The global remote worker: the secrets to success
min video //
min read //
April 4, 2023
The life of a remote worker is alluring. For the most part, it means that you can choose when and where you get your best work done— and that can be freeing.
But remote work is more than choosing your most authentic Zoom background, and it requires much more than an ergonomic chair at home (though that certainly helps!). Remote workers, especially those working with international teams, often have to navigate multiple challenges independently to get all the benefits of remote work.
Jana and Khadija, two Re:Coded alumni, work for American companies but remotely from Lebanon and Türkiye.
Jana landed her first frontend developer job in 2021 with echo360 and recently got promoted due to her strong performance and close collaboration with the backend team. Living in Lebanon, Jana sometimes has to join late scrum meetings with her colleagues based in the Midwest in the United States.
Khadija works as a frontend developer for HatchApps, based in Washington, D.C., from Istanbul, Türkiye. While her work is very independent— optimizing for UX, fixing bugs, testing code— she manages an asynchronous workflow with her stateside counterparts.
While both enjoy remote work, Khadija and Jana say that balancing work from home doesn't always come easily. They share their secrets to success below.
If you talk about remote work, one of the first things to come up is always time management.
Without the natural commute to the office, it's easy for work to seep into your mornings or evenings. Or the opposite: distractions are tempting whether you're working from home or a cafe, and it can be hard to stick to your laptop and get done what you need.
"You either work too much or don't work enough." Jana laughs, recalling the early days of her first remote job. It took a lot of work to manage a constant stream of deadlines and stick to 40 hours a week.
The solution: A dedicated workspace
Jana found setting up a dedicated workspace and a little self-control can help.
"Whenever I find myself trying to sit on my desk outside of working hours, I will try to prevent myself like I will say 'No, I'm going to do something else. I don't want to sit here.'" Jana shares.
The same works if you find yourself distracted by a load of laundry at home or a family member making tea in the kitchen. Setting up a dedicated workspace can create a clear divide between when you're working and when you're off work. That way, if you find yourself away from your desk for too long, you know you're off task.
The office is a lot of things beyond just a place to work. It provides the space for colleagues to connect and socialize. It gives many a buzz of energy.
So without an office to go to, what do remote workers have? It's not uncommon to hear remote workers complain about the lack of social connection with their remote colleagues.
"It's a little bit challenging," Jana says, "because I feel like sometimes I want to meet people, and I want to get off my computer."
Khadija also finds that the lack of in-person contact is tough, "Working at home doesn't always give that energy."
Khadija and Jana's remote experiences lack virtual happy hours or social events, which is not always true for every remote company. However, it is certainly something to ask about if you consider going remote.
The solution: Find social outlets outside of work
"You have to activate yourself," Khadija advises. Khadija and Jana have found activities outside of work that energize their days. Depending on the week, it could be a hobby or after-work exercise.
Jana finds herself making an effort to make plans with friends after work and filling her weekend with social meetups. While her work days may be alone, all the time around, it is full of friends and family.
Both Jana and Khadija noted the excitement around working with a global team. You get to meet new people from different cultures and create connections where you otherwise would not have.
But there's one slightly less exciting element of working in a global team: time differences. Navigating one, let alone multiple, time zones make it hard to find time to connect and coordinate with your colleagues.
"I think the most challenging part is finding overlapping time between me and the team who works from America," Jana shares. Jana's located in Lebanon creates at least a six-hour time difference: "It's like I need to work till 11 PM to be able to work with them."
With most of her team also working from the United States, Khadija also worked long hours to make meetings with the team.
The solution: Design your workweek
One of the great benefits of remote work is flexibility; however, when you have essential meetings you need to attend, this flexibility is taken away. Both Jana and Khadija found that incorporating greater flexibility into the first part of their day prevented them from working over their allotted 40-hour work week.
Design your workweek around the meetings you have in your schedule. So, if you have an 11 PM meeting, just like Jana did, you should start your work day later or take a longer break during lunchtime. Whatever works best for you! With no office to go to, you can build your schedule around your work commitments.
Building trust and communication channels
Whether we're aware of it or not, meeting face-to-face and in-person generates a feeling of trust (as long as it goes well!) between you and your colleagues. Especially regarding work ethic, it's pretty clear when someone is working or not in the office.
Remote work requires a little more effort when building trust and communication channels since you don't see your colleagues and cannot simply "drop-in" to ask a question.
Khadija struggled at the beginning with misunderstandings regarding project deliverables and communication.
"I once got a message at 1 AM saying, 'hey, you didn't deliver [your work for the day].'" Khadija recalls. She had been sending messages with questions all day, but because of the time difference, they had gone unanswered, making it challenging to complete the task.
Solution: Set the expectations from day one
"The rules must be set on the first day," Khadija advises, "Now we have deliveries at 9 PM."
Khadija sticks to the 9 PM deliveries, which makes it easy for her employer to see her work consistently without having to necessarily "see" her.
It also facilitates asynchronous communication. As long as Khadija submits all of her questions, the American team has all night to answer Khadija's so that she can get to work as soon as she starts the following day.
Khadija's and Jana's teams use project management tools like Jira and Clickup to manage the flow of work, providing clear visibility and an overview of comments to facilitate communication.
Setting expectations around communication and work deliveries is crucial to succeeding in a remote work environment, especially one that spans time zones.
Success in remote work
Remote work comes with many challenges. You'll have to manage your time, create social connections outside work, navigate multiple time zones, and actively build trust and communication channels. It can seem like a lot.
But both Khadija and Jana suggest that those challenges are worth overcoming and have multiple solutions.
"I personally really enjoy it. I'm introverted and enjoy spending time at home," Jana shares, "It's so much fun for me. I'm able to take advantage of the flexibility." Looking into the future, Jana says that even if she were to change companies, she'd be looking for something 100% remote.
Khadija is also committed to the life of a remote worker. "Right now, I'm outside of Istanbul [her home city], and I can still work," Khadija says, "You can travel, you can go anywhere, and you can do a lot of stuff. And you get to work at the same time."
Remote work could be for you whether you're a homebody or have a serious travel bug.
Wondering if you're ready? Take our Remote-Ready Quiz.