This is What a Remote Office Looks Like

By Wade Foster

You are reading: Chapter 9 of 14

One of the rarely talked about benefits of working in a remote team is that you have complete control over your workspace. In a traditional environment, you're forced to work in a one-size-fits-all environment which is often sub-optimal for everyone.

At Zapier, everyone creates their own workspace and today we thought it would be fun to share. Here are the workspaces of some of the Zapier teammates.

Alison Groves, Customer Champion - Nashville, Tenn.

Alison Groves' workspace

Setup: I'm a MacBook Pro 27-inch Cinema Display gal. I like having a lot of screen space so I can reference things and respond to users at the same time.

Workspace Temperature: In winter, the heat is set to 65 degrees with a space heater underneath my desk. In the summer, the air is set to 78 degrees with a fan on in my office. My dad raised us to be very frugal with energy, so I have my Nest thermometer on a very strict schedule.

Music: I'm a huge Sigur Ros fan, so anything in the Icelandic ambient category is my jam. I'm so ADD that I can't ever really listen to lyrics and read/write at the same time, so I stick to a band that doesn't sing in English.

I blast the music, so I can at least be aware of my surroundings when I'm home alone.

Office Quirks That Might Drive Teammates Bonkers: I can kind of play drums, so I find myself playing kick drum with me feet all the time, which I know would drive people crazy. I also get up and down a lot, which drives me crazy.

Brian Cooksey, Platform Engineer - Columbia, Mo.

Brian Cooksey's workspace

Setup: Beefy laptop that can run Linux VMs. Dual monitor of some form (currently sporting a 27-inch as primary with laptop secondary). I like to play music through speakers as opposed to headphones.

Clean desk and a glass of water.

Workspace Temperature: Cooler, otherwise my hands tend to sweat

Music: I'm about 50/50 music versus silence. When I do play tunes, I cycle between Electronic and Rock, with the occasional Jazz fling.

Office Quirks That Might Drive Teammates Bonkers: I bounce my leg…a lot. I also like to sing aloud to my music, so it's for the best that we are remote.

Bryan Helmig, Backend Engineer - Sunnyvale, Calif.

Bryan Helmig's workspace

Setup: Simple is usually better, the big monitor is nice but sometimes I forgo that and just use my MBP on a kitchen table. Always got to have a good pair of headphones (noise canceling is a big plus!).

Workspace Temperature: In the winter, I usually like it warmer (say 74 degrees). In the summer, cooler is better (say 70 degrees).

Music: I get around: blues by the three Kings, any Blue Note or Capital jazz, soulfully sampled hip hop, various pop hits or albums, some new (and classic) bluegrass, various neo or pop country cuts, etc.

Christopher Peters, Data Scientist - Miami, Florida

Christopher Peters' workspace

Setup: MacBook Air, a Geek Desk stand-up desk, noise-canceling headphones, and an internet connection. Most of my work is done on Amazon EC2 instances, so truly the "cloud" is probably my most invaluable tool. I'm a huge fan of Amazon's Redshift analytics database.

Workspace Temperature: 70 degrees (F), generally. Although, I have two windows next to my workspace that sometimes I open in order to enjoy a nice and warm breeze. Sometimes I just get tired of the air conditioning.

Music: I'm a huge fan of ambient music. I find that intense music will sap my energy, so I like to keep it chill and ambient. Sometimes I get an itch for various forms of hip hop, but usually when I need to work on a task that doesn't require my full focus.

Office Quirks That Might Drive Teammates Bonkers: I'm super sensitive to sound and interruption, so I'm almost militant about blocking out outside noise and distractions.

Craig Labenz, Full Stack Engineer - Nomad.

Craig Labenz' workspace

Danny Schreiber, Marketing Lead - Omaha, Neb.

Danny Schreiber's workspace

Setup: Working in a shared office space where I'm among others doing creative work. I also prefer to have my laptop propped up on a desk with a stand, bringing my screen to eye level.

Workspace Temperature: 73 degrees

Music: Pandora, mainly Vampire Weekend Radio, The Xx Radio or Local Native Radio

Office Quirks That Might Drive Teammates Bonkers: I have a bad habit of cracking my knuckles and neck, which even annoys me sometimes.

James Carr, Systems Engineer - Columbia, Mo.

James Carr's workspace

Setup: Clear workspace, different location to get different perspective on a problem, unix-based workstation (currently OS X on MacBook Air though!)

Workspace Temperature: 72 degrees

Music: Tool, Led Zeppelin, Nine Inch Nails, Oasis, The Who, 311

Jess Byrne, Customer Champion - Kunkletown, Penn.

Jess Byrne's workspace

Setup: All I need is my MacBook Pro and something to write on

Workspace Temperature: 65-70 degrees

Music: Pandora - Childish Gambino Radio. Headphones on, though sometimes I'll play it out loud.

Office Quirks That Might Drive Teammates Bonkers: I play hockey and occasionally like to stickhandle a ball with my hockey stick.

Joe Stych, Content Marketer - Portland, Me.

Joe Stych's workspace

Justin Deal, Full Stack Engineer - Manchester, Mo.

Justin Deal's workspace

Setup: MacBook Pro with a giant monitor. But that clashes with my desire to move around a lot. So, my preferred setup would be some kind of large monitor that follows me around or maybe some contact lenses of the future so I don't need a physical display anymore, and I can use my whole visual field.

Workspace Temperature: 73 or 74 degrees are both perfect

Music: I generally prefer to work in silence, but I can work with non-distracting background noise. I don't really like boring music, and music that isn't boring distracts me too much.

Office Quirks That Might Drive Teammates Bonkers: I don't think so, but I am often driven crazy by other people's quirks. I tend not to say anything for a long time and then blurt out something nasty at some point. Which, I guess is a kind of a quirk.

Lindsay Brand, Customer Champion - Barcelona, Spain.

Lindsay Brand's workspace

Setup: MacBook Pro with 27-inch Cinema Display! Also I love a mouse, I've never been a trackpad person, if I take my laptop out, my mouse will come with me.

Workspace Temperature: I like it warm, I struggle to type with cold fingers.

Music: Anything goes with me! Sometimes some Jazz, electronic, heavy metal, late 80s/early 90s hiphop, sometimes I'll brave the Spotify top 100 pop playlist.

Office Quirks That Might Drive Teammates Bonkers: I type really really loudly. I hammer the keys with some serious purpose. It generally drives people bonkers but I like it, it feels more productive than it probably is.

Matthew Guay, Marketing - Bangkok, Thailand

Matthew Guay's workspace

Setup: 13" Retina MacBook Pro, and a 25" LG Ultrawide monitor—great for keeping a ton of stuff open side-by-side. Though half the time I work straight from the MacBook from my cozy dining room table or a makeshift standing desk hack.

Workspace Temperature: 25°C (77°F) if I'm in the office, and whatever the ambient temp is if I'm in the dining room with the windows open. So at least half of the time it's just whatever the shade temp in Bangkok is—with a fan. And I happen to like that.

Music: Jazz, soundtracks, or ambient music if writing; whatever happen to like right then otherwise. I'll listen to the same song on repeat for forever until I'm so bored of it I never want to hear it again. Rinse, repeat.

Office Quirks That Might Drive Teammates Bonkers: Drumming on the table when I'm trying to think. Also working while everyone else is sleeping. That'd have to drive them crazy.

Micah Bennett, Customer Champion - Palatine, Ill.

Micah Bennett's workspace

Setup: To really be able to get stuff done, the biggest thing for me is cutting down on distractions. So in my office there's no pictures or other visual cues cluttering my workspace if I can help it, and it's a separate room so I can make sure things are quiet.

Workspace Temperature: I'm not super picky, but I guess I'd rather lean towards a cooler area. I can always add more layers/blankets, but sweating through the day eats up willpower.

Music: I go back and forth with music, but mostly it's no music, instrumental, or music I'm very familiar with so it doesn't distract.

Office Quirks That Might Drive Teammates Bonkers: I'm a bit squirmy by nature, so if I was right next to my teammates or across a table from them all day they might get a bit irritated/distracted by my constant movement in my chair.

Mike Knoop, Product and Partner Lead - Sunnyvale, Calif.

Mike Knoop's workspace

Setup: I use a 15-inch 2012 MacBook Pro laptop as my daily driver. The machine's screen size is large enough that I can be highly efficient when not "plugged in" and it's powerful enough to display the laptop screen simultaneously alongside two 30inch external displays at my desk. I also mount one of the 30-inch external displays vertically for long-form editing and coding.

Workspace Temperature: 68 or 69 degrees with a light hoodie on. This is surprisingly hard to achieve because those 30-inch displays put out a lot of heat.

Music: I'm a fan of EDM (electronic dance music) and follow a few artists on SoundCloud. Some of these guys make hour-long tracks! The music style is consistent enough that it easily drowns out background noise and I never have to worry about changing the track.

Office Quirks That Might Drive Teammates Bonkers: I tend to be a night owl, which can be frustrating for folks who want to get ahold of me in the morning, especially those in different timezones! I aim to keep 4-6 hours of overlap with everyone on the team to mitigate this.

Rob Golding, Full Stack Engineer - Nottingham, UK.

Rob Golding's workspace

Wade Foster, CEO - Sunnyvale, Calif.

Wade Foster's workspace

Setup: I love to move around when working. I get bored when working in the same spot day after day and even hour after hour. So I'll start my day on the couch, move to the kitchen table, go next door to my office desk, work from the office kitchen table to keep things mixed up.

Workspace Temperature: I want to be comfortable in shorts and a T-shirt. For me, that's right around 75 degrees.

Music: I don't listen to music as often as I used to. I like it with peace and quiet.

Office Quirks That Might Drive Teammates Bonkers: I love to pace. Whenever I'm on a call I'll walk around the entire room. It gives me energy on the call. But it definitely can distract other people who are trying to work.

Additional Thoughts

Fascinating to me is that all of us work great together. But if forced to be in an office with one other for 250 days a year, we might not like working with each other quite as much.

Working distributed thus helps everyone optimize their environment in a way that suites them best while not distracting others on the team.

Working remotely in our own environments also helps us work fast—so in the next chapter, we'll look at how working remotely can speed you up.

Go to Chapter 10!


Written by Wade Foster

Previous Chapter

How to Run a Company Retreat for a Remote Team

Next Chapter

How to Work Faster in a Remote Team

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