be a remote rock star

Find your working rhythm
Thursday, March 19, 2020

Considering social changes afoot in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked our team of virtual-office veterans what advice they would give to someone new to remote working on six hot topics. Choose a topic below:


Work is ultimately about getting things done. You have to ship your work—whether that’s an email sent, a meeting planned, a checklist delivered, an object built . . . whatever—in order for it to be truly finished. What does it mean to finish and ship your work in a remote environment? How do you find your working rhythm? Our experts weigh in:

Prioritize needs based on your communications with others (supervisors, teams, etc.). Do not allow distractions as much as possible. Do not try to multitask be it work, home, or family. If you do, all tasks will suffer.
Rich Shawen | CFO
Have a routine. Get up, get dressed, go about your day. You are still a productive team contributor. I’m not saying I never wear sweats in the morning, but the more I have a routine of when I am working the better I feel, even (especially?) when nobody is watching.
Ben Carmel | Learning Designer, Facilitator
Burnout and boredom can be a real challenge in this environment. I have found these 3 things help when I work from home:

  1. Designated start and end time to my day
  2. Designated working space and relaxing space (try not to mix the two)
  3. Take breaks often for fresh air and to rejuvenate your mind
Natalie Born | VP of Innovation
Take it one step at a time. If you’re under pressure, consider what you need to accomplish first. Don’t reinvent the wheel or try to get it perfect right away.If you’ve got to take meetings, determine what’s available. Oftentimes whoever has coordinated the meeting has provided a dial-in number (at minimum) or a URL for an online meeting app. Join early to work out any bugs (if you haven’t used the platform before).

Pay active attention. Note and agree on next steps and who owns what action items before ending the meeting. Once it ends, you’re all alone again.

Once your burning issues are addressed, take the time to set up your space and install any updates or required software to work with your team.

Matt Morasky | Head of Client Services
Manage expectations. Set goals (both individual and team goals), document tasks, and follow-up where necessary. Some people are capable of working autonomously, staying on track while navigating the demands for their time and attention. In contrast, others need clear priorities to set them on course, narrow their scope, and help them focus on the primary task at hand. Regardless of your working style, limit distractions, and clearly define (as best as possible) your personal vs. work boundaries. (note: Matt Adams is particularly good at setting strict boundaries!)
Annie Pomeranz | Director of Operations & Project Management
Set yourself up for success: remove technical obstacles by putting the right tools in place from the start: upgrade your computer, get that landline, bump that internet speed!Cut distractions: if you’re easily distracted, limit distracting media to specific windows of the day.

Hone your asks: when you need help, create specific bite-sized ways for people to do so.

Matt Adams | Head of Creative Services
I like to break my day up into chunks of time where I can fully commit to working productively for a specific amount of time. Knowing that I will be working for x amount of time allows me to completely focus on the task in front of me without worrying about anything else or when I will be done working. I think the limiting effect of putting a cap on how much time I spend on a task at a time helps me be more productive in my work than if I were given an indefinite amount of time to complete the same task. For example, it can be easy to work all day but drift in and out of periods of focus and concentration, making for a lot of time wasted. By breaking the day up into periods of concentrated focus I’m better able to maximize my focus and efficiency in the limited amount of time I spend working.
Joey Kenney | Director of Business Development
Tools—what does your company offer? How well versus is everyone at using them? Is there a culture of meetings? If so, have you established a cadence and meeting flow for them? Have a protocol for what to do at different types of meetings, with roles and responsibilities clearly agreed upon. Have outputs and outcomes set at the beginning to ensure the greatest productivity possible.
Parker Lee | Managing Partner
One thing you should remember: when you work at the office, there are all kinds of distractions coming at you from all sides. People want to stop and chat. The break room and a cup of coffee and a quick conversation about the weekend beckon. A full-time employee working in an office never puts in a solid, uninterrupted eight hours of work.Working from home, where there are often fewer distractions (except the couch, or your fridge, or your cat on your keyboard), it can be tempting to just crank as hard as you can for a bunch of solid hours.


Take breaks. Go for short walks. Get a glass of water. Come up for air and text someone you love.

This might sound counter to my advice about chunking, but it isn’t. Do your work in chunks, but make sure you give yourself time to breathe, too.

Jeremy Varo-Haub | Lead Strategist, Senior Designer
Being productive can be difficult if you are new to remote work and don’t have a plan. First, reduce distractions. Second, get the technical problems worked out. Third, block time in workable chunks.
Jeremy Lucas | Strategist

Squid | Home Office Destruction Expert

Squid, a rescued street cat living the high life in the Varo-Haub household, loves long naps, walks on the counter, and chasing a toy BB8 down the hallway. She'd be a heck of a strategist if she could talk. She's delighted Jeremy works from home so she can climb up his back, walk on his keyboard, and throw things off of his desk.

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