Running a business remotely comes with different challenges than having a team all working from the same office. Things that once made sense don’t make sense now. Lines that were final are now blurred. There are new expectations and countless ways to work.
The events of 2020 forced many companies to work remotely without training or guidance. It’s no surprise that feelings of burnout and a lack of work-life balance were at an all-time high. Not only that, but the definitions are not widely understood. Working remotely does not mean working from home. Truly location independent companies understand the nuances and create a structure that means business success and an enjoyable life for everyone involved.
Mitko Karshovski is the host of That Remote Life, a top 2% podcast about the remote working revolution and the lifestyle of the digital nomads. Since 2018, his work has helped remote companies establish operations and culture from a remote-first perspective. After mentoring hundreds of entrepreneurs who wanted to better manage remote teams, Karshovski created a set of rules for effective remote work.
Karshovski believes following these 12 simple rules will ensure that you and your team are “more productive, less anxious, and positioned to grow and thrive.”
- 1 1. Look for answers before asking questions
- 2 2. Solve only problems that you are qualified to solve
- 3 3. Create physical and mental boundaries
- 4 4. Identify and share your weaknesses
- 5 5. Maximize your non-work time
- 6 6. Create and stick to a routine
- 7 7. Only your results count
- 8 8. Invest in your hardware
- 9 9. Expect no response
- 10 10. Improve your written communication
- 11 11. Start with a positive intention
- 12 12. Overcommunicate your availability
1. Look for answers before asking questions
Karshovski believes that all companies that work remotely should not only make good use of Google, but also “have a handbook that keeps track of how things are going in the company.” Your manual, script or collection of SOPs. Whatever it’s called, it must exist.
He advised that “before asking someone on your team how to do something, check to see if the answer is in the company’s handbook.” If it takes more than five minutes to find the answer, that document needs to be corrected.
2. Solve only problems that you are qualified to solve
“The person closest to the problem is usually the one best suited to make decisions about that problem,” Karshovski said. They have the most information and are likely to come up with the best solution. “Trust him to make the right decision.”
You wouldn’t “ask managers how to solve a coding problem” or a developer how to solve a marketing problem and Karshovski agrees that this “is likely to end in disaster”. But, similarly, avoid weighing in on decisions you’re not in the best position to make, as this gets too complicated and creates unnecessary lines of inquiry.
3. Create physical and mental boundaries
Prevent burnout by “creating a sacred workspace, both digital and physical.” Karshovski advised you not to work where you relax. Instead: “Go to a coworking space, find a coffee shop you love, or even try working from a local museum. You’d be surprised how good internet speeds are in museums.”
If you use the same computer for work and pleasure, use different profiles and accounts so that you keep work and private life separate. Karshovski uses Notion to create special spaces for work and life.
Karshovski encourages his clients to “share their weakness with the team.” This doesn’t make you “a bad worker,” he said. Instead, it makes it easier for them to know where you might need support and how they can help. “No one is perfect, we all struggle with something.”
Your team exists to cover your weaknesses, and you theirs. Accepting that you all have setbacks, set your mind on the solution; about solving the puzzle of how to best utilize everyone’s strengths.
5. Maximize your non-work time
If you work largely asynchronously or have the ability to get work done without time overlap with the rest of your team, make the most of it. “It allows you to work around your life, rather than the other way around,” meaning you can rethink your time. Use this to “do epic things,” Karshovski said. There’s no excuse.
Get your work done to a high standard and use every second to “travel the world, take on side projects, or experiment with a new hobby.” Karshovski said having fun working remotely is the whole point.
6. Create and stick to a routine
As a wise man once said, discipline equals freedom. Routine does not stifle creativity; it allows. Karshovski guides his clients to “create boundaries for your work so it doesn’t fade into the rest of your life, and vice versa.” He knows that in the long run, “your family, co-workers, and sanity will thank you for it.”
Your standard day can be exactly the same as long as the structure works for you. Maybe you do deep work in the morning, work out and eat in the middle of the day, do managerial work and smaller tasks in the afternoon before exploring a new city in the evening. Whatever works for you, just make sure it’s intentional.
7. Only your results count
The golden rule of remote working, according to Karshovski. “It doesn’t matter how you get your work done, as long as you deliver.” Duration, effort and commitment does not matter, it is about the result. But while you can only be judged on your results, your methods will be questioned if they are not up to par.
“If you’ve found a way to get something done in less time and meet expectations at the same time, you have more power,” he said. “But if you’ve found a way to get things done faster, cheaper, or more efficiently, it’s your responsibility to show it to the rest of your team so they all benefit.”
8. Invest in your hardware
If you don’t see people in person, how you appear on screen matters, so Karshovski wants you to “invest in a good microphone and webcam.” For less than $100, your video can “look and sound as good as your local TV host,” an investment you absolutely must make.
Karshovski likens this to office work, where you wouldn’t “show up with a stained shirt and dirty sweatpants”. If you work remotely, don’t show up for a video call like you’re in a hurricane.
9. Expect no response
Being stuck in a work situation isn’t ideal, and with a remote team it’s inevitable because you all clock out at different times. Karshovski advised you to “always add a ‘dead man’s switch’ for decisions.” This means letting people know what action you will take if they don’t respond.
For example, “Let them know which option you choose if they don’t reply within a certain number of hours,” but give them plenty of time. No one wants to work in a place that forces urgency and hasty decisions, so try to overcome barriers to action without forcing them on others.
10. Improve your written communication
Without face-to-face interactions (unless they are planned), written communication becomes even more important. Karshovski said you should take extra care to improve your emails and messages.
Question: “Is your question clear? Did you make stupid spelling mistakes? Have you provided answers to obvious follow-up questions?” Finally, have you indicated the best solution or next steps, or is the way forward unclear? Karshovski believes that “your team will appreciate the extra effort.”
11. Start with a positive intention
“Communicating via text can sometimes make things sound sharper than they were intended to be,” Karshovski said. “So always assume that messages are positive.” As the writer of posts, remember that text is inferred in the worst possible way, so read it as such when you proofread and edit.
Karshovski knows that emojis are your friend. “They may be silly, but they’re a great way to ensure that a message that might come across as cheeky is received in the positive way it was intended.”
12. Overcommunicate your availability
If you work remotely, you’ll have a different schedule than your team and your availability probably won’t overlap much. Karshovski says you overcommunicate your availability to avoid problems. “Make it clear when you’re away from your computer,” he evades the team, “assuming you’re available and waiting for your response.”
Also respect the indicated availability and work patterns of your team members.” Over-communicate to find a cadence that works well. If you absolutely need crossover time with certain members, arrange it together.
Follow the 12 commandments of remote work to communicate effectively, do your job to a high standard and enjoy your life when you’re not working. Customize these rules for your workplace and share them where everyone can see them.