Learning to Succeed as a New Remote Worker

Remote Nov 19, 2020

As a junior at Northwestern University, the thought of building my career post-graduation in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic seemed daunting enough, let alone tackling it all remotely. At first, I felt overwhelmed, how was I supposed to pinpoint my professional interests, let alone find a job in that field, if I was barely able to leave my apartment? However, I quickly realized that I just needed to flip the script: If I didn’t have to limit myself to the jobs within a commutable distance, I could have an infinite number of opportunities in front of me.

Luckily, embracing this new mindset led me to my current role as a Business Analyst at Hyperinbox, an opportunity only made possible by remote work: two out of three co-founders are based in South Korea. Luckily for me, Hyperinbox was founded as a remote work environment, so the team already had a great infrastructure in place to succeed. Regardless, starting a new position while working remotely had its ups and downs: Here are some of the challenges I faced and the ways I was quickly able to overcome them.

1. Familiarizing myself with the cadence and tools of the company

During my orientation, I was introduced to four different team-communication tools. Each of these serves a unique purpose, however, at first glance, I was unable to properly differentiate between some of them. I found myself constantly checking each platform for notifications, yet still fell behind in terms of updating my progress, as well as communicating correctly. I spent a significant amount of time getting used to the tools, mostly by playing around with them; however, I still felt as though many usages could be left up to personal interpretation.

It took me a few rounds of trial and error, but I paid attention to the comments and conversations my colleagues were having on different streams and began to pick up on their definitions and usages. I was quickly able to adapt and found myself learning a lot about the new applications and general features I had not previously appreciated or been aware of. This experience, however, was the first time I noticed the need for a centralized location for all my notifications –– I wanted to be able to both stay up to date on all forms of communication and also benefit from the different applications and their unique workstreams.

2. Maintaining a work-life balance while remote

As I have mentioned, the beauty of entering the workforce while remote is the opportunity to work with people all around the world. However, all the resources in the world can’t change time zones. As a student, my class schedule is spread out throughout the day and does not lend itself to typical working hours. So, despite prioritizing my assignments effectively, I still felt the need to be “checked in”, even when off the clock. I was still feeling the effects of previously being conditioned to jump whenever a notification came through. Much of this was due to the demands of real-time communication, which is not always effective when working remotely.

I began to fully lean into the asynchronous work model adopted by Hyperinbox, and it led to a great change in my productivity. While I spent fewer hours at my desk, I got more done, because my time was focused and productive rather than spent waiting around for a response. Working around the quick “tap on the shoulder” problems and organizing my projects into mini sprints helped me not only get more done but also pushed me to stand on my own two feet and learn by doing. The asynchronous model has definitely proven to be effective, as long as you are able to organize all workstreams effectively, and I believe can lead to more creativity and progress when working with teams either across the country or around the world.

3. Not Missing a Beat

One of my first priorities when starting my new role was to establish myself as a good employee, especially while remote. Without face to face contact, I had imagined that my experience would be solely judged based on the simple record of my completion of tasks. I wanted to ensure that I was not missing anything, as I was under the impression that it would make or break my performance if I did due to the remote conditions. This past summer I worked at another company that had an in-person office, and at first, it was easier to catch on as I just had to look around to see what others were doing. However, as I began working remotely, these worries quickly subsided. I realized that despite being remote, working on a team was still teamwork: I was quickly able to get to know my teammates outside of just the person who assigned me tasks or reviewed my progress.

While Hyperinbox’s culture has an emphasis on cultivating workplace relationships, I also had to ensure that I was proactive, and leaning into these efforts was essential in making progress. While I tried a few different tactics, the experience exposed me to the new realities of working in a remote world. I could see first hand the value of the product I was now working on, and quickly transitioned to using the Hyperinbox application once up and running.

I soon settled in and I began to appreciate the attention to detail working remotely offers. The extra emphasis on organization and ensuring that all responsibilities are clearly defined allowed me to focus on deep work rather than stress over certain miscommunications that I sometimes found myself in while working in-person. I was able to spend more focused time working and relying on my own problem-solving skills when tackling projects, making me not only a better employee but also a more efficient communicator.

Overall, the remote experience has been a great one. While daunting to begin with, once I was able to take the time to familiarize myself with the environment and find customized solutions that were tailored to remote working rather than trying to recreate the in-person experience online, I felt confident in my work. We’re building Hyperinbox for those who struggle to make remote work actually work, like I was! If you’re interested, sign up for the waitlist here.

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