Tips for your first 30 days of remote work

I have spent over 10 years working primarily remote, and they have taught me practices I will implement from day one of a new job.

I’ve been asked more than once something along the lines of “What do you think are some of the challenges of working remotely, and how would you address them?”

So here’s a longer answer for future reference:

Trust takes more effort

One of the most glaring differences is not the lack of a commute, but the slowness of connection. That leads to my greatest challenge for new remote workers: building trusted relationships. We take for granted how much they depend on casual conversation alongside the professional. It’s easy enough to get lunch with a colleague at the office or chat about personal life throughout the day. Being fully remote has taught me that it takes more intention to get those casual interactions that are essential to team building and collaboration going forward. I address this with both short-term and long-term thinking.

The default game plan

First week:

  • Be open. I find being the first to share details invites others to do so as well. I like to share a few slides or a short Loom to introduce myself. The goal is to find common grounds to connect upon, and I can’t ask others to put themselves out there without knowing me so I start by being open. I will find what fits well with the culture and makes it easier for others to feel comfortable with who I am as a result.
  • Join whatever channels are used to celebrate. I want to learn how my team gives non-social cues of affirmation. Whether that’s an internal message thanking someone or a public tweet with all the emojis, I find these little moments are what matter most.

First month:

  • In the first 30 days, schedule 1:1 virtual coffee talks with everyone I know I will be working with in the next quarter. Provide an agenda for those who prefer agendas. Keep it casual and engaging to develop trust.

First quarter:

  • If it’s within budget and safe, travel to meet my colleagues in person. The goal can be in the form of a project kickoff, attending the same conference, or be as casual as visiting someone in their hometown. The important part is to get face time when possible. As valuable as remote work is, nothing replaces the trust built by face-to-face communication.
  • Find the optimal ways to celebrate both publicly and privately. As a leader at the intersection of multiple teams, I want to ensure I recognize my colleagues in a way that shows my appreciation and respect.

Shift to asynchronous

Another challenge I have learned to work around comes from scheduling. Years of remote work taught me to optimize for asynchronous collaboration while leaving time for the right amount of synchronous. A few lessons I keep in mind:

  • Have fewer, more effective meetings. I like to challenge myself to drive decisions asynchronously and to keep meetings focused unless they are explicitly for brainstorming or team building.
  • Default to public. I aim for sharing communications as broadly as possible. At my previous job, that meant answering individual requests to public channel when appropriate. Defaulting to public channels helps everyone have a shared context in a way I find beneficial to asynchronous decision-making.

I hope this list helps you as you consider how to approach remote work.