Remote workers rely on technologies to help stay connected with teammates, communicate as richly as possible, work on the right tasks and stay motivated.

Here are some tips that I have found to be helpful:

  • Set an avatar on all company services. Having a consistent picture across services helps people find and identify you.
  • Turn your video on during video calls
  • Use a microphone or headset on calls. Your colleagues will appreciate clear audio and no echoes.
  • Try for bright video. Position yourself with light in front of you. Talking to a silhouette is awkward. Talking to a static avatar image is awkward. I ended up getting a desk lamp on a mount, up high over my monitor as a key light1.
  • Use emoticons, emojis, Slack reactions, gifs etc. This helps show personality. If this is distracting, dedicate a chat room to joking around. Slack has a great /giphy [text] search integration.
  • Be responsive on chat. I try to respond with my availability if I can’t answer something right away, and keep vacation calendars/Slack status updated (overx-communicate on this).
  • Hop on video calls and pair up on problems (with multiple cursors). Collaborating helps build camaraderie. Pairing is my preferred way to teach and learn.
  • Experiment with remote meetings that are just for fun, such as a happy hour or online game night.

Please send any other tips or suggestions on how you add personality to remote work!

Update 2019

Emily Cohen wrote up Tips for Working Remotely in a Team, which is a great post, and has inspired me to write a little more about this. Some of the things I would like to repeat from the post that I do are the impromptu call, oversharing information, and the end of the week calls. Impromptu calls can help when a PR review is complicated or the async communication nature doesn’t seem to be helping the progress.

By oversharing, typically for me this means writing down as much as possible, and copying the information into various tools, so that it can be found easily by collaborators.

For example, I might repeat details of projects and tasks in Google Docs, Jira, GitHub PRs and commit messages. Or I might send an email and also ping my manager about the email in Slack. I might summarize a conversation from Slack in email if I think it may be lost, or send an end of week summary email or Slack post.