Remote office – 5 tips to making the love-hate relationship work

Remote work has been part of Paper Planes’s culture and way of working from day one. Today some of our team members work remotely as a long-term solution. Web Developer Olli Pohjolainen works from another city in Finland, Tampere, and Content Designer Sanna Tolmunen from Minnesota. Read more about their experiences and get tips to making remote office a success!

Coding from the city of Tampere

Web Developer Olli Pohjolainen:

“I work remotely from Tampere. On Mondays, I travel to the Paper Planes office in Helsinki, which is about a two-hour ride from Tampere, to attend the weekly Monday meeting where we go over what everyone’s workweek looks like. If I have more than one meeting on the same day, I often come to the office. It’s easier and more effective to communicate face-to-face compared to online meetings, where it’s easier to adopt a role of listener.

When it’s not necessary to meet in person, Slack or Google Hangouts are easy ways to keep in touch with your colleagues. Instant messaging, however, does not capture all the nuances of a face-to-face conversation. Both the sender and the receiver need to be aware of this to avoid misunderstandings. Another aspect missing at the remote office are the coffee break conversations that bring joy and rhythm into a workday.

“Working remotely, I can concentrate for long periods at a time without interruptions.”

Overall, working from home works very well for me. Coding often requires a deep level of concentration, which can be hard to achieve at the office. Working remotely, I can concentrate for long periods at a time without interruptions.”

Content design by Lake Superior

Content Designer Sanna Tolmunen:

“I have worked remotely from Duluth, Minnesota since fall 2018. During this time, I’ve gotten a pretty good idea of the pros and cons of working in a different time zone –pros and cons which often go hand in hand.

The time difference between Finland and Minnesota is eight hours. When I’m starting my workday in the morning, the rest of the team is finishing work in Finland. This arrangement gives us a couple of hours of shared working time. The shared hours allow efficient briefings and status updates. After that I have no interruptions for the rest of the day, and I can concentrate on design work and writing.

Along with the peace and quiet, the benefit of working in a different time zone is that I can continue helping colleagues and clients after the Finnish office hours. When the workday is nearing its end in Finland, I still have working hours left here in the USA. I also enjoy using both English and Finnish and making the most out of my knowledge of both markets.

“I enjoy using both English and Finnish and making the most out of my knowledge of both markets.”

The worst part of remote work is loneliness. When there are no shared coffee breaks, a lot of natural work interaction goes missing. I have, however, been impressed with how well a team can work using Slack and other remote tools. Naturally, the tools alone do not get the credit – I have a great team around me, and they see my transition to the other side of the world as a possibility above all else. Smooth and open communication is the key, and even quick status updates and chats are vital for smooth collaboration.

To sum it up, remote work is both wonderful and terrible at the same time. I have had the possibility to travel and work in places ranging from the warmth of New Orleans to the icy weather of Michigan. What ultimately makes remote work worth it is mutual trust. Paper Planes has always trusted in me and my work contribution, no matter the location.”

Olli and Sanna’s top 5 tips to remote work:

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate: Slack, Skype, Trello, whichever your choice is, use it too much rather than too little. Remember that nuances often get lost in writing – at least if you are not using an emoji to clarify your message.
  2. Shared rules: When are you online, how do you inform others you are offline, how do you keep everyone aware of a project status? Rules that have been agreed on together prevent misunderstandings and keep projects running smoothly.
  3. Ergonomics: Lying on the couch or a poorly adjusted desk chair might cause no harm on random remote days, but when you regularly work remotely, you should invest in ergonomics.
  4. Dedicated workspace: A comfortable space that is specifically dedicated to work gets you the best results. The right space gets you into the right mindset and helps you concentrate.
  5. Seize the opportunity: Remote office has lonely and hard aspects to it, which is all the more reason to enjoy the possibilities it brings. Get inspired by working with a lake view or by trying out your new local café.