How to Make Remote Working Work?

By Crystal Castillo, Head of Progressive Systems & Agent: The Americas

Introducing #7 in #TeamPTHR’s Unorthodox and Unplugged blog series. Brought to us by Crystal Castillo, our Head of Progressive Systems and the trailblazer of PTHR’s expansion into the Americas – demonstrating first hand not only how to nail remote working, but also how to use it as an opportunity for new ventures! Today she shares some of her remote working expertise.



2020 has been one challenging year in many aspects, the pandemic and lockdown we’re all facing brought an acceleration in a particular subject we can call the “digital transformation” for most companies around the world. The movement was there and it was growing fast, but with COVID-19, it went from a happy transition to a “must-do if you want to survive” type of thing. 


Even though technology offers the opportunity to drive positive outcomes in many different ways,  we can’t negate the fact that the sudden need for going digital came like a big scary wave to a lot of people, especially when talking about social distancing, which meant having to leave our working places to adopt a new remote working environment as fast as possible.


Now, as scary as it may be changing our way of work literally from one day to another, it is fair to say that we’re facing the biggest workplace revolution in history and it comes with a major improvement in the quality of life for workers, welcoming flexibility, balance, autonomy, and overall freedom; proving that productivity does not depend on how many hours one spends in an office.


But now that many of us had to adopt this new way of work, how can we make remote working work?


I am lucky enough to be part of a 100% remote team, my colleagues at PTHR are in 5 different locations globally, which is amazing, but also challenging when organizing time zones for meetings, making sure we have good communication within the team and obviously getting things done. 


I’ve talked to many friends who are in a similar situation, having to jump from a 9 to 5 office schedule to fully remote and as it is true we’ve faced a lot of challenges, we’re also part of the lucky ones who didn’t lose their jobs, and with that in mind, after 4 remote working months, I believe we’re on the right track to reinvent ourselves and the way we work so we can come out stronger, being able to create new jobs to take back all those people who’ve lost theirs in the way.


Here’s what I’ve learned so far when trying (and still continuing to try) to make remote work a good and productive experience:


1. There’s No Such Thing as “Over-Communicating”

I’ve learned that working out loud is essential to make remote working effective, it is
better to “over-communicate” (which I have found non-existent) than falling in the
ghosting section, now that we’re not sharing an office it is important to remember to
share our work and be present in team meetings and use our remote channels to say
what we’re working on or what we’re up to. 


Why? because we’re not interacting as we’d normally do, chatting desk to desk in the office, or just hanging out with our coworkers during working hours, sharing our thoughts, or asking for something. Now that it’s just us in front of our computer, it’s easy to be immersed in work and forgetting that our team has no idea of what we’re doing, if we finished something or if we need help with something else. 


It is important to give room for clear, fluid and frequent conversations to build trust within the team and make our work visible, which is why being open about our tasks and setting practices that work for your team such as standup calls or just sending a check-in/check-out message on whatever communication tool you’re using helps a lot to feel connected no matter what time zone you’re working on.


2. Let’s Not Go Crazy with Meetings

Having stated that there’s no such thing as over-communicating, it is important to say that when talking to friends about their new remote working environments, a lot of them agreed on what it seems to be a refusal from their managers to let go of micromanagement and as a result, they ended up with their schedules full of “meetings that should’ve been emails or chat messages” taking most of their time and giving too little room for the actual work to happen, which translates into extra working hours for people to finish their tasks. We should be open about this issue and find ways to make our communication more efficient.


So there it is, I said it, we must stop trying to control people and trust our team enough to let them do their jobs.


3. Taking Self-Management Seriously

Self Management is not a trend, it is not a cool way to do things and it is not a  leadership killer. It is taking full responsibility for your work and doing things as well as you can, working for a common goal, between many other things, which results in a team full of leaders. Having a self-managed team being responsible and accountable for all or most aspects of their work gives all team members a sense of purpose and the opportunity to feel free while high-performing to help achieve the company’s goals.


This new remote working world we’re living in turns out to be the perfect situation to go for self-management, learning new ways of working and finding a community we can learn from which can also help us transition to this new mindset. 


I could talk for hours about this, as it is a topic we live and breathe every day at PTHR, but I recommend checking out this post about Lessons on Self-Management in Remote teams by Catalina Contoloru, our Chief Operating Officer.


4. Having the Right Tools Can Make a Big Difference

Technology can make our lives way easier and in these times we need it to achieve a successful working environment. From using the best platform for video calls to having a project management tool for work allocation, we need the right tools to help us be as efficient and well communicated as we can in our everyday work.


There are many different tools available and more that are yet to enter the market. Remember that Tech does not cover for a poor working structure, a lot of companies tend to rely on new tech to solve most of the problems and end up spending a lot of time and money on something they didn’t need in the first place, but when making the team part of these decisions and listening to what their working needs are, the right tool can help immensely on a team’s performance.


I have several I can recommend giving a try and most of them have a free version, here’s a list with some of my favorite so far:


Project Management:          


Collaborative Working:          


Interactive Presentations/Meetings:


5. Vulnerability and the Art of Asking/Offering Help

We’re all learning here, learning how to work together while being separated, learning new software to fill our remote working needs, learning how to be at home but be organized enough to get work done, learning how to cope with stress while living in these very much uncertain times, and some even learning how to home school their children. It is a lot to take in and we need to embrace change without putting unnecessary pressure (not that we don’t have enough already) on ourselves and others to give room for learning, evolving, and adapting to the new normality.


I recently ran into a social media post that I think sums it pretty good:
“We need more people who teach others new things without making them feel like idiots for not knowing them”
(I have no idea who said this but it resonated)


So let’s help create a world where we can openly ask for help and offer help without feeling less for asking or superior for offering in any remote or in-office situation.


There are many ways in which we can improve our daily remote working, there’s a lot to try and a lot to learn and it’s easier if we face this challenge as a community. We would love to hear from you about anything you’d like to share with us, what has worked for you, what has not and what you’d like to see in the business world as we recently launched our latest innovation, Business Reinvention Labs, a suite of 9 different labs (and more to come) focused on reinventing our ways of work rather than recovering from this challenging times, all with one purpose: creating better business for a better world!