Jonathan Schwartz liked his job in marketing technology, but he was tired of the commute and tired of managing people. His solution was to continue the work as a consultant working remotely. At first, he ran his company, JAS Technology, from a home office but eventually moved into a nearby co-working space.
Why do you like remote work?
My productivity is much more tangible. There is so much time wasted in an office space. People are more likely to meet, which is great from a social perspective, but it’s not helpful for productivity.
When it comes down to it, I’m in control of my time and my work. I’m never stuck in a meeting staring at the wall just because I’m part of a team that has to be there.
What was the biggest adjustment to working from home?
It’s a strange feeling to know that nobody knows what you are doing. You have to fill your own time.
What are the challenges?
There is no defined start or stop time. You are incentivized to never stop working. The faster I move, the more successful I can be, so that creates a situation where you are rushing all the time. Every second of the day counts. This is especially true if you have a very busy personal life.
Another challenge for me was focus. I made a rule for myself from the beginning about not putting on the television. Snacking was also an issue. I found myself getting up and going to stare at the cabinet for a while.
How do you structure the day to make it work?
Every day before I start working, or better yet at the end of the prior workday, I write in a notebook exactly what I’ll be doing on that day. This serves as a simple guide for a single day that takes into account all the other lists and project details that might exist in various places. It’s a great way to not worry about missing something once the day starts and allows for a nice win at the end of the day to see the lists all crossed off even if there is a large amount of work remaining on outstanding projects.
Why did you decide to use a co-working space?
I worked in my basement for several years and it was time to rejoin the human race so to speak.
I found WorkBar, which is open and airy and has a great atmosphere. There is a nice, modern design, and they have everything needed to get through the workday from coffee to copy machines. I also like that it is decluttered because I like to work in a clean space.
I tend not to be very social because I need to get my work done, but still, I have developed some relationships.
How do you manage projects from a distance?
You have to be aware of keeping people on track. People can lose focus and then things can take longer. You also need to manage expectations. You need to make sure everyone understands the state of the project, what the next steps are and who should be doing what by when.
How do you collaborate with people when the project requires a team?
The most important thing is to get on the same page as early in the project as possible. This could mean meeting in person or having a video conferencing call. We go through item by item, task by task to make sure I understand everything that is being asked of me. The worst thing is when you’ve gone off and done a lot of work only to find out it’s not what they wanted.
Why do you prefer video over a phone call?
I have found video to be more effective because it’s closer to meeting live. You can see facial expressions. You can see if they’re paying attention. You can see those certain mannerisms that indicate if they’re bored or happy. This is all important to pick up on that vibe that will indicate how the project will go.
What is your advice for remote workers?
The biggest thing is to develop relationships. I’m blunt and use humor whenever possible. Be professional in a way that’s personal because you need to develop a good rapport.