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Good & Bad Remote Worker

Image of two hands gripping in a handshake.

A good remote worker is completely trustworthy. None of the other principles work if this one isn’t followed. If every team member is trustworthy — and trusts their teammates — work happens more efficiently, and stress about inter-personal relationships is minimized. This is extremely important in a remote environment, where most communication doesn’t occur face to face. It is essential to have the best interests of your teammates in mind — and know that they will do the same with you.

A bad remote worker looks for hidden agendas and sinister motives in everything their teammates do. Nothing makes a team grind to a halt like making negative assumptions about their teammates’ motives. If every interaction becomes an opportunity to get offended, no work will get done. Bad remote workers get defensive instead of saying “tell me more about that,” which would most likely show that there’s no need to get upset

Image of a closed office door with a sign that says "work zone."

A good remote worker has clear boundaries around their work and home lives. They have a dedicated space where they can focus and do their best work. And when they’re done working, they spend time with friends and family to get refreshed. A simple rule to follow: have a workspace where you can close the door.

A bad remote worker just works “wherever.” They constantly put themselves in distracting environments and then struggle to focus and get work done. This doesn’t mean remote workers shouldn’t get out and work in shared spaces. But without a dedicated space to return to for focused work, bad remote workers will always be drifting.

Image of a typewriter with a sheet of paper in it.

A good remote worker communicates extremely well in writing. Since most communication happens in writing, there is no more significant investment a remote worker can make than becoming a better writer. Communicating your thoughts in a clear and concise manner is the best gift you can give your teammates.

A bad remote worker is careless with their words. They don’t think about how what they write or say might be interpreted by others. As such, they often find themselves in misunderstandings that have to be cleared up through additional, unnecessary communication.

Image of an inbox with mail in it and an hourglass placed next to it.

A good remote worker always thinks about collaboration through the lens of asynchronous communication. Remote work naturally creates great environments for deep, focused work, so it makes sense to optimize for asynchronous communication. This lets everyone get involved when it works best for them — and when they are ready to give something their full attention.

A bad remote worker tries to recreate an open office environment through too many meetings and other forms of synchronous communication. Meetings aren’t inherently bad. But unnecessary meetings and synchronous feedback sessions undermine one of the most significant benefits of remote work and should be used sparingly.

Image of a planner with a digital clock next to it.

A good remote worker knows when they are most productive, and builds habits to help them maximize that time. Since good remote teams optimize for asynchronous communication, it follows naturally that good remote workers know when to work on what. They build habits to help them prioritize their time effectively, and to quickly get themselves into a state to do focused work. They are able to shut out distractions. They learn what circumstances help them focus. They know when they should do heads-down private work, or provide asynchronous feedback to help teammates move ahead with their work, or go for a quick run to clear their heads.

A bad remote worker tries to force “normal work hours.” If they don’t have a good handle on their own work habits, bad remote workers tend to focus on hours in their seats instead of maximizing their time. They end up getting distracted by every notification or shiny internet object they come across. Bad remote workers don’t take advantage of the greatest benefit this type of work has to offer: taking care of yourself so that you can do your best work when you are at your best.

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