your bosses have with you,” continues Nick. “We all trust that everyone is doing their job and doing their best without keeping an eye on them. As a result, I believe it makes you want to do better.”
Which leads to number 6…
It’s the same for you as it is for Spiderman, “with great power there must also come great responsibility.” Domineering bosses, crappy cubes and inflexible HR rules all come out of a philosophy that believes people are not trustworthy and will slack and lie and cheat whenever possible. We don’t buy into that, and mostly it’s because we have trusted one another and we have been trustworthy in return.
The best you can do with a remote work situation is be great at it!