Showing Up for Remote Work

Remote work is awesome. I've been doing it full time for over 5 years now, and I've learned the importance of "showing up" as a remote worker.

It's really easy to feel disconnected from people when you aren't in the same physical space. I've picked up a few habits that have helped me stay visible as a remote engineer.

Show Your Face

People are instantly humanized again when you see their faces. I've found myself assuming things about someone's personality and attitude when I've only communicated with them via text.

Who would you rather leave a comment on your pull request?


By default the various services that you use at work to collaborate with people are going to give you a lifeless avatar. Do the bare minimum and upload a picture of yourself to your profile on each one.

The same goes for Zoom meetings. Every laptop these days comes with a webcam, or you can buy a cheap USB version and clip it to the top of your monitor. Even if your hair is messy and your home office is drab looking, just turn on your webcam. Don't be this guy:

Speak Up

Simply hearing someone's voice is a powerful thing when you're not in the same physical space. It doesn't take much to just say "Good morning." at the beginning of a Zoom call or "Thanks, see ya." at the end of a call. 

When I'm attending meetings remotely, I try to speak more than I probably would if everyone were in the same room. Even if I don't have anything particularly original or earth-shattering to contribute, it doesn't hurt to say "Yeah, that makes sense" or "I agree". Your silent nods aren't going to be noticed in a Zoom call with ten people.

Show Your Work

I try to take advantage of the various activity feeds that surround my work as a software engineer.

For example:

  • Instead of coding for days on a backlog item and then making one big commit-push to the team's Git repository, break your work into smaller logical chunks that you can push daily
  • If you did some research as part of a backlog item that won't be captured as code in the repository, write up an article in the team wiki summarizing your findings and link to it from the backlog item or post a link in the team chat
  • Instead of the briefest possible comment in the morning standup like "Still working on item #4567", give a few sentences description of the specific progress you made on that item
  • Tag specific people in the comments on backlog items, pull requests, etc. when you've done some work that would be of interest to them

Acknowledge Communications

It's easy to feel like you're writing into a black hole when working remote. Let people know you're paying attention.

When someone writes a message in the team chat that helped you, throw a thumbs-up on it or tag them in a reply to say thanks. Same goes for nice or constructive comments on wiki articles you wrote or pull requests you submitted.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Remote work arrangements are a great benefit for engineers, and they require a great deal of trust between employer and employee to work. Since I'm not showing up in person, I make a conscious effort to show up in other ways.