The benefits of remote work are many. A flexible work schedule, being able to work from anywhere, more time with your family, getting more done, and so on... Ask any office employee whether they'd want to work remotely and there's a high chance they're going to say yes.
But remote work shouldn't be seen as the panacea for all work-related problems. Instead, remote work has its own particular challenges that you need to understand and manage.
As a fully distributed company, X-Team has given significant thought to how we can solve the challenges that come with remote work. But we realized that much of the writing we've done on this is hidden deep in our blog. This is why we've created an article that lists remote work's 3 biggest challenges and what we've written on those topics.
Challenge 1: Communication
Communication as a remote worker is a challenge because it is different from communication as an office worker in a few important ways. For one, you can't walk over to your colleague across the aisle to ask a quick question.
In fact, if your remote team communicates asynchronously, you need to be okay with not immediately getting an answer to your questions and learn how to stay productive even when you might be missing information.
Additionally, it's harder to know what your colleagues are working on and for them to know what you are working on. Particularly if you work in a company where only a part of the team works remotely, this might cause you to feel as if your efforts are going unnoticed, as if you're an invisible cog in the wheel.
One of the ways X-Team combats this is through our Slack journals. Every X-Teamer has a Slack journal where they write about their day-to-day-work, as well as their challenges and thoughts. Most Slack journals are visible for all X-Teamers to see, which creates a transparent environment where everyone can easily tell what their colleagues are working on.
Remote work requires a different approach to meetings, because there's an inherent tension between the flexibility of remote work and the fixedness of a meeting. This article describes the framework that X-Team uses to determine whether we need to schedule a meeting.
We've also written more broadly about communication as a remote worker. The above guide has a list of best practices to stick to when communicating, as well as more practical tips on how to communicate across different time zones in a way that minimizes misunderstandings.
Challenge 2: Social Interaction
The communication challenge of remote work is likely to be addressed quickly and effectively, because it's a very visible challenge. After all, if you can't communicate properly as a remote team, you'll run into problems sooner rather than later. It's in everyone's immediate interests to solve the communication challenge.
On a superficial level, at least. As the practical answer to the "how can we get work done as a remote team?" question.
But that's not solving the communication challenge entirely. It risks ignoring a deeper, more fundamental challenge: social interaction. Humans are social beings, and it's easy for remote work to morph into something where all forms of communication are about work and work alone.
This will inevitably, eventually, affect the mental health of a remote worker. Without at least some office banter, laughter, and camaraderie, remote work brings the risk of loneliness.
This article talks about loneliness in a remote workforce and how X-Team has several mechanisms and initiatives that address this feeling. Our feedback process is one such initiative, where we check in with X-Teamers every other week to ask how they're feeling and if there's anything we can do to help.
X-Team's Unleash+ budget is another initiative to keep remote workers motivated and focused on doing what they love. Every X-Teamer receives $2,500 a year that they can spend on what energizes them. This encourages X-Teamers to take full advantage of the flexibility that comes with remote work.
The X-Team year is divided into Seasons: periods of three months awash with activities designed to energize, motivate, and inspire X-Teamers. Every new Season brings everyone in X-Team together to compete, play, race, and earn collectibles.
At the end of every year, we organize an epic Slack party called X-Mas, where we show our appreciation for one another, celebrate our achievements, and get excited for what's to come.
The above initiatives already go a long way to help generate an environment where remote workers really feel as if they're part of something bigger than themselves. This helps mitigate much of the loneliness a remote worker is at risk of feeling.
But we realize that you can't ever fully replace hanging out with your colleagues in real life. That's why we created the X-Outpost: a hackerhouse in an exotic location that X-Teamers travel to so they can work and explore a new place together.
The X-Outpost linked above was our first skiing outpost, in Austria. But we've had many more. This was Bali, Mexico, and Argentina, to name only a few. Browse through the community section to find out where else we've been to!
The X-Summit is like an X-Outpost on steroids. It's our annual company meeting where X-Teamers fly to a particular location to spend an epic three days together.
2019's X-Summit was organized in a castle in Poland. We had a medieval tournament, played paintball, tasted wine, and kayaked in nature. It's an amazing opportunity to connect with the people you otherwise only talk to online.
Challenge 3: Setting Boundaries
The office life comes with a framework that makes it easy to set boundaries. You commute to your office, stay there until an agreed-upon point in time, and commute back home.
Remote work, however, has no such explicit boundaries. You're significantly freer to start and stop working when you want. Add to that the online nature of remote work (where you can get a message at 9:32 PM), and you have the genuine risk that you'll never quite stop working.
This article details some of the more general tips to be productive as a remote worker, including how to stay productive in the long run. This means adequately separating your work from your life and setting clear boundaries.
These are 8 tips to help you unwind after work and keep your stress levels low. While you'll already know many of these, they might still serve as a useful reminder when you make the significant jump from office work to remote work.
Being able to stay productive in the long run means that you must be able to avoid burning out. This article talks about burnouts, why they happen, and what you need to change in your thinking if you want to avoid burning out.
As we hope you can tell, we've given some serious thought to all aspects of remote work. Whether it's organizing an X-Outpost, coming up with bounties for X-Teamers to complete, or simply providing helpful information on how to unwind after work, we strive to create an ever-more vibrant community of developers who love working remotely and who go through life energized, motivated, and inspired.