When I tell people that I work remotely for a startup, most of them say:
“Wow man. That’s cool!”
Yeah. If they only knew.
There are many aspects to remote working that usually people do not see.
Like becoming completely isolated from the rest of the world.
It’s so easy to be infatuated by the idea of coveniently working from home without a boss around telling you what to do, that before you realize it you’re sinking in the evil temptations of comfort.
Within a few weeks, your life is likely to be reduced to the journey to go from the bed to the desk and from the desk to the bed.
Bed — Desk
Desk — Bed
Bed — Desk
Desk — Bed
You start living with your pajamas on 24/7.
You do not leave the house.
You don’t see any other human being.
You only communicate to the external world through Slack.
And worst of all, you stop showering.
“What’s the point anyway!?”
Sooner than later you find yourself being the living example of that nerdy guy you used to make fun of in High School.
But it’s not just that.
Even when you realize that your life is drifting apart and you start to go out again, you find yourself dealing with new social challenges.
For example, not being able to explain what you do to family members.
/Beginning of a typical unsuccessful conversation on a classic Sunday family lunch
Uncle: “Dario, what do you do for work?”
Me: “I work remotely with a startup. We do lead generation!”
Me: “We help companies acquire more leads and synchronize them with their CRM’s”
More awkward silence.
Me: “Well it’s kind of a new thing.. on the internet..”
Awkwardly changing subject.
/End of a typical unsuccessful conversation on a classic Sunday family lunch
But also feeling like a fraud.
When people see you working from nice cafes, with a slice of cake and an orange juice on the side, they do not take you too seriously. Behind their curiosity, they don’t really think that you’re working: it seems like you’re cheating or something.
Not to mention dealing with your parents.
Not only they deny completely ‘remote working’ as a thing, but they tell you about all the job offers that they’ve hear of, acting as if you were unemployed:
“If you only could find a real job..”
Let me go back to my cave-room and never get out of it ever again.
Anyway, putting irony aside for a moment, I’d like to share the most important thing that I’m learning about working remotely so far, and that is the entrepreneurial mindset.
In fact, to work online with other of people you need to develop a very different mindset compared to the one that you inherit from the years of education.
These are three examples from my experience:
Mindset Shift #1: Mistakes are welcome 👍🏻
Most of us are scared to make mistakes at work.
Since failing a test in school was perceived as a bad thing, something to avoid at all costs, whenever we are presented with a new challenge we try to prepare as much as possible before facing it and we only act when we feel confident enough (which usually takes ages).
This attitude though, cannot be applied to the startup world, where the growth pace is so fast that the only option you have is to learn a few things and face challenges as soon as possible, even if you’re not comfortable about them.
You soon realise that doing your best is usually enough for a good start. You can improve very fast along the way, by trial and error.
So instead of trying hard to avoid mistakes, you start to embrace them as a fundamental part of your growth process.
Mindset Shift #2: Organic contribution 🌲
For many people, working is just about making a living.
It doesn’t matter if you like your job or not, you do what is necessary to earn a salary at the end of the month: you go to the office, work 8 hours, do what you have been hired to do, avoid trouble as much as possible and go home.
In the startup world, as the survival of the project is not yet guaranteed by any means, there is no such thing as passively working to make a living. Everyone involved in the project has to give their best contribution to move things forward.
Each person’s input has to be measured, improved, scaled or — if it’s not leading anywhere — dismissed.
Your manager is the first person who is constantly asking you: “Do you like what you do? What problems are you facing? Can we do something to sort them out?” — to keep you both engaged and accountable at the same time.
But also, it isn’t odd to hear your manager saying:
“Hey, if you don’t like what you do, just tell me and we’ll move you somewhere else! How would you like to contribute?”
Taking the responsibility to choose how to contribute to a project can be quite uncomfortable when you have been trained for most of your life to merely follow instructions, but it’s definitely empowering and it gives you an opportunity to display and develop your best skills.
Mindset Shift #3: Navigating uncertainty 🏴☠️
Usually, when you start working for a company, there are best practises to follow, different levels of authority to address and a lot of bureaucracy to deal with.
Innovation is far from being disruptive. Things work pretty much in a linear way and there is a feeling of certainty around what you do. Which is a great thing in many aspects, especially salary-wise.
In the startup world on the other hand, you don’t really know where you are heading. Obviously there are goals to achieve, but what you are building changes and grows everyday, without any certainty of success whatsoever.
You don’t know if the work that you are putting in is gonna pay off big time one day, you don’t know if some investors will trust you with their money or if some other player will pop up in the market and make you go out of business in the blink of an eye.
But navigating uncertain waters can also be exciting.
It’s an incentive to team up with your colleagues much more intensely by helping, mentoring, and supporting each others in the collective endeavour to keep the project growing.
The feeling of cooperation and belonging is unique and it makes “work” something much more stimulating than what it is usually though of.
These and other aspects are what makes remote working very challenging but extremely rewarding.
You learn to be bolder, more flexible and responsible in your actions. But also cooperate and communicate better as a team member.
A set of skills to leverage not just in the working environment but in the everyday life.
Plus, you get the chance to work in your badass pajamas.
Pretty awesome, right? 😃