How do you know if you’re right in wanting to step out of the typical 9-to-5?

After getting a taste of remote working, more and more people have started to ditch their cubicle jobs for a remote position. But working a few hours a week away from the office is not the same as being completely officeless. They may both suit you… or not.

We asked Sematext’s founder, Otis Gospodnetić, what he considers as the top 5 things one has to take into account before embracing remote working. He should know, as he managed to grow a profitable business with a fully distributed team from the very beginning – currently spread across several continents.

Here is his advice on how to recognize the tell-tale signs you might be a great remote team player:

The Best Teams are Optimistic Realists with a Can-Do Attitude

Remote positions are more like “show, don’t talk” kind of jobs. Chances are, you’ll get to work with people from different time zones and communication will be synchronous as with an office job, but also asynchronous; verbal, but often a lot will be in writing.

Not being able to talk in real-time can be tricky because you don’t have that constant feedback loop, which could be a blocker. Remote workers need to have a positive and intrapreneurial mindset to be able to work around these obstacles.

Here is what Sematext look for in any team member:

“We actually have a list of traits we look for during the interview. We look for people who are proactive and communicative, who take initiative, don’t wait to be asked or told, are curious and active learners. We seek people who acquire new knowledge and skills on an ongoing basis and keep up with changes in the industry.”

“At the same time, we like analytical, organized, and agile minds who understand the value of breaking down work into small tasks and who communicate to keep team members in the loop. We also look for optimistic realist people who are good estimators of time and effort. We think these four skills are extremely important when it comes to working remotely.”

Mindful Communication

Unlike with workplaces with a physical office, for remote teams it’s harder to connect and create strong relationships. Communication is important to all relationships, but for remote teams good and frequent communication is imperative.

When it comes to how Sematext team members communicate, Otis explained: “No distributed team can function well without good communication — working with a distributed team requires a lot of trust, independence, and self-guidancewhich is why we put a lot of emphasis on trust and honesty through ongoing, direct, but mindful communication.

“Also, for us, there are no hierarchies and the atmosphere is relaxed. We stay clear of any sort of politicking or bureaucracy, which helps us avoid some of the tensions often found in traditional companies. This is something that has proven successful in employee retention.”

Be Prepared for Autonomy and Strong Sense of Purpose

Employees give their best when they have a clear purpose they need to accomplish. It’s easier to stay in tune when you have an office job, where you’re reminded and motivated by simply seeing your colleagues working or hearing them talk passionately about their projects. But with a remote position, you need to be prepared to keep your spirits up with less additional “help”.

Otis explains it better:  “A great challenge when building a company culture where the entire team is working remotely is providing purpose and communicating it to the whole team. Meaning and purpose are more important in the workplace for fully distributed teams than elsewhere. Without it, job satisfaction, together with employee retention, take a major hit.

“For this reason, each person has a lot of autonomy and flexibility. That said, we do have processes in place. Without them, we’d quickly end up with chaos. However, our processes are very light – we use just enough to streamline our work and avoid process overhead.  Similarly, while each individual has a lot of autonomy, the more senior Sematextans do provide guidance around implementation, strategy, etc. to the rest of the team.”

Bond Outside Work

If you’re fond of the daily buzz of office life, working remotely could, sometimes, feel lonely, leading to low satisfaction or motivation. That’s why businesses running on a remote working policy are focusing on finding innovative ways to create a sense of cohesion and closeness that will foster collaboration between team members.

Otis shares how the team finds ways to bond and create connections with each other outside work:  “A downside of not having a physical office is that it is harder for employees to foster social connections with each other and that is also an important ingredient when it comes to the work culture. How we tried to complement this is by creating a dedicated chat channel for random things: jokes, local facts, non-related topics that could help the team members know each other outside of work and create a sub-culture of inside jokes and maybe even discover a little bit of their personality.

Also, we gather the whole team once per year in one place and that is the time when all team members have the chance to meet each other face to face. We are also seeing the desire for individual team members to meet more frequently, even in smaller groups, not necessarily getting the whole team together each time. Apart from this, we join a number of industry conferences where some of us have the ability to meet and spend some more time together. Also, we’ve developed the culture of sharing important events from our lives, as traditional co-workers do, so we regularly share with each other various interesting details from our personal lives.”

Embrace Work-Life Flexibility

When working remotely you may find yourself working with a team in one or more time zones other than your own, but not necessarily. Few companies that embrace this policy ask for a specific work schedule on your part, but rather for you to do your job well and on time. That means you could have any schedule you want, be it the classic 9-to-5 your time, four two-hour slots at different times of day, or whatever suits you.

However, note that this doesn’t translate to working less and slacking off because nobody can see you. The flexibility we’re talking about here assumes you’re a responsible, professional adult. That is the key ingredient in this relationship.  Without that, this sort of long-distance relationship will be very short-lived.

As Otis points out:

“An intrinsic trait of the remote working model is flexibility and if a company doesn’t foster trust and transparency, it cannot both be in control with the working flow and assure a positive working environment for the employees. For us, what seems effective in employee satisfaction is the fact that each team member works in their timezone and Sematext respects the national holidays one has. It’s important to us not to make the employee feel completely disconnected from their national boundaries.”

Wrapping up

Of course, each company that’s built on a remote work model has its own culture and practices and their team members share specific traits. But if Sematext’s approach resonates with you, most likely you’ve found the perfect company for your next professional chapter.

If you’re looking to join a remote team, Sematext is always looking for smart, passionate, motivated, and independent people regardless of where on the planet they may be. 

Photo by Jacky Chiu on Unsplash

About Otis Gospodnetić

Otis started Sematext in 2010, initially focusing on consulting around Apache Lucene and Apache Solr, and ultimately growing it into a self-funded company.  Sematext offers an all-in-one monitoring platform that bridges the gap between infrastructure monitoring, tracing, logs, distributed transaction tracing, and real user monitoring. Sematext has a fully distributed team, spread over several continents.

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