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Tech insights: Best Prep for Remote Team Members
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Best Prep for Remote Team Members

11 March 2019, by Thabang Tseboho

As local talent pools dry up, companies are looking for talent beyond their postal codes. The question has shifted from “if" they should allow for remote work to “how” they could make this happen. I have been fortunate enough to work in different remote roles. The greatest benefit has been increased flexibility and autonomy in the way I work which has allowed for greater ownership of my projects and time. In this article, I share ways to prepare yourself if you’re also planning to be a remote team member.


Staying focused

Whether you choose to work from home or at a co-working space, here are some tips to help you start your day quickly and easy:

  • Establish office hours => Starting work at the same time daily helps you to keep work and leisure separate and avoids the drain on willpower that comes from having to force yourself into a working mindset.
  • Work against a Todo List => Creating a daily checklist of tasks ordered by priority helps you get what’s important done while keeping you motivated throughout the day with tangible progress.
  • Track your energy => You’re most effective at challenging tasks when you’re primed to be focused. Track your mood and energy throughout the day and pick a task that’s most suitable for that. This could for example mean using your mornings for focused and uninterrupted work and leaving the evenings for more collaborative or creative work.
  • Work in bursts => It’s easy to get stuck in work without taking a break. A helpful way to ensure you don’t burn all your focus in one sitting is to make use of the pomodoros technique which has you working in 25 minute bursts of focused work.
  • What to Avoid: Avoid working from cafĂ©s and restaurants without a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones. The background noise can become very distracting and is bad for meetings.

Building rapport

Building trust at work is important and doubly so when you’re not in the same office - people at the “mothership” have to speak on your behalf more often than not. That’s why you should make an effort to:

  • Get to know your team => You don’t have to be in the office to have water cooler chats. Partake in office chat, attend company-wide meetings, read the company newsletter and award your team with frequent positive feedback.
  • Become cultured => If your team sits across the world, different cultural norms begin to take hold. Educating yourself in them is a good start at building respect and avoiding unnecessary conflict.
  • Have solid structures => Stand-ups and one-on-one catch-ups are a great opportunity for sharing learnings, concerns or investing more deeply in your relationship with team mates. Recommend these if your team is not already making use of them.
  • Keep your work visible => Having a readily available log of current work helps to keep your team in sync. Tools like Trello, Jira and Clubhouse are very effective at creating this transparency.
  • Be proactive => Be vocal about blind spots you uncover and offer solutions. Not being in the same space decreases the likelihood of a team member realising you’re struggling with something; speak early and often.
  • Be human => Linked to the previous point: Showing vulnerability improves a team’s relationships, so do not be afraid of asking for help whenever you can’t come to a solution on your own.
  • What to avoid: If you ever have negative feedback for one of your colleagues, it’s best to do it directly and not in public channels. This keeps the communication respectful.

Communicating effectively

With all the communication media available to us, it can become difficult to pick the right one for the right job. Here’s what gets the job done in my experience:

  • Sharing ideas => Translating ideas into words can sometimes be super hard. For me, using an online whiteboard has proven very effective at conveying contexts and keeping everyone engaged.
  • Communicating urgency => Email is not good at communicating urgency and may leave you stranded for feedback too long. That’s why direct messages are much better suited for urgent requests. That said, these should be used sparingly as they are also very distracting to the receiver.
  • Running team meetings => Remote meetings with many people are best done over video. Seeing your teammates is a lot more engaging and allows for quick chats.
  • Message Concisely => Avoid long paragraphs and break up your messages into key parts of information that can be digested easily. This makes it more likely to receive useful and timely responses.
  • What to avoid: With the possibility of different time zones, avoid messaging your team members at inconvenient times of the day unless agreed upon or unavoidable. Forcing colleagues to attend to your messages outside of business hours will erode trust.

Remote work requires rich communication skills, written and oral, sufficient self management, and the emotional intelligence to create trusting relationships. If you’re also a remote team member, I’m curious to hear from you: How do you set yourself up to win?


Thabang is a Software Engineer on a mission to bridge his passion for makers & technology. You can catch him on Twitter.


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