Interview with Jono Alderson

Jono Alderson - Remote WorkJono Alderson is Special Ops at Yoast, where he works remotely. You can learn more about Jono through his Website, twitter, and LinkedIn.

1. How did you started working remotely? 

I was lucky enough to be offered a job where I spent a few days each week in London, and a few working from home in York. Without really planning it, that pattern unlocked a really effective way of working for me.

It allowed me to shift into a ‘high gear mode’ for intense collaborative work when I was on site, but then to wind down and spend a few days each week processing, writing and managing projects on my own times and terms. That combination was a perfect balance for me. I’ve always pushed for a blend of ‘home and away’ in everything I’ve done since.

I also speak at a lot of conferences, which means I spend a fair bit of time in airports, in transit, or in hotels / conference centres. That still needs to be productive time, so I made sure that I had a laptop and phone setup which makes remote working as easy as possible – as long as I have a WiFi connection and a power outlet, I can just crack on.

2. What do you think are the main advantages of remote work?

I don’t lose a ton of time each day commuting, that’s for sure. I used to have an hour’s commute to the next town on the train, and it was just dead time. Now, I can also manage my own scheduling to a degree, and I’ve found a really healthy work/life balance. It’s much easier to cope with an ‘always on’ world if you can be a bit more flexible with timings.

Because I work from home a lot, that also enables me to move fluidly between work/life stuff – I can tick off some household chores over lunch, start or finish a bit earlier or later, and be in an environment which is tailored to my ideal working conditions.

3. Do you think there are disadvantages or that you’re missing something by working remotely?

Some kinds of thinking, and working, really require in-person collaboration. When I think about the work I’m most proud of, a lot of those projects can be traced back to ‘water cooler’ conversations – moments which would likely not have happened if I hadn’t spent time in the office.

And when there are big unknowns in projects, being able to draw on people around you for input, collaboration and insight is really useful. It’s hard to replicate the free-form flow of ideas which you can generate from putting a bunch of smart people gathered around a whiteboard.

4. From what cities or countries have you worked since you have become remote? 

Too many to mention – I’ve worked (at least a little bit) in every city and country where I’ve spoken at a conference, and there are been more than a few of those in the last few years!

That said, I often only really see the airport and the inside of the hotel or conference venue. There’ll all pretty similar. Home is still my favourite spot!

5. From what type of place do you prefer to work? 

I really like working in airports, oddly! Knowing that I have a flight in a couple of hours lets me pick and focus on specific tasks or projects, and to plough through odds-and-ends of admin which might otherwise mount up. Flights are really good for zooming down to inbox zero, too!

6. What places would you like to travel to while working remotely?

I’m increasingly trying to see more of the places I’m in – to get away from the conference centres and client offices, and to do a little bit of tourism. Nowhere particular in mind, though!

7. What would you say to the companies that don’t believe in hiring employees who work remotely?

There are definitely advantages to putting smart people in a room together, and enabling them to collaborate. But if you’re doing anything which requires smart people, you need to enable them to work in the most productive, effective way that they can. It’s rare and unlikely that that’s going to be in a regimented, 9-5 routine, sat at a cold, anonymous desk.

There’s definitely a balance to be had, but, a “no remote work” policy doesn’t make sense in a digital age where smart, happy, engaged employees are your only real asset.

8. What tools do you use to work remotely?

I literally live my life from Trello. Other tools come and go, but every task and priority, every project – and every piece of housework, to every commitment (like completing this interview) – go into lists. Everything gets ordered, prioritised, and tagged. I flag tasks which can be completely quickly, or remotely; or those which are too complex to do on the fly. I connect emails to tasks, and vice-versa. It’s my single view of my whole world.

That, plus Gmail and Google Drive, gives me pretty much everything I need.

9. How do you manage your business and taxes as a remote working professional?

I have a LTD company, which I’m a director and employee of. That lets me separate ‘work me’ from ‘personal me’ a bit. I run (photos of) receipts through Expensify, and tag+categorise those by client/conference/scenario. I make a bit of time at the end of each month to go through the accounting and join up all of the dots.

10. What advice would you give to people looking to work remotely and companies making the remote switch?

The point isn’t to not-work-in-an-office, or that remoting is inherently better than working on site. The point is that different people work differently and that your ‘best self’ might not be well-supported in a conventional office environment.

You really need to spend some time discovering what kind of work patterns and environments makes you the most productive / happiest / smartest etc. Spend some time doing some small freelance or project work, and be objective about the challenges, benefits, costs and impact. Once you understand that, you can make a better pitch, better decisions, etc.

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