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Remote Work

40 Lessons From 4 Years of Remote Work

This month I celebrated my four-year anniversary of joining the Buffer team – or “Bufferversary,” as we fondly call them.

All work makes an impact on you, as you learn new things, make friends, and grow in your confidence at the job. I’ve been lucky enough to have many memorable roles, and I’ve taken something from all of them.

But my work at Buffer? That’s something else altogether. It’s mind-boggling to think of the impact Buffer’s culture and values have had on my life over the past four years, shaping and reshaping me in a truly profound way.

Many of the biggest changes have come from the fact that I’ve now been working remotely for four years now, after having never experienced it (not even a little bit!) previously.

It still blows my mind that the first time I met anyone at Buffer in person, it was after flying all the way to South Africa for my first Buffer retreat. Those were some epic hellos.

Remote work is something we love to talk about at Buffer, because we think it’s the future – and we know it’s possible for more organizations than folks might realize. It doesn’t have to be a “Silicon Valley startup thing”; it can be an everywhere thing!

So with that in mind, I’d love to share 40 quick observations from four years of remote work. I started out as someone who wasn’t sure at all about remote work. Now I can’t imagine working any other way.

40 Lessons From 4 Years of Remote Work

1. You’re going to be about 10 times more productive.

2. Remote or some level of remote-flexible work is for (almost) everyone! It’s within reach for more companies than you might think

3. If you’re thinking about experimenting with remote work at your company, try to make sure everyone feels equally part of the team and in the loop. It sucks to be a “second class citizen” just because you’re not in the office.

4. It helps to create a morning and evening ritual to help define your days. It can be as simple as watering the plants or taking a walk.

5. If you’ve hired people you trust (and if you haven’t, why not?), trust that they’re working.

6. Most people already know whether remote work would work for them. If you think to yourself, “I can’t do that; I would just watch TV all day,” you’re probably right. Don’t try it.

7. If you’re an introvert, fewer and fewer things will feel worth going out for.

8. If you’re an extrovert, more and more things will feel worth going out for.

9. Close your laptop and mean it at the end of the day. Work will always be there tomorrow.

10. The “rules” only work if they work for you. A lot of people will tell you to get up and get dressed every day like you’re going to work. After Day Five or so, I was yoga pants and no makeup all the way. Find what works for you.

40 Lessons From 4 Years of Remote Work

11. Your family members and pets are the only ones who will love remote work more than you do.

12. Visibility does not equal productivity. Not even close.

13. Go outside sometimes, if you can.

14. Combatting guilt is the biggest remote work secret no one tells you. I think it’s because you don’t get any “cues” like you would in an office, like when you look around and you’re the only one working because there’s a cake in the kitchen.

15. Slack creates false urgency in decision making. Slow it down on purpose.

16. WiFi can make or break your workday. If you’re traveling and working, always ask for an Internet speed test anywhere you plan to stay. If you work from home, invest in fiber if you can.

17. If you work from home mostly, have a space that’s just your own and just for work (if you can). This is doubly important if your partner also works at home (mine does, I banished him to the upstairs!)

18. You can cook ALL your meals, anytime! It’s amazing.

19. Downside: When you make a lot of food, you can’t take it into the office. Maybe try a shelter instead?

40 Lessons From 4 Years of Remote Work

20. There’s no substitute for physical presence (yet). Six months is about as long as we like to go as a team without getting together at least in small groups. Just being in the same physical space once in a while is a powerful recalibration.

21. Wear sweatpants every day if you want. It’s fine.

22. A plant is nice to have or watch out the window. It’s a privilege to get to see it grow and develop every day.

23. 3 words: Get a hammock.

24. When you work remotely, you have to be deliberate about making time for serendipity. Take time to just say hi on a video chat and hang out. We have regular “Impromptu Hour” chats at Buffer for this.

25. Once you start working for the day, it’s hard to stop. Preserve your mornings.

26. Taking a 20-minute walk is a nice break in your day. It’s great for creativity and working through thorny challenges too.

27. Cooking dinner can be a great “workday is over” signal.

28. The work soundtrack is so crucial! My tip is to scan Soundcloud for long (one- to two-hour) DJ mixes so I can get in a block of focus work. A great place to start is Soullection radio shows.

29. Embrace video chat! There are so many ways to stretch this medium so it feels almost like being together. At Buffer, we’ve done live music, yoga breaks and more on video chat.

30. A caveat about video: you’re going to have a new level of familiarity with your own face after staring at it for hours a day.

40 Lessons From 4 Years of Remote Work

31. Communication without body language is hard. Assume the best intentions in all interactions.

32. Time zones are impossible. Get help from Every Time Zone and Timezone.io.

33. Time zones are magic! Work goes on 24 hours a day at Buffer, lots of it when I’m peacefully snoozing away. How cool is that?

34. If you can swing it, batch your meetings and syncs into one day or block of time so you can block out focus time. I try to do meetings in the morning so I can have heads-down work time in the afternoon.

35. Over-communicate as much as you can. Working in an information vacuum is excruciating.

36. If you drive a vehicle, you will eventually work from home so long that you forget rush hour exists. When you remember why you’re stuck in traffic, you’ll kick yourself at first, and then marvel with gratitude that you don’t go through it every day like so many others.

37. People will be jealous of you. Flexible work is nearly always the number one thing people ask about when I talk about my work. Help them out with a resource like this or this so they can find their own remote setup!

38. Remote work tools are everything. We truly couldn’t have made Buffer work fully remotely even 10 years ago, and I’m so grateful for all the current tools we use to keep Buffer humming.

39. When you can’t rely on body language and facial cues, emojis and GIFs are a close second place. We trick out our Slack with Slackmojis, Bitmojis, Giphy integrations and more.

40. If you’re lucky enough to be able to work remotely, spread the word and help make it possible for others, too.

40 Lessons From 4 Years of Remote Work

Over to You

If you’re a remote worker too, I’d love to hear from you. Do any of these stick out to you in particular? What would you add to this list? I’d love to read your list!

  • This is amazing! I’ve been begging to work remote at my job, but I don’t think it’s in the cards here. My goal is to be working remote within a year. When I work-from-home, my productivity is through the roof … and so is my good mood! I love being able to take a break here and there to walk my pup, or switch over to a coffee shop (to get in some “extrovert time”) but I get so much more work done when I’m working remote rather than my open concept office. I wish more companies were open to the idea of remote work-life!

    • Love your observation about productivity and mood when working from home, the same happens for me. :)

  • Awesome list of great lessons Courtney! Thank you for sharing that. I work remotely for over 2 years now and it is the best thing that could have happened. More time for a lot of things – cooking, running, walking and these days spending time with my 3 months old son. It can be a bit lonely sometimes and I miss the team lunches and “watercooler” chit chats. I wouldn’t change, though. Maybe for an option where the office full of team members is very close to my place and I can go there if I want to :)

    • Love hearing how the benefits of remote work have supported you, Petr! I know what you mean about how sometimes it might be nice to have colleagues nearby, though. :)

  • Lauren Tellman

    This is great! I’ve been working remotely for two years, and your list is spot-on. I would also add that it’s so important for me to get out of the house and work somewhere else every once in a while — I get a little stir-crazy! :)

    • That’s such a good one! The same happens to me if I’m inside for too long haha.

  • Arthur GM Goodman

    Love seeing this list of insights about remote work! My small business, RedFork Marketing, has implemented remote work days as a benefit to our team since day one. We’re now getting ready to transition one of our team members to a fully remote experience, so these insights and experiences are great for our entire team to be aware of!

    • So happy to hear these have been helpful to you and your team, @arthurgmgoodman:disqus! Thanks so much for reading. :)

  • Great tips! I’ve been working remotely in account management and sales for over thirteen years. I find the take a walk tip one of the most important ones. It does help to clear the head and re-energize. Whenever I’ve put off my walk, I’ve regretted it.

    • Oh, yes! Such a key one. There are many great thinkers who swore by walking each day. Feels like it’s definitely a powerful tip!

  • Cecilia SHRM-CP PHR

    List is on point! Dressing up for work lasted 3 days for me.
    I’m going into my 2nd year as a remote worker and I really enjoy the flexibility and productivity. I do miss the people but make time to call/text/video my co workers and am also a board member for a local HR chapter where we meet 2x a month and have occasional networking/social events. These help to recharge my social batteries.

    • Haha I think it lasted 3 days for me as well. 😅Love the idea of working with some sort of local organization and that giving you a social boost. :)

  • Renu S Uner

    I wish to work remotely but my Husband work life doesnt allow that. Otherwise I am very productive working from home, compared to working in client’s office or in the co-work space. Great article though!!

  • Karen Keene

    Love this list. I’ve worked remotely for 5 years now and experienced many of the lessons you described. I think one of the most important lessons is to have a regular, daily routine – I check my calendar and messages early in the am, then get in a workout and shower before officially starting my day. Other recommendations – I am always ready for a video chat/conference, both in appearance and location. Where possible, I try to connect with a team member in the same meeting who is able to message me during the conversation. This way I can be sure who is speaking and my colleague can offer insight about body language and non-verbal cues!

    • I love your recommendation about being always ready for a video chat, @disqus_InBgM1sm8j:disqus! Thanks for reading. :)

  • Adriaan Botha

    Wait, how do I start, I have been ready for this al long time……..Can Buffer get work for me how does this work ? thanks

  • Rachel Marcelle

    Very nice post!!! And oh so very true which I can attest to after 2+ years of remote working.

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