9 CEOs share their best tips for successful remote work

Here’s what they say they’ve learned after almost a year of working remotely.

9 CEOs share their best tips for successful remote work
[Photo: Andrew Neel/Unsplash]

Remote work was on the rise before the 2020 pandemic. But now the model is here to stay. In the last year or so, many homebound knowledge workers have adjusted their typical office routine. The benefits range from money saved on commutes to the ability to hire more geographically diverse applicants.


But there are challenges, too. After 11 months of working from home, staying consistently productive and tuned in to the needs of the rest of your team may be difficult.

So we spoke with C-suite executives to get their tips for staying inspired and on task at home. Some clear trends: CEOs are in agreement about the importance of listening to employees’ needs. Many also advocate for experimenting with small adjustments to your routines to hit your most productive period in the day.

Their responses have been edited for length and clarity.


1. Ellen Pao, CEO of Project Include

“Be more flexible about timelines by expecting the unexpected. When you or others have unexpected delays, it’s easier to be empathetic and to roll with it.

Project Include [finished] conducting our survey to research how working remote since COVID-19 has impacted employees of tech companies. Our early results are showing that tech workers are much more likely than not to be experiencing anxiety and mental health issues. Most people have more going on in their families, their jobs, and sometimes their health. It’s harder to know what is going on in someone’s life from remote work spaces, and it’s more difficult to read someone’s emotions over calls and email. For example, some people, like me, are less patient and more anxious.”

2. Niren Chaudhary, CEO of Panera Bread

  • Invest in relationships: Find creative ways to still informally connect with your teams, to build and strengthen relationships.”
  • Stay mentally agile: Take time away from work to ‘sharpen the saw’ through things like meditation, physical exercise, or even some Netflix.”
  • Share praise. Remember to recognize and show appreciation of your team.”

3. Joel Flory, CEO of VSCO

“In this virtual world, maintaining some of the habits that helped me think and feel my best when I was going into the office has been really important to me. Getting up early to exercise or building in time for walks between meetings helps me to fully show up on screen for my team and be at my best creatively.”


4. Jennifer Hyman, CEO of Rent the Runway

“For me, getting dressed during the pandemic has been an act of normalcy that sparks joy at a time when we could all use more of it. When I was wearing my pajamas 24/7 back in March, it felt hard to motivate. Getting ready in the morning helps signal my body and brain that productivity is my priority.”

5. Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Promise

  • Promote flow. Schedule time as a team to meet without an agenda; it allows a space to connect around our lives and work.”
  • Show off your family. Remember that your team loves seeing your kids. Do not panic or stress out about a cameo.”
  • Customize your office. Make your space as enjoyable as possible; for me that means being surrounded by my favorite books and having scents that make me happy.”
  • Show compassion. Be kind to yourself; everyone is struggling.”

6. James Park, CEO of Fitbit

“I think we all know that being on Zoom calls all day can be challenging, so I try to build in breaks throughout the day—even just 30 minutes—where I can step away from my computer. I’ve been able to squeeze in a quick workout during those breaks, too, which helps break up the day and improve both my physical and mental health.”

7. Dan Springer, CEO of DocuSign

  • Have a disciplined schedule. Working from home makes it much harder to delineate work time from personal time. I encourage all of our employees to have a disciplined schedule for when you will work, and when you will not, and to stick to that schedule.”
  • Keep internal meetings casual. Working from home also brings new distractions and dynamics into the everyday work life. We’re now seeing the inside of people’s living spaces, meeting our coworkers’ children and pets, and in general getting a glimpse into their personal life that we might not have otherwise seen. This shift has helped me to realize that it is fine to be very casual for internal calls and meetings. Setting this expectation for your internal culture helps to relieve the pressure to maintain a strict air of professionalism in an imperfect environment.”
  • Switch up your workspace. I find working from different spots in my home as much as possible helps to avoid a feeling of monotony.”

8. Anne Chow, CEO of AT&T Business

“Schedule time for you, in the professional and personal sense. Professionally, plan think time and ‘heads down’ time during the workday. Personally, be sure to move, like changing your scenery, getting outside, or giving yourself permission to do nothing.


And make time for one-on-one voice calls, without video. There’s a lot of video fatigue, so be conscious whether all parties want to use it. With family, do take advantage of all the benefits of video, especially with those whom you haven’t seen for a while. If they don’t know how to, get them set up.”

9. Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of Coursera

  • Communicate. Schedule time for more all-hands, team stand-ups, one-on-ones, and skip-levels.”
  • Perfect your connection. Get a big screen, good lighting, and a decent camera. And plug in with a cable, not Wi-Fi.”

About the author

Diana is an assistant editor for Fast Company's Work Life section. Previously, she was an editor at Vice and an editorial assistant at Entrepreneur