Here at Mossio, we have a mostly remote crew. We meet up a few times a year at conferences (like Creative South next month), retreats, and occasionally flying out to meet with clients. The rest of the time, we’re working from home or at our HQ Office in Dade City, Florida. Remote working may not have been as feasible for companies 10 or 20 years ago, but thanks to technology today, businesses can run more effectively with a remote team.
So why have we chosen this path for running an agency versus having everyone under one roof? What are the biggest benefits and perhaps more importantly, what are the biggest hurdles of being remote? We’ll be diving deep into why the Mossio team has chosen to work remotely in this 3 week series. So let’s dive right in…
Working Remote: Part 1
Working in an office (especially with a large amount of people) makes it extremely difficult to find that “laser focus”. Jason Fried, author of ‘Remote: Office Not Required’ put it this way:
“Offices have become interruption factories. A busy office is like a food processor — it chops your day into tiny bits.”
I remember at my previous agency job, there were times I’d avoid the walk to the bathroom because I knew there was no way I’d make it across the building without getting pulled into 5 new conversations. The only chance I had of getting my current task done was to turn off my office lights and hope someone wouldn’t notice I was in there for the next 20 minutes. On average, I was probably interrupted or having to switch tasks/priorities every 10–20 minutes.
When working out of my home office, I get to turn on some tunes and get right to work. I have two quick 10 minute meetings each day (an internal team standup & a client standup for whichever project I’m on that week) and that’s it! The rest of the day is mine to buckle down and make the magic happen. I’ll get in a solid 2–3 hour sprint without anyone needing my attention or time.
I believe that this method of uninterrupted productivity allows us to get 5 days of work completed in 4 days. This then allows us to do ZERO client work on Fridays. Yes, you heard me, we spend Friday doing team building/bonding, learning new skills & programs, creating Apps & products we just really want to exist, and fine tuning our own internal marketing needs.
Commuting Sucks The Life Out of You
It doesn’t matter how short or how long your commute is, it sucks regardless. I’m an early riser, so at my previous workplace I’d usually get into the office between 6–7am after a quick workout at the gym. Since office workplaces focus more on “butts-in-seats” than productivity, I always feel weird being the first one in the office to leave (even if you’re the first one there), and being the Creative Director, my job responsibilities didn’t really allow me to head out at 3pm or 4pm. Then I had to decide to head home at 5:30pm and wait in peak traffic for 45 minutes to get home or continue working until 6:15–6:30pm and get home in just 10 minutes. My life consisted of nothing but work, travel, eating a quick dinner and sleep. I had no energy left to spend any time with my wife in the evenings & my weekends were spent recovering. Hanging out with family & friends was done out of “responsibility & requirement” rather than excitement.
Now, my schedule and commute looks roughly like this:
5:30am — Wake up, cook my wife breakfast and feed my daughter breakfast and fun baby playtime
6:45am — Hit the gym
8:00am — Start work
12:00pm — Lunch (I take a 30–60 minute break somewhere around here)
4:00pm — Call it a day & shut down the computer
4:01pm — Start spending quality time with my wife & daughter
Ditch that 9–5 mentality and Adapt to a Flex Schedule
America seems to be the only country clinging onto the idea that workers need to be in the office at 9–5 for maximum productivity, and if you want to move up in your career 40 hours isn’t going to cut it. You need to get into the 60–80’s to really go places…
The thing is, every person is different and may find they are x10 more productive at different points in the day. Having worked remote for 2 years previously, I know that my best work is done early, and I plan accordingly for that. Between the hours of 8am-12pm I am a machine. I’m crossing things off my to-do-list left and right, creativity and new ideas are just floating around me ready to be put into action. This is usually the time of the day I hit the hardest design challenges. After a quick lunch break, which involves recharging my heart and soul hanging out with my 7 month old daughter and wife, I pick up on more of the administrative & production tasks. I make sure any little client revisions have been made, my files are organized, and Trello boards and InVision screens are up to date. I check in with the team and help make sure the ship is sailing smoothly.
These flex hours still have to have a small restraint on them, as it is necessary to have a good chunk of time where team members are all on at the same time and collaborate and work on projects together. Here at Mossio, we have our core hours from 8a-4pm. Some team members choose to start as late as 10am and finish their day at 6pm. Flex scheduling allows employees to maintain a work-life balance and feel fulfilled and happy.
It’s vitally important to have a work-life balance. Yet, what does that really mean and how can it be achieved? We’ve already talked a little about some of them. Saving time on your commute and being able to be somewhat flexible with your work schedule results in having extra time in the day to do things that are important to you.
Almost everyone on our team has a family and kids. Nothing beats being able to be close to our loved ones, watch our children grow up, and really be a part of their lives.
I was fortunate enough to have had parents who ran a business from home and we got to go have lunches at the beach, they never missed a sports or school event, and they got to turn me into the man I am today. I am so grateful to my parents for bringing me up in such a home. As a new dad, it warms my heart to be here with my wife and daughter.
Remember how I mentioned my old commute time barely allowed me to spend time with my wife after work before passing out at night? Now I get stress-free time with them for a few hours every morning and every evening. If I was still working at my previous agency, I would never get home before my daughter falls asleep at night. I’d hardly ever see her!
Not to mention Friday’s here at Mossio are spent on self improvement and team building. I get to finish out my week not recharging my batteries! Friday’s consist of learning and enhancing our skills and craft, testing out new programs, researching & writing blogs (like this one!), and working on fun apps and products our team wants to make simply because we want those things to exist. It almost feels like having a 3 day weekend. My brain is no longer racked out after a “final push” at the end of the week to cram everything in, we’re all ready to relax and enjoy a calm weekend with friends and family. Those family gatherings are now something I look forward to every Friday and Saturday night!
We all have different things that feed our soul, trust your team to work effectively and efficiently without seeing their butt parked in a chair allows them to do that.
Check out a few of our recent Growth Day Friday projects over on our Dribbble page!
Employers seem to think that good work, work ethic, and dedication is only possible when everyone resides in a common space. However, have you ever been at work (in an office) and after a 12 or 14-hour workday, you say to yourself, “I did a lot of things, but I didn’t get anything done.”? Without getting in uninterrupted time, it’s virtually impossible to have a truly efficient day of work.
A lot of employers go so far as to ban website (such as social media sites or video sites) or put computer monitoring software on all company computers so they can see what you’re working on at all times…
Here’s the blunt answer. Hire good people who appreciate and love what they get to do for a living and give them the freedom to do what they do best.
Gauge their progress and production based on the work you expect them to complete within a given week. If deadlines are being met (perhaps even exceeded), quality of work is high, and the ship is sailing smoothly, your team is delivering. I’ll bet if you gave two teams (one remote & one in office) the same project, the remote team would complete it in a much shorter period of time since they aren’t restricted by meetings, managers, or any other red tape.
I’m going to go further into detail on this in another post, but here’s the gist of it. With a remote team, talent can be sourced from all over the country, perhaps all over the world. It’s much easier to gather the best possible team of people when you aren’t restricted to the local talent pool or trying to relocate people.
Employees, knowing all the benefits or a remote job (especially those with families) may be chomping at the bit for such an opportunity.
Today’s Technology Allows for Remote to Succeed
Years ago, remote wouldn’t be feasible for us. Today, there are a plethora of different Apps & services that allow teams to work seamlessly while remote. We’ll be doing another in-depth post explaining why we use these apps, here’s a few we rely on regularly:
*Which tools you use aren’t as important as how you use them.
The Down Side of Remote
First and foremost, remote work is not for everyone. Different people will thrive better in and office and others better working remotely. Remote workers need to be able to manage their time, productivity, and communication themselves. Since you aren’t in an office environment directly surrounded by your team, you get less face time with them, social interaction, team bonding, and mentoring. It can be difficult to set boundaries when working remote (especially if it’s from home).
When I first started working from home a few years ago, it took my wife and I almost a year to “set boundaries”. She was a first-year teacher working 12 to 14-hour shifts, so I was also responsible for grocery shopping, cooking dinners, doing laundry, cleaning the apartment, etc. These activities absolutely destroyed my productivity and left me really frustrated. It wasn’t until I came to the realization that I had to treat working from home no different than if I was at an office. I wouldn’t have the flexibility to run to the grocery store or do laundry in the middle of the day, so those shouldn’t be chores I am responsible for during work hours. We shifted these responsibilities to the weekend and I easily gained a good 6–8 hours back into my work week & wasn’t having to shift my focus anymore so I was completing my work much more efficiently. Luckily, I was my own boss at the time, because that schedule would have made me a truly crappy remote employee!
How to Overcome the Obstacles of Being Remote
So we’ve covered a few of the pain points of working remote, but how do you tackle those head on?
1.Have daily stand ups with your team. This should be 5–15 mins, but have everyone on a Hangout call so you get to see their beautiful & smiling faces to discuss what you worked on yesterday and what you’re about to work on today. Talk about challenges, things you’re looking forward to, and ask for help from a team member if you need.
2.Share your screens. We use Screenhero to quickly view each other’s screens so we can review work with the team. This helps us review our working files and get a second opinion on things before we get too far in our design process. Team members also use CloudApp, Droplr, and Dropbox for quick screenshot sharing to throw out ideas and quick glances of work.
3.Have a virtual water cooler. We use Slack for our communication and have a #watercooler channel. We throw in animated gifs, talk about our weekends, rad design news, etc. Have a place that people can just hang out and bond a little.
4.Maintain human interaction. It can be easy to isolate yourself behind your screen and just work. Get out there and spend time around people. Go to the gym, have lunch with friends, get out there to some design or development meet ups, and go hang out with folks after work. When I don’t take my own advice here, I find a slight depression totally creeps up on me. Don’t let that happen!
5.Set yourself up with the proper equipment. You spend at least 8 hours of your day behind a screen. Make sure you’ve got a good chair to keep your back & neck in good shape.
6.Surround yourself with inspiration. Since most employees don’t get an office anyways, this is a huge perk at home. Toss up posters on your walls, items on your desk and blast some music. Create an environment you WANT to work in everyday and helps you produce your best work.
Are you interested in joining a remote team? It just so happens we’re hiring a UI Designer as well as a Front End Developer. Give us a shout!