Can you introduce yourself?
I’m Jordan Staniscia. I’m a designer building digital products & services out of San Francisco, CA. Currently, I work at Abstract, building tools to help designers be more transparent and communicate effectively.
How did you start working remotely and why?
I fell into it. When I was in college, I used to do freelance work which was my first foray into “remote work.” I didn’t have an office, I had a dorm. Even if I met with a client at the beginning of a project, I always delivered work via email or over the phone. But after I left school, I moved out to San Francisco where there seemed to be a limitless number of companies with big flashy offices to work from.
When I joined Abstract in 2018, remote work once again entered the picture. While the founders and many early employees were in San Francisco when I joined, we also had employees working remotely (maybe 80% local, 20% remote). Once Abstract began to enter a growth spurt, the company went from the majority of folks being in the same building to 70% of them being scattered across North America (and a bit of Belgium). The company, and I, quickly had to adjust. Meetings that might have had a majority in one location suddenly had none.
What is your typical day like?
Since I work remotely at home and from an office we have in San Francisco, each day is a bit different. But every day starts the same: shower, shave, and coffee.
A great morning might involve reading a novel or going to see a friend for coffee at a local cafe before I log on. Sometimes I need that creative/friendly energy to fuel my work for the day. I’m always a much happier person if I can get out of the house for something before 10 am. Currently, I’m trying to read a chapter or two of an old Michael Crichton novel called Terminal Man before I ever see a slack message.
Then, I jump in. Emails, Slack messages, Abstract comments, etc. Because we have a team spread across North America, I have a concise window when I can meet with some of the teams I work with. So typically, my mornings are spent doing that, especially if East Coast folks need to meet.
I always make time for lunch. I block that time off. I’m a bit of an over-worker, so if I don’t block it then I won’t always eat. And have you seen me? I’m skinny. I can’t be missing meals. Plus, lunch is sometimes the only time I get out of the house/office and interact with people.
Afternoons are for work. I’m not a morning person, so by now the coffee and food have kicked in and I’m running like a well-oiled machine. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
How do you stay efficient and engaged while working remotely?
Two things that tend to keep me efficient and engaged:
- I keep a concise list of what I’m working on and need delivered on Google Tasks. Most weeks, it has 3 items on it and that’s it. Yes, I jump off those and do other things if I have time or curiosity to. But keeping a tiny list keeps me from spending 20 minutes remembering what to work on.
- Chatting with coworkers. The people I get to work with are brilliant and a good conversation with someone about our product can sometimes energize me to levels that coffee can only dream of. I love building and fixing things, so the motivation is there when I engage with someone who has some ideas.
What are the tools and workflow that you’re using to get things done?
Get ready for a bit of an infomercial: Abstract is the pivotal piece of my workflow.
In a remote environment, the biggest hurdle is always communication and keeping a pulse of everything going on. Our entire organization is of course on Abstract, so it makes it super easy to keep track of every kind of conversation that’s being had around my work. I just returned from some time off for the holidays and was able to pick up what I was working on since it’s all documented in Abstract.
How do you think remote work will evolve in the future?
How you do remote work is always a deeply personal set of choices. Some of my colleagues work from a co-working space every day. Some work from home every day. Some work from an office. Some do a mixture of all of these. For someone working remote for the first time, they might realize it can be a lonely experience. For others, it’s paradise to finally not be in an open-floor-plan office.
The biggest way remote work will evolve is by understanding that different people have different needs and working styles and accommodating those differences as much as possible.
Some progress may come from better tools to help with these challenges (Have you ever cursed Zoom or Slack? I sure have). But the other half of this progress has to come from organizations having a much more expansive knowledge and better answers for when a new employee asks the question, “What’s it like working remote and how can I be the most effective?”
How to you stay in touch with your team?
Asynchronous communication (aka Slack or Email) can be a blessing and a curse. I like to be available and helpful throughout the day, but I am up-front with my team about my hours and limits. Set working hours and hold yourself to them.
Standups and endcap meetings tend to help with communication. The cadence of things like this depends on the team and what kind of work they do, but I always find it useful to start my week off with some face-to-face time. Then, find the right amount of check-ins during the week that makes sense. For one project, I meet with the team twice a week. For another, three times.
Company retreats every 6 months – These have been great for getting to know people on a personal level and build trust so you can work together more effectively.
What do you enjoy most about working remotely?
At my last job, there was always a huge question discussed amongst the design team: do product designers sit together or with their engineering teams? Who you sat near could determine if you got to weigh in on a decision or the quality of the end product.
With physical location out of the picture, I can be equally close to my department and my teams. This is an amazing power and one that helps folks who can sometimes find themselves left out of the process at brick and mortar organizations.
What are the challenges of being a remote worker?
Loneliness. Dark winter weather mixed with a lack of human interaction can be really tough. People don’t always have a huge support system outside of work. It’s almost too easy to stay indoors for an entire week if you don’t make an effort.
Speed. Timezones, the extra effort of communication, and lack of supervision can sometimes lead to things taking a lot longer to build. Putting effort into curbing bad habits early in a company’s life can be pivotal to keeping a culture that makes the trains run on-time.
Do you have any side projects? Can you speak about them?
It’s a very topical project called workremote.design. I created it to help designers find remote design jobs in such a crowded market.
Besides work, how do you like to spend your time?
I spend a lot of time reading, gaming, travelling, gardening and eating. There is a lot of eating.
Do you have any recommendations for those who want to work remotely too?
The biggest thing I’ve learned about being a successful remote worker is the need to be self-motivated. Having curiosity and not waiting for permission to every little thing is key to being effective over distances and timezones. If you have a knack for wanting to solve problems, you’ll be just fine working from anywhere on Earth.