Remember the characters from Office Space? The movie is now almost 20 years old. Yet I still hear it quoted on a regular basis. One of my co-workers even dressed up as Bill Lumbergh for Halloween this year — complete with an Initech coffee mug. I think the movie clicked with people because it reflected some universal experiences.
We have all known that boss, that IT guy, that consultant — the archetypes of modern work.
It is true that every team has its personas — even remote ones. Our team at Aha! is fully distributed, but our distinct personalities and capabilities shine through despite the distance. We get to know people deeply via video calls, group messaging, and in person when our company gets together twice a year.
We all have broad skills which allow us to thrive in a remote setting. Just like at any company, there are all kinds of working styles as well — the coffeeshop goers and the home office devotees.
Am I generalizing? A bit. But I am doing it to make a point.
There are many types of remote workers — but nobody should be just one. Because of the dynamic nature of workplace collaboration, you need to embody a bit of each archetype. The real growth comes with knowing which type to rely on in which situation.
Of course, you may lean towards some more than others. This is natural. But real success comes from pushing past what is comfortable — growing in your own complexity and skill set.
To get you thinking about what is needed, I outlined seven types of remote workers below. Which ones feel most comfortable to you? And which ones do you need to grow into more?
Thriving off bringing people together. When there is a problem, The Connector knows just who can help solve it. You often say things like, “Talk to so-and-so in engineering. They told me they were working on something similar last week!” You smile to see cross-functional teams working together.
Sparking up a conversation. You are always lighting up the group messaging tool with fun photos, interesting links, and conversation starters. You are not afraid to let personality show at work and love to bring it out in others as well.
Always listening. Deeply listening. You do so without any judgment because you really want to understand — not just what the team needs but also what the customer needs. Sure, you might not always speak up on team-wide video calls. But when you do, it is often with meaningful insights.
Ping, ping, ping… the go-to for questions? This is The Explainer. You are the encyclopedia of the remote team. You know how everything works, and even better, you are able to clearly explain it. Application issues, team processes, even where to find logins and documents — turn to The Explainer for guidance.
A passion for making things better and better. And you are really good at it. The Improver pays close attention to the team and customer to spot opportunities for improvement. You might frequently ping the team with something like, “I was thinking about the customer onboarding experience and I think we should do XYZ to drive more engagement.”
The motto: “Why wait?” Your goal is to push the team forward to get meaningful work done. So, when you get a request, you will respond right away. This is because you understand the importance of urgency and having clear milestones. Others likely turn to you for the next launch plan — you practically have it memorized.
Every remote team needs spirit. Not only do you strongly support the company and stand by its vision (you proudly wear company swag) but you also support each individual team member. You want to see everyone succeed. So, The Promoter will be the first to say “congrats!” when someone hits a big milestone such as a promotion.
Put all these traits together and you get the ultimate remote worker — someone who is ambitious, transparent, responsive, and filled with team spirit.
I mentioned earlier that you might find yourself leaning towards some archetypes more than others. But I would encourage you to stretch yourself. Work to be a little bit of each — even if it is uncomfortable at first.
Yes, it will take a lot of dedication and hard work. But it is a lot more effective than strolling around asking for TPS reports. Mmmm, yeah — that’d be great.
What else do you need to succeed as a remote worker?