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Remote work is no longer just a nice-to-have opportunity—it’s a necessity, and it’s here to stay.

In the U.S., 4.7 million employees work from home at least half the week. And that was before the covid-19 pandemic. Now, millions more people have transitioned to working remotely.
 
What’s more, 95% of U.S. knowledge workers (think: UX writers, software developers, product designers, etc.) want to work remotely, and 74% would be willing to quit a job to do so.

As a knowledge worker myself (I’m a content marketer), I’ve been working remotely for almost five years, and am a huge advocate for this lifestyle change.

Read about my experience with remote work below, and then determine if remote work is right for you.

My Remote Work Journey

After graduating from college I landed a 9-5 job with an ad agency in Boston. Because I was a recent grad with over $80k in student loan debt, I lived with my parents and commuted into the city. 

Every weekday for three years I spent 1-hour getting “office-ready” and between 2-4 hours commuting to and from work. That’s 3-5 hours a day just spent preparing for my office job. 15-25 hours a week.

Because my commute was spent running to catch a train, fighting to get a seat, and too squished to pull out my laptop (not that the Wifi was reliable), it was hard to be productive during this time.

Luckily, the agency had a flexible work from home policy.

Maybe that’s why 43% of full-time American employees say they want to work remotely more often even after the economy has reopened. I know once I got a taste of remote work, it was hard to go back.

Knowing I was wasting a ton of time commuting was a hard pill to swallow. But it wasn’t the only reason I decided to pivot to a remote work lifestyle only a few years into my career.

Here are a few reasons why I transited to remote work:

  • I have an extreme light sensitivity and working inside under fluorescent lights was giving me daily migraines.
  • I enjoyed hanging out with co-workers, but I found office drama and politics to be mentally taxing.
  • I was battling depression after my Dad’s death and had a hard time staying happy and productive in my cubicle.

When I left to take my first remote job as a marketing manager with a tech startup headquartered in Finland, people warned me against it. My mom, who had a long career with The Walt Disney Company, couldn’t fathom how anything creative could get done remotely.

I quickly discovered that working for a small company, in a time zone 6 hours ahead, as their only US-based employee, with only six months of marketing experience, and as the only member of their marketing team...was a bad idea.

But hey, I got my foot in the remote door.

Since that first remote job, I’ve gained remote work experience with other small startups, SMB family businesses, and big corporations.

I’ve dabbled in everything from social media management to user experience design to marketing strategy.

I’ve worked with team members across a myriad of states, countries, and time zones.

I did all of this while traveling the world (and staying home, too.) And I’ve become a dynamic remote employee as a result. 97% of people would recommend remote work to others—me included.  

Here’s what you need to know to make the transition to remote work. We’ll cover how to determine if remote work is right for you, and then, how to land a remote job.

Determine if Remote Work is Right for You

A few facts about remote work

Here are some key words and phrases about remote work that you should know:

Work from home/ Remote work: A work arrangement in which an employee primarily works from a home office instead of a company’s central brick-and-mortar office.

Digital Nomad: An employee that travels, often internationally, while working remotely.

Fully distributed team: All team members are working remotely in different locations.

Partially distributed team: A central or core team in one location–not necessarily in an office but regularly meeting in-person–with an additional group of remote employees all around the globe.

Remote-first: A mentality companies can embody that ensures remote employees are as much a part of the team as those in the office. These organizations build processes from the ground up with the assumption that not everyone will be face-to-face or in the same location/time zone.

Retreat: Annual, semi-annual, or quarterly events in which all team members travel to the same destination (usually for 1-7 days) to co-work, build culture, and strengthen working relationships.

Remote hiring: Hiring people exclusively through virtual communication, without an in-person interview.

Aspects of a Remote Job Listing to Consider

Geographic Requirements

When looking for a remote job, be mindful of the geographic requirements.

Even though a company is remote, they might still only want candidates who are currently living in a specific location. Remote job boards typically do a good job of highlighting these requirements.

This requirement might be as broad as North America, or, as specific as Oklahoma City. You’ll want to click through the listing and read it thoroughly before deciding if you meet the geographic requirements.

Remote Work Experience

Some remote jobs may desire candidates that have already worked remotely before.

If you’ve worked remotely is some capacity, but not necessarily full-time, don’t let this deter you from applying for a position. But if you have zero experience working remotely, try starting with a remote freelance or contract position to buffer your resume before applying.

Team Retreats

Fully distributed teams often have regular team retreats, or all-company meetups. These can be as often as quarterly, or as infrequently as once a year.

You’ll want to consider if this time away from home is okay with you, as you’ll be expected to attend. For many young people, these retreats are a great way to build friendships with your co-workers, and to see places you’ve never been before. If you’re a parent, these retreats could be more difficult to make work logistically. 

Market Salary

Companies offering remote work will usually match or exceed market salary in the location you live. But this gets a little hairy when you’re a digital nomad with no clear home address. 

During the times I chose to live on the road, I kept my mom’s address as my home address, but made sure to explain my living arrangements to our HR representative. Luckily, my salary stayed the same whether I was on the road or living at home.

As always with salaries, know your worth.

Pros and Cons of Remote Work

PROS

Flexible location
With a truly remote position, the most obvious pro is that you can work from anywhere.

May it be your home office, in your van, a co-working space, a coffee shop, or a beach (I’m determined to invent the perfect laptop sun shade.) Even while some roles might require you to be in a specific time zone or city, just being able to work from home is a huge win for many.

Flexible schedule
Companies are dissolving the idea of a typical 9-5 job because they know it doesn’t work. You can’t force creativity. If you’re most productive during the early morning hours, and then prefer to take time for exercise mid-morning, you can do that. 

Outside of meetings, and any design sprint constraints, you’ll decide when and how your work gets done.

No commute
There is lots of research showing that commuting is stressful, and often, the worst part of someone’s day.

The Ford European Commuter Survey of 5,503 commuters in Barcelona, Berlin, London, Madrid, Paris, and Rome found that for commuters, “the journey to work causes more stress than their actual jobs (or even the dentist).”

Cost savings
There are many hidden costs associated with working at a brick and mortar company, both for the companies, and their employees. Working remotely can actually save both parties money.

Here are the areas I’ve found myself saving money:

  • Commuting: Parking fees, train tickets, subway passes, gas, etc.
  • Food: Since I work from home I cook all of my meals, whereas when I worked in the city I was eating out for lunch most days (looking for an excuse to get out of the office.)
  • Wardrobe: Nice business clothes are expensive. It’s a lot easier to look professional just on the top half of your body (it’s a lot cheaper, too.)
  • Taxes: I’m able to write off square footage in my apartment, office supplies, tech equipment, and more as a remote worker.

More time with loved ones
While I don’t have kids yet, I know I’ll continue to work remotely when I do start a family in order to spend more time with them. Life is all about work-life balance, and remote work helps to level the scales when done right.

When I started working remotely, my partner and I lived in different states, and I was traveling a lot to visit friends all over the country. Modern air travel and a flexible work schedule allowed me to spend those valuable 15-25 hours a week I was previously spending commuting on spending time with my loved ones instead.

CONS

Feelings of loneliness 
I want to address this as the first con of remote work, because it’s something everyone should be proactive about. People warned me I was going to get lonely when I began working remotely, and I didn’t believe them, because I thoroughly enjoy being alone.

It didn’t happen right away, and it’s easier when I’m traveling or around people, but feelings of loneliness eventually crept in. I didn’t realize how much the community I had built at work fed my desire for social interaction.

You can combat feelings of loneliness as a remote worker by connecting with others working remotely nearby, checking out peer-to-peer virtual workshops, having video coffee break chats, and coworking.

Read 10 Tips For Staying Happy And Productive As A Digital Nomad

Less management/structure
If you need to be micromanaged, or the role requires a steep learning curve, remote work can be a tough option.

Remote work often means less supervision, less hand holding, and generally less structure. To succeed as a remote employee, you must develop excellent time management skills in order to succeed. 

More distractions
While the argument could be made that traditional work environments (with the stinky microwave fish and water cooler chats) are distracting, being at home will have its nuances too.

Whether in the form of children, delivery drivers, phone calls, the tv, or the fridge, home can be a distracting place. Setting boundaries for yourself, and those around you, is important.

 

Need for more communication
Working remotely requires you have excellent communication skills, in fact, you’ll probably see this on every remote job listing you find.

In the world of remote work, you have fewer chances to communicate effectively, so you need to make the most of the fewer conversations you have. Written communication also accounts for a good majority of remote communication, so you’ll want to brush up on your writing and grammar skills.

How to Land a Remote Job

Step #1: Figure out what your ideal remote job looks like

Carefully consider these aspects of your future remote role:

  • Time zone
  • Geography
  • Flexibility
  • Team structure
  • Retreats/travel

Step #2: Prepare yourself and your personal brand

You’ll want to beef up your resume, portfolio, and cover letter for remote work specifically. Highlight any remote work experience you have, talk about how you collaborated and created virtually, and focus on the skills required of remote work (like excellent communication skills.)

Something that has helped me to be more prepared for job interviews (both for in-person and remote jobs) is to create a repository of responses to interview questions. Read up on generic mock interview questions, and product designer interview questions specifically. Write out your responses to these questions, and then practice saying them out loud. 

Step #3: Begin the hunt

Start by making a list of your dream companies, companies that are 100% remote, partially remote, in your field, in a field you’re interested in, etc.

Follow these companies on social media, sign up for their newsletter, visit their website, and interact with them. Get on their radar, and get them on yours. By doing so, you’ll be more likely to see job opportunities right when they’re posted, and you’ll get to know more about them (good fodder for your interview).

Here are the best sites for finding remote jobs:

Here’s a starting list of companies that are fully remote and are often hiring:

  • InVision
  • Buffer
  • Zapier
  • Hotjar
  • Automattic
  • Toptal
  • Atlassian
  • GitLab
  • Toggl
  • GitHub
  • Dribbble
  • Airtable
  • Aha!

Step #4: Nail the interviews

Getting a remote job will almost always entail having a remote job interview. 

If your interview is via a video call, make sure you’ve got a solid internet connection, and a quiet, distraction-free location to take it from. Turn off any apps on your computer and silence notifications on your phone. 

Make sure the room you’re in is clean, or at least, the part of the room that’s on video. Or, showcase your creativity and use a Zoom virtual background

If you rehearse your responses to interview questions, study up on the company, and present yourself with poise on camera, you’ll be sure to nail the interview.

Also remember to be prepared with questions for your interviewers. This will show you’re seriously considering the opportunities, and have done your research. 

Here are some good questions to ask interviewers for a remote product design job:

  • What design tools do you use?
  • What’s your process like for a project?
  • What will my contribution to the design team be?
  • Who will I be reporting to?
  • How does your team design for good/accessibility?
  • Where do you see the product development team going in the next 1/3/5 years?
  • What opportunities are there for growth in this role?

Step #5: Follow up with a personalized Thank You

Thank you emails are expected, and you should always send them after a job interview. Make note of your interviewers’ names and email addresses (you may need to ask the HR rep for email addresses if it isn’t clear). Then, prompt follow-up with a thank you email after the interview.

You’ll stand out from the crowd if you get specific with your thank you email. Make notes throughout the interview of little nuances from your conversation and reference them in the email. Briefly reiterate what makes you a great fit for the position, and why you’re excited about working with their company. This personalization will go a long way.

Remote Companies Q&A on Hiring Remotely

Remote.co recently conducted a Q&A across 140+ leading remote companies, and the results are pretty telling. Read some of their responses below, and the complete Q&A here.

What traits do you look for in candidates for a remote job?

“Autonomy and self-discipline are absolute requirements for remote workers. We look also for people who are proactive in their approach to their lives and their work.” - Dell

“In a remote setting it’s vital to hire proactive, curious people who won’t wait to be told how to do things. That’s why one of the most important things we look for in interviews are ‘Jacks & Jills of all trades’–people who take ownership over learning new skills.” - Doist

“Written communication is a big deal in a remote company–after all, this is how we communicate with each other for the majority of the work we do.” - Edgar

“Some of the questions in the culture interview are pretty goofy, so one big red flag we have seen before is just a general bad attitude. When candidates act too cool to answer the questions or like the culture portion isn’t worth their time, it’s generally a sign they won’t really mesh with our team. We know that scissors probably aren’t that essential to pizza delivery, but when we ask candidates how they would use scissors if they worked for a pizza shop, we hope they approach their answer with a sense of humor." - Formstack

“Interests outside work. If someone is going to be working from home, then it’s really important that they have hobbies, friendships, and things to do outside of work. Without something else to help them switch off and decompress, it’s much easier to end up burning out.” - GitHub, Inc.

“When we hire, we look for people who see remote work as an upgrade—an improvement to their lives. They’re driven individuals who have the self-awareness to know how they work best. Some people function better in a physical office environment, or might be at the outset of their careers and want that sort of structure. Our team sees remote work as a big benefit, even if it has its own set of challenges.” - InVisionApp

How do you conduct interviews for remote jobs?

“Our entire talent acquisition process is handled remotely. Interviews are all conducted via telephone or video, and then employees are prepared for their role in a virtual learning environment that blends self-directed learning with group discussions in a video classroom.” - American Express

“First we create a very long and detailed form that’s meant to replace the first hour-long interview. It’s intense and should take about 30 minutes to complete. This alone filters people quite a bit. We don’t ask for age, sex, a photo, LinkedIn URL or even a CV at this stage: this ensures we focus on people’s answers instead.” - Balsamiq

“We look for specific experience and culture indicators (we focus strongly on language and are able to spot some signs of alignment with our values based on the candidates’ notes to us) to help us narrow in on a small pool we believe are a good fit to begin the interview process.” - Buffer

“It’s important that our interviewing process isn’t just a one-way street too. Our aim is to do what we can to give candidates the chance to see what it’s like to be at GitHub. It’s as much about helping them understand how we do things as it is about making sure we feel they’re a good fit. We only want to hire people who genuinely want to work at GitHub.” - GitHub

Follow these steps and you’ll land a remote product design job in no time. 

Looking to kickstart your career in product design? Explore our UX Academy, which offers a 100% remote part and full-time track.

author avatar

Alexa Harrison

Designlab

Content Writer

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