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So your company has sent you to work from home. Here's a productivity guide from a #remoteWorker

altryne profile image Alex Wolkov ・9 min read

// This is a guide I put together as a remote employee for Fundbox, during this time where a bunch of devs are getting sent to WFH for prolonged periods of time, I thought it's best to share this wide

WFH productivity guide

Intro (TL;DR - why should you read this doc)

Some of you may need to work from home from time to time. Given COVID-19
you may even need to work from home for multiple days in a row. Feel
free to refer to this doc for productivity tips and tricks for working
from home.

Can WFH be productive at all?

A lot of great companies you know have decided that remote/distributed
will work for them. Automatic (Wordpress), Invision, Netlify, Netlifx
and a bunch of other companies see remote as not only productive, but
part of their culture. It does require adjustments. Think of it as like
training muscle memory. You're used to the office environment, being
able to tap someone on the shoulder and ask your question. Being remote
might feel like this is going away, but as with all muscle memory,
practice makes perfect and according to the companies above, it can be
even really productive.

As a 100% remote employee for the past 8 months, including leading a
distributed team for 3 months, I have researched and collected some
remote work tips and tricks. They might not all be for everyone, but
hopefully some will help you to be more productive.

💼 Work/Life balance and separation 🏡

👨‍🏫 Find your work place. If you have a spare room, make that your office. Do not work from the couch!

This is one of the main things about being remote that people quickly
notice. You have to force yourself to separate work life and home life.
Otherwise it's easy to get worn down, as there always might be one more
slack to answer, one more bug to fix, and you're already home, so
there's no commute right?

🌅 Getting up in the morning, and getting ready (AKA put some pants on!)

Going through your regular work day morning regimen, get up with an
alarm clock, shower/wash your face, wear "outside" clothes, even putting
on shoes, are good ways of "preparing to go to work" even if you
then sit down at your kitchen table and work. It helps separate work
life and home life.\
Try to schedule your working day with clear star/stop hours and try to
commit to them.

👨‍👩‍👦 Family needs to know you're working 👨‍👧

Family, if they are home also, should know that you're working and
you need to set expectations as such. Having that chat with a family
member who's also home might be difficult, but in the long run it will
make it much more productive for you. Same goes with kids. If you are
able, try to set clear boundaries for work/family ahead of time. Maybe
postpone things till your next break, or put on headphones and explain
that you're busy while in headphones.

From the other hand, you can spend more time with your family during the
time you would have otherwise spend in traffic/commuting. Use that time
with them.

☕️ Take breaks & stand up.

Taking breaks is also very important, it's easy to be forced to a break
in the office (maybe too easy) but when you're connected to slack, make
sure you take breaks from time to time. Stretch your legs, go outside
for a little bit and see the sun. You might not notice this in a while,
but being in the office, you stand up more often than you do at home.
Those things will prevent potential burn out.

🤝 Be social

Don't forget that part. Join some slack channels for jokes, sharing
pictures of dogs/cats or create a meme channel. Some companies even
prompt you to have social zoom calls for 5-15 minutes that are not about
work. This is a big part that's missing when WFH and it's an important
part of being in the office so don't forget it.

👤Stay off of Social Media

Do this on your breaks, but make it harder on yourself to get sucked
into social media. Install different browsers for personal/work life and
log out from everything social on your work browser. (I suggest Brave
for personal browsing)\
Install extensions like Go F***ng

which will limit your social media time and for you to go to work.

🤧 Being sick is allowed

Even though you are working from home, don't be ashamed of taking a sick
day if you're not feeling well. This will feel weird, but do the same thing
you would do when working from the office, take a sick day, wear your
PJs and let folks know (with a slack status or actively in YTB) that
you're sick!

📝 Context!

Getting context is key for success!

Knowing what's going on is especially hard if you're working remotely.
While meeting in the kitchen over coffee, you can overhear things, when
you're remote, you will see that this type of communication is really
hard. Some of this can/should be solved on the culture level, but
personally, don't be afraid to reach out and actively admit that you
don't have context. It won't reflect badly on you when you're actively
asking because you're not sure.

Sharing context

You will need to take on the responsibility of identifying water-cooler
context and pulling it down into written form. It's a muscle worth
exercising; you'll find that it's equally effective at identifying and
bridging silos of communication (i.e. private slack channels) as it is
connecting remote employees with office culture.

🤙Emojis 🙌

Written text isn't great for conveying intent the way face-to-face
conversations are. Facial expressions, tone, cadence, and body language
contribute to how we interpret the intent behind words. The same set of
words can be interpreted as condescending in one context and well
intentioned in another.

Emojis may not seem professional but they help convey the intent behind
our words. Putting a smiley face at the end of a slack message cues the
reader into how our words should be interpreted. Consistently giving
these cues can be the difference between being seen as a brilliant jerk
and a stunning colleague.

👥 Remote meetings and async communication

There will most likely be fewer meetings (a good thing!) if you're
working mostly remote, but there will still be some. Taking notes and
sharing them with the team is a great idea in such a case.

📆 Daily stand ups and YTB (Yesterday, Today, Blockers)

We've been slacking YTB in our team chat for a while, and while that was
good, adding a 5 minute meeting to go over those posted item really
helps with questions on each item. Put that stand up meeting on the
calendar, make sure you post YTBs in the slack channel before, and this
meeting will be a brief one. You'll also get to see your teams faces
every day, which connects you to the team.

🗓Scheduled meetings

Your scheduled meetings will proceed as usual most likely, be sure to
prepare 5 minutes before, check your setup, microphone, webcam and
internet connection so that the meeting will start on time.

👋 Impromptu meetings

Sometime slacking is not going to cover it and you need to talk to the
person. Don't be shy inviting them to a quick zoom! (see below for zoom

🖖 Be responsive!

When not in meeting, try to be very responsive during your work hours.
Even saying "hey, I'll get back to you in 15" is helpful than not
answering for a few hours.

📷 Zoom Zoom - Being super productive with Zoom

⏱Be on time to meetings!

Punctuality is especially important when you don't have to "walk" to the
meeting room!

Prepare for your zoom meetings in advance by checking your
microphone/webcam and internet connection are all in order. This will
make sure the meetings start on time and are as productive as possible

🧩Use the zoom slack integration - fastest way to join/start meetings

Type /zoom into slack and it will start a meeting with the channel /
person you're chatting with

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🐭Screen sharing and taking control

Zoom allows for easy screen sharing. Make sure no sensitive info is on
the screen before you share.

Zoom also allows you to share a specific window of an app, or the whole
screen itself. Depending on your situation, choose one or another

Sometimes, especially when speaking to IT or doing a code review,
sharing control of your screen is really helpful! See how to

🔇Make sure to mute yourself if you're not talking

While zoom is pretty great, intermittent internet issues and bad
microphones might make it hard for folks to hear other folks. Mute
yourself when you're not talking please.

🌐 No zoom on VPN (if possible)

Try to get off VPN if you can before a meeting, this will speed up your
zoom connection and leave some bandwidth for other folks on VPN.

🌇 Virtual backgrounds

If you'd like to express yourself with a nice background, hide the mess
you have behind you or just generally surprise folks, Zoom allows you
set up a virtual background easily!

👖Slacking like a pro

💬 Threads

Use threads to remove clutter on public channels effectively. If a
conversion required the attention of everyone in the channel, have it in
the open. But if you are thinking "maybe I should take this private",
try to respond a thread. This will remove the noise from the channel,
but also will leave information accessible for the rest of the team.

In channels like #general and #random please use the thread feature to
reply to most message, as otherwise most of the company will receive an
unread notification about your witty comment

If the whole channel still needs to know your response, hit the little
"send to channel" checkbox in the thread, this way it will keep the
threads structure and present your message to the larger channel.

🧩 Slack Apps

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Add Google calendar integration to slack, it will change your status, so
folks will see that you're in a meeting (see


Make sure you have a picture of your face on slack, folks need to know
who they are talking to. Having a picture of your cat, or a caricature
of your face might be funny but it will make it hard for newer folks to
connect with you and know who you are.


Slack has react emojis, and it's really helpful to use them as a way to
convey "I've read this" or "I also think like this" , Slack has a full
breakdown of how to use their react emojis

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Slack is much more productive when you learn the basic shortcuts. Hit
cmd/ctrl + / in slack to see all of them.

The main one is cmd/ctrl+K which will open the search and give you a
fast way to navigate to a person DM, channel, search and everything in

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Slack has a remind me later feature, use this to your advantage. Slack
messages tend to disappear, especially if you read them and then read
something else. If there's an action item, or you need to respond
someone after your meeting, create a reminder

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Even more resources

I hope this was helpful, and if you need some more resources, checkout this collection by @notionHQ ->

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