Peter Schroeder

@peter.e.schroeder

What I Learned From My First Year Working Remotely

Me at Max Patch, North Carolina.
“Remote work has opened the door to a new era of freedom and luxury. A brave new world beyond the industrial-age belief in The Office.” 
Jason Fried, Remote: Office Not Required

Almost a year ago, I started my journey working remotely when I accepted a marketing job offer from Northpass (an enterprise learning platform for modern teams — built for ease and flexibility.)

The opportunity to start doing everything I love to do from the comfort of my home. How could I say no?

I dove into remote work head first and haven’t turned back since.

As I’ve acclimated myself to this new phenomenon of working from wherever there’s an internet connection, I thought I’d share my thoughts on what I’ve learned so far.

Communication is Key

Collaborating on a project in Slack.

Having strong communication skills (particularly writing) have proven to be essential for success working remotely. The online relationship you have with your team is everything.

When you’re not able to walk over to someone’s desk and ask them a question, you need to find a way to accomplish the same task virtually.

This usually ends up being a quick Slack message or Zoom call, but regardless — you need to find a way to communicate with your team.

This can happen a few different ways:

Asynchronous communication

This is where the magic happens for most distributed teams (especially those spread across multiple time zones.) This type of communication is done without live conversations. Instead, it’s a back-and-forth exchange, which happens as each individual’s schedule allows.

For remote teams where almost all collaboration happens primarily online, asynchronous communication would most look like one person leaving a note in a messaging app or Google Doc, so their teammates can read, reply, and edit at their convenience. For that reason, this method is best used for issues or conversations that aren’t time-sensitive.

Some examples of asynchronous communication include — email, direct messaging (Slack), posting updates or issues on project management platforms (GitHub, Trello, Basecamp, Google Docs, etc.)

Synchronous communication

Synchronous communication is comprised of two or more people agreeing to communicate using the same method at the same time.

The original synchronous communication method was phone calls or talking in person, but modern technology has given us plenty of other options.

Synchronous communication is a good option when things need to happen more quickly, or when it’s important to ask questions and get immediate answers or enable participants to bounce ideas off each other and get active feedback.

Some examples of synchronous communication include — live chat (Slack), video calls or meetings (Zoom), online voice calls, phone calls.

See a list of online collaboration tools for remote workers from InVision.

Big Picture Items Call for In-Person Events

Team Northpass attempting an escape room as a team bonding exercise in Parsippany, NJ (Northpass HQ)

I know, I know, we’re talking about remote work, and I just said meeting in person is important. But let me let you in on a little secret… IT IS!

Let me lay it out for you this way. Collaborating online is very effective from an execution level, but from a strategy level — it’s hard to beat in-person events.

This is why we come together once a quarter to review our goals and plan for the next quarter. It’s incredibly refreshing to be able to do this in person, rather than through a doc.

The in-person even helps to:

  • Build team camaraderie
  • Meet new team members in person
  • Motivate employees
  • Relax and have some fun

(Even bigger remote teams like Buffer, HotJar, and Zapier do in-person events on a regular basis.)

After setting your high-level goals and ensuring everyone is on the same page, you can disburse and start executing.

The Pros and Cons of Isolation

My dog Pando and I hiking Sams Throne, AR.

Isolation is a new topic for me because I’ve always been surrounded by people. I’ve never really experienced long periods of physically being by myself.

After a few months of working remotely, I suddenly realized that I might go a week without leaving the house or talking to anyone (in the real world) but my wife.

This new habit sort of fell into place as I didn’t really need to leave my house anymore. Everything I needed to do, I could do from home.

My new realizations made me start to put in a conscious effort to not be so isolated. Human interaction is the ultimate form of empowerment.

To help combat this isolation, I got a dog named Pando (pictured above.) We hang out every day while I work.

I also made a self-promise to start hiking every weekend with friends to get out of the house.

(If I didn’t get out or have any human interaction, I’d spend my whole life trying to find creative ways to get more Bitcoin.) 😅

Living Your Own Life | Being The Best You

Me, my brother, and my cousin hiking Chimney Tops in the Smoky Mountains National Park.
He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.
Friedrich Nietzsche

I thought it was pivotal to start this section with this quote because it’s just so damn important.

We all have our own ‘why’ in life, and everything we can do to be working toward that ‘why’ is where we find fulfillment.

Working remotely gives you the opportunity to have a flexible work life and concentrate on the things that are important to you.

Whether that’s family, travel, volunteering, etc. Working should provide you the means to focus on your ‘why’ not take it away from you.

If you want to find out more about this, I recommend reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.

It’s Pretty Freakin Awesome

Me hiking in Medellin, Colombia.
“I am a true believer that when you get comfortable, you start to die. If you aren’t doing things to make yourself better, then you’re slowly getting worse.”
Peter Schroeder

Working remotely has been a dream come true.

It has afforded me the opportunity to:

  • Travel
  • Spend more time with my family
  • Have a work-life balance
  • Practice self-discipline
  • Live somewhere that makes sense for my family and me

I’d like to thank Northpass for the incredible opportunity to work for a great company who values their employee’s happiness.

If you’d like to learn more about what it’s like to work remotely, how to get a remote job, or anything else — feel free to leave a comment below!

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