Why I Work Remote

In-person work feels inefficient, slow and antiquated. Remote work is the future.
Written by
Kim Le
Published on
June 3, 2024

A few months ago, I found myself sitting in a small office at my kid’s school, nervously clutching a stack of paper applications. I was there for my first in-person interview in years, applying for a substitute teaching position—a role I had no prior experience in. Within a few minutes of talking to the very kind and wonderful human beings at my kid's school, I felt completely out of the place. The process felt unbearably antiquated and slow with tons of physical paperwork (over 50 pages of printed paper forms to complete) and in-person requirements. The inefficiency of it all hit me like a ton of bricks, and I couldn't help but compare it to my streamlined, optimized remote work environment.

The Inefficiencies of In-Person Work

Reflecting on my recent in-person interview experience, several inefficiencies became glaringly apparent:

1. In-Person Speech is Slow and Poorly Thought Out

Face-to-face conversations often lack the precision and clarity that written communication provides. There's a tendency for discussions to become lengthy and meandering, consuming valuable time. I forgot how often people diverge into tangents during in-person conversations. We'd start out talking about topic A just to end up somewhere on topic E that actually had nothing to do with A.

It's hard to go in tangents when you have to type everything out. Even if I asked AI to mimic the random tangents of human speech, I'm not sure it'll do so well.

2. No Option to Multi-Task

In-person interactions demand undivided attention, making it difficult to multi-task effectively. Even when someone is drawling on unnecessarily, social convention requires the listener to continue actively listen, especially when the speaker is a manager. I don't know how many times I thought about how what was said could have been shared quickly over email or slack. Not only that, making long-winded explanations and corporate presentations don't do much to yield impactful results.

If in-person lectures worked so well for knowledge transfers, then more people would have graduated college understanding physics.

In a remote setting, I can manage multiple tasks simultaneously, improving overall efficiency. I can also read a transcript of a webinar or presentation on 2x speed. We can also have side conversations on a chat window during a live sessions which significantly increases engagement. Where is a the sidebar for in-person meetings?

3. Reverting to the Average Work Setup

Traditional office environments often lack the tailored setups that remote workspaces offer. Questions like "Does this monitor work for screen sharing?" highlight the limitations of standardized office equipment. Some times the tech works so poorly in the office, that every person then just finds a corner to listen to a call from their computer. When at least one person in a meeting is remote, then the call ends up being remote for everyone, because video conference hardware is still harder to use than Zoom on your laptop.

Setting Up a Home Office For Remote Work

One of the main reasons I found in-person work so jarringly ineffective is because I have an optimized remote work environment that suits my personal and professional needs perfectly. Here’s how I set myself up for remote work success and how you can too.

Is your home office set up for remote?

1. Get a Dedicated Workstation

Having a dedicated home base—a desk, monitor, and chair—empowers me to tackle administrative tasks, file paperwork, and focus deeply on my work. This setup allows me to be productive and maintain a sense of structure.

2 . Have Alternative Work Environments

The flexibility to work from my kitchen counter or couch means I can stay comfortable and avoid the physical discomfort a typical office setup might cause. At home, I can adapt my workspace to fit my needs, ensuring that I remain both physically and mentally comfortable.

Do you have a remote-friendly tech stack?

3. Set-up for Screen Sharing and Parallel Working Sessions

My work involves a lot of model building. When we worked in person, this typically meant that we were all huddled around a computer screen some times 3 to 4 people. We'd crunch over and squint our eyes to figure out where we are and what we're looking at. I couldn't imagine at the time how to build models remotely.

Now, I can't imagine working like that in-person. With Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet, it's such a breeze to pull up my Excel or Google Sheets model on an external monitor and share my screen. From there, I have a second screen where I can still see my  meeting attendees, and can also use things like annotate while I narrate the model walk-through process.

4. Get IT Set-up for Remote Access

Have you tried getting IT to help you in the office? It's an absolute nightmare. Waiting for them to swing by your desk and often times playing "desk tag", ie you're in a meeting when they come by and they're elsewhere when you're at a meeting. Most of the time with IT, I'm just figuring how to get to meet the person.

Remote IT solutions are freakin' awesome. Set a time to connect, or they can ping you on Slack. Let them have remote access control, and from there IT can usually solve most issues, unless it's a hardware problem. As long as it's software, then most of the time IT can handle thins remotely.

5. Have Software That Allows Simultaneous Editing

The last bit that has made remote work better than in-person work is the ability to simultaneously edit documents together. Whether if you're using Figma for design, FigJam or Miro for a whiteboard working session, or Notion or Docs for write-ups, almost all tools now are cloud-based and allow for simultaneous editing.

I abhor having to pass Excel, Powerpoint, and Microsoft Document files back and forth via email, not knowing which version to be using. It's pretty insane that anyone still does that (which they do).

Do you have asynchronous workflows?

In my current setup, meetings are confined to school hours and limited to two days a week, unless a client specifically requests otherwise. The rest of my workweek is dedicated to focused, asynchronous tasks. This workflow allows for greater productivity and flexibility.

6. Notion as the Main Branch

We centralize all our work in Notion. New projects, meeting notes, and brainstorming sessions are logged here, providing enough structure while allowing for creativity.

7. Full Access with Tracking

Our systems are transparent, ensuring no information silos. Tools like Webflow, Notion, Figma, and Google Sheets enable us to see what our teammates are working on in real-time.

8. Measurable Deliverables and Results

Our work is activity-based and receives immediate feedback. While some tasks have longer timelines, interim activities are tracked to ensure continuous progress.

Can you work from anywhere?

Remote work has allowed me to embrace a lifestyle where I can work from virtually anywhere. Whether I'm at home, in a coffee shop, or traveling, I can stay connected and productive. This level of flexibility is something traditional office environments simply can't offer.

Staying Connected While Remote

Even with my own success working remote over the last 5 years, I highly recommend that teams meet in person from time to time for particular reasons.

1. In-Person Work is Great for Strategic Alignment and Training

Despite its inefficiencies, in-person work has its merits, particularly for strategic alignment and training purposes. Face-to-face interactions can foster stronger team bonds and ensure everyone is aligned with the company's vision and goals. However, for day-to-day tasks, remote work remains superior in terms of efficiency and flexibility.

2. Daily Remote Work and Quarterly In-Person Retreats

A hybrid approach that combines daily remote work with quarterly in-person retreats could strike the right balance. These retreats can be dedicated to team-building, strategic planning, and training, while the majority of work continues remotely, leveraging the benefits of a well-optimized home office environment.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

I know that many Fortune 500 and tech CEOs, along with my husband who is a startup founder, will disagree with me. They find in-person work to be more effective for their needs. But, like the classic breakup line goes, "It’s not you. It’s me." I've come to realize that I thrive in a remote work environment, and if you’re going to work with me, then it better be remote.

In the end, embracing remote work has not just been about efficiency. It has been a journey of personal growth, learning to set up systems that work best for me, and discovering a work-life balance that aligns with my personal and professional goals. Remote work, for me, isn't just a preference—it's a way of life. And one that I’m not ready to give up anytime soon.

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