For more than a year, I was a remote worker. No office, no designated area, not even a dedicated coffee mug at the office.My boss was on board with the arrangement, but left it largely to me to figure out how to communicate and make it all work. (In his defense, telecommuting was in its infancy, and few people knew how to manage remote workers.)

Though I welcomed the freedom and convenience, I found that it was hard to feel like part of the team without casual daily interaction. After a few months, I began taking a more active role in maintaining my relationships by scheduling time for focused work and shared java. Being on the leading edge of remote work, I had to learn some painful lessons through experience.

I love the Harvard Business Review article, How to Manage Remote Direct Reports, and Brain’s on Fire’s series, I Swear I’m Wearing Pants. Some tidbits I wish I’d known way back when:

  • Remote working works, and it’s not for everyone
  • Remote workers are productive, as long as they’re the kind of employees who don’t need their boss hanging over their shoulder. (And if you have that kind of direct report, WHY?)
  • Bosses can and should take an active role in communicating with remote direct reports
  • Find ways for impromptu interactions; phone calls are good and video chats are better

If you’re considering becoming or leading a remote workforce, remember that what you do and how you do it is more important than where you do it. Timothy Ferris’ quote warms our essentialist hearts: “Being selective—doing less—is the path of the productive. Focus on the important few and ignore the rest.”


We love helping people love their work, even if they’re pants-optional. Tell us about your remote (and close-up) challenges!

Photo by Christi Barrett, featuring Oreo, who works for treats.