How to Work from Home

Remote work can be highly productive, but that productivity requires different tools and habits than it does when you’re working together in an office. During years helping remote teams, I learned some lessons about what works when you’re all working from different places. I wrote this list for software development teams, but most of it will apply to other cases.

✔️ Lesson #1: Keep the ticket tracker up to date.

One of the hardest parts of managing a remote team is keeping track of what’s going on. Good managers keep an ear on their team. When the team leaves the office, those ears aren’t enough anymore. The best way to help them is to make the ticket tracker (like Jira or Trello) the source of truth for the team’s work. My rule is this:

If the boss needs to know the status of your work, all they should need to do is refresh the ticket board.

🗣 Lesson #2: Use chat software for discussions, not to communicate requirements.

It’s easy to take everything to your chat app (like Slack or Discord) as soon as you leave your shared office space, but I find that leads to dropped tasks. If it has to get done, it should be a ticket in the ticket tracker or at least an email that copies the project manager and manager of the project. A ping in a chat channel isn’t enough. It’s too easy to scroll past something critical. My rule is this:

If something that was only posted in chat gets missed, the miss belongs to the person who posted it.

👥 Lesson #3: Replace check-in meetings with a tool.

Home workspaces have background noise. Roommates coming home. Kids getting ready for school. When you’re working, a pair of headphones is enough to mask that noise and help you focus. On a call, that noise can be disruptive.

Frequent check-in meetings (like daily scrums) exaggerate competition for your workspace. They’re also repetitive, so they’re easy to replace with a text-based system. I’ve used Status Hero for this. It sends reminders, teammates can tag each other if they need help, and it tracks blockers. It instantly reduces the call schedule.

📫 Lesson #4: Use Inbox Zero.

Dropped emails are one of the biggest problems I’ve faced on remote teams. Things get missed, and chat channels pollute with “hey did you see that email…” messages.

Inbox Zero is a simple system of processing your email instead of just checking it. It’s great at making sure emails don’t get dropped.

If you’re on a thread with an action item, create a ticket on the board and archive the message. If someone sends you an important link, bookmark it and archive the message. Instead of letting messages pile up, process them and then get rid of them.

Enjoy skipping your commute!

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