SilviaTerra’s Guide to Working Remotely
Henry Rodman
Henry Rodman
19 March, 2020 min read

SilviaTerra has been a fully remote company for the last 10 years. We would like to share some strategies that we use to make it work. Remember that, like any new skill, working remotely takes practice and it will require some adjustments to your routine – be patient, it will get easier!

(Picture of SilviaTerra “CubeChat” during a quarantine virtual “All-Hands” meeting)

Remote teamwork

  • Use a tool like Asana for communication and project management (no internal emails).
  • Use instant messenger like Google Hangouts/Chat for quick questions and office chatter.
  • Use a work calendar that is shared with relevant people that includes meetings, work hours, time off, interruptions, etc.
  • Schedule regular (daily) video-calls with closest colleagues, weekly calls with everyone
  • Remember that typed internet communication is inherently less empathetic than face-to-face communication. Be careful how you express yourself, and take a charitable read on things people say to you.
  • Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to confirm things that aren’t clear.
  • Have a “social” channel for banter and random things that aren’t work related.
  • Managers, ensure that your team has the equipment they need to do their work.

Remote lifestyle

  • Make some simple rituals around the beginning and end of your work day.
  • Once you start working, work. Once you are done with your work day, be done with your work day. It’s really easy for those boundaries to slide.
  • Make sure you get some exercise (preferably outdoors) during the work day! It is easy to spend the entire day indoors staring at your screen if you don’t take some time.
    • walk/run/bike (at appropriate social distance, of course!)
  • If you are stuck home with your kids/family – take a few minutes to connect with them. They are now your “office mates” so spend a little time on in-person connection.
  • Take a longer break from your computer during the day. Not to surf the web, but actually step away from the computer.
  • Get up (or step away from your desk) and walk around the room once every hour.
  • Clean up your workspace at the beginning or end of your day.

Personal rules from our team

  • Henry: wear real clothes – sweatpants do not count! I start my day with a walk around my neighborhood which helps me feel like I am “arriving at work” rather than letting breakfast blend into the workday.
  • Nan: be mindful of the 20-20-20 rule for digital eye strain (“Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.”) When you’re in a small home office space, there’s often nothing 20 feet away – open your door or stare out the window!
  • Nathan: I have two –
    • quit social media (if you can). A lot of people can’t for work reasons, but if you can, try it! Once you get used to it, I don’t think you’ll regret it. I spend enough time in front of the computer as it is. Unless you are extraordinarily disciplined, social media can easily become distracting from work, and when I’m not working I would rather be nurturing relationships through more personal communication (one-on-one time, phone calls, even text messages). Having all your relationships (professional and personal) be internet-based is exhausting.
    • Drink lots of water during the day and eat a real lunch. Even if you have to eat it in front of your computer in order to maximize time off and exercise, it will help you feel more human.
  • Sarah: If you can have something playing while you work DO IT. Find music or background noise that brings you joy to have on while you work. I often “re-read” my favorite audiobooks in the background (only stories I know well enough that I don’t have to really listen to them).
  • Mike: Some product recs
  • Max: Dual-monitors are great if you can get them! Also read “Getting Things Done” for how to break big, scary tasks into manageable “next actions” – it’s easy to lose motivation and procrastinate if you’re all alone at home with a big scary task!
  • Charlie: Have a dedicated work space. Don’t work from bed!
  • Zack: One task at a time. Celebrate wins and share concerns as a team – find a weekly time to have everyone briefly connect on a video call.

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about the author

Henry Rodman

Henry Rodman

Data Engineer
Henry is a Data Engineer on the Basemap team at NCX. He conducts the symphony of remote sensing data and forest inventory measurements to produce Basemap which in turn powers the transactions on the Natural Capital Exchange. Henry earned a BS in forest resources at the University of Minnesota and a MS in sustainable forest management at Oregon State University. He lives in Duluth, MN where he enjoys spending time outdoors with his family during all seasons.