Thinking remote? Advice from a guy who’s been running a fully distributed company since 2005

Jeremy Shao (@jeremyshao)
march 10th, 2020

At Infinity, we’ve been a fully remote, on-shore tech consultancy and custom software development company since 2005 (founded in 1998), so a lot of our friends and contacts have been asking us for advice on effectively managing remote co-working. We thought it would be helpful to share some of our tips and tricks from both the leadership and employee perspectives.

For leaders/managers

Shift your evaluation methodology

Think beyond the conventional categories when assessing the contributions of your team and consider metrics specific to their roles and performance. What’s more important to you, that someone is first in the office and last to leave? Or how much value is produced during their day?

Be explicit about expectations

This one isn’t just tied to remote workers, but is even more important here. Your team will do better if they all know what the expectations are and know that they are the same for everyone.

Promote connectedness and over-communication

Beyond just work talk. Give people forums/avenues for the watercooler-type talk. We have a #general channel for misc conversations, but we also have dozens of channels for specific topics such as #3dprinting, #coffee, #exercise, #gaming, #hiking, #knitting, #makers, #music, #parenting, #photography, #travel, and many, many more.

Promote collaboration

Being remote doesn’t mean being siloed. Using gooDocs for co-editing, conference video/calls for brainstorming, and Slack for chat allow for a team to act like a team (our favorite tools are listed below).

Promote working in the open

Being remote, sometimes people will default to DMs or 1:1 conversations. If these discussions are project-related, they can benefit the whole team if they’re done in public, e.g. in a team Slack channel.

Support the art of writing

Remote culture is a writing culture. Help your people develop their writing skills to improve both inter-disciplinary and inter-personal communications.

Emphasize balance

Working from home requires discipline in both directions. Folks need to work hard and efficiently, like they would at an office, but also need to walk away. The “end of the day” can be harder to mark when you’re home with your laptop. Giving yourself and your team time to recharge is important, but they will need your guidance on the value of stepping away.

Be flexible

Be willing to admit when something isn’t working and open-minded around finding alternatives to experiment with.

If your org is going remote for the first time, especially if you’re doing it in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, expect a learning curve. Let folks know there are going to be mistakes and that’s okay, that you’ll work together to address them as they happen.


Hire/retain the right people and trust them to do their jobs.

If you don’t trust your people and try to micro-manage them, they’ll lower themselves to your expectations.

By shifting your mindset to that of shared trust and appreciation, they’ll rise to meet or exceed your expectations.

Our favorite tools

Big picture: there are a ton of available tools in this space. What you use specifically is much less important than getting organizational alignment on which tool you’re using for which purpose. This will be especially important if your organization is making a rapid shift to mainly-remote as a COVID-19 response.

For remote employees

Manage your time effectively

Develop a regular (and realistic) routine. Effectively managing your schedule and developing an optimal rhythm will set you up for increased efficiency and performance.

Make sure you have a regularly scheduled lunch break and TAKE IT. Don’t “one more thing” your way into skipping lunch.

Set yourself up for success

Set and regularly assess your monthly/weekly/daily goals. You’re going to have to adjust to slightly different feedback loops and more self-management. Documenting and managing your goals will allow you to track your accomplishments and advocate for continuing to work remotely.

Document clear objectives and success metrics with your manager to make sure that you’re on the same page. This is slightly different than above because your goals might be more granular than your success metrics. Goals will help you build confidence and manage your day. Success metrics will help your manager manage you and understand your value to the organization.

Make yourself comfortable

Create a dedicated workspace (as best as you can).

Embrace mobility. Think about using a laptop or tablet for whenever you need a change of scenery, but also take advantage of a larger second monitor and keyboard for increased productivity.

Try to see the light. Place your desk near a window if possible and also make sure that you have sufficient direct/ambient lighting.

Manage up (and down)

Schedule weekly or bi-weekly team meetings and one-on-ones (over Slack).

“Ambient” slack hanging out and social channels.

Be part of the community

Slack channels for socializing (e.g. #cooking, #gardening, #gaming, #knitting, #music, etc).

Distinct “friend” channels or text message groups for non-work people interaction.

Social media (but schedule your social media time as a “break” so that it doesn’t leak into the rest of your day).

Make plans with your friends, attend events and local meetups. Inertia can be a problem if you’re used to the commute providing you with the necessary momentum to get out.

Maintain discipline and focus

Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee (or tea, soda, juice).

Take lots of small mental breaks during the day.

Find “work music” that helps you be focused and also reminds your brain “this is work time now”.

DON’T OVER-SNACK! It’s really easy to munch your way through your pantry because you have easy access to it!

Find your balance

Take a shower and get dressed every morning. You don’t have to put on a suit, but change out of your PJs and into actual clothes.

Set simple ground rules with your family. My door is either open or closed and my family is expected to respect that boundary.

Make sure that you get up and stretch regularly. Take walks and schedule exercise to keep your body healthy.

Develop a routine around “now I’m going to work” and “now I’m stopping work and going ‘home’” and then stick with it.

Still not sure?

If you need more help or advice with setting up remote co-working for you or your organization, feel free to reach out to me. I’d be happy to help you talk through your specific situation as well as our experiences and best practices.

Tags: culture technology remote passions