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10 things I've learned from working remotely

Lindsey Kopacz on October 13, 2018

I feel like the idea of working remotely is pretty divided. People either love it or hate it. After reading a lot of posts and experiencing it for ...
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Fabien Ninoles

I have built my company for two years now, working entirely remotely (with about 20 remote devs today, most of them in Montreal area, with an office to share if necessary, but most of them are still working from home most days of the week).

I agree with all your points and would like to add some myself, about communication.

Communication is way more important when working remotely. Some think it will be an isolating experience, but, by my own experience, I found it is very easy to keep the line open with today's tools. However, I had to relearn it quite a bit:

  1. You will be far more interrupt when working remotely instead of in an office. People will less hesitate to ask you a question or start a conversation because they will not know you were already engaged in other work or conversation. Which means:

  2. Your exchanges will be terser, especially with people that supervise many others or are central to your organization. You have to imagine them surrounded by people like in a press conference and trying to answer everyone questions. Don't try to second-guess the intent based on what's NOT written. Ask for clarification when it's unclear. And, remember, you'll be this person too, so:

  3. You really need to be more clear with your intentions. Even with emoji (or maybe even more?), intents doesn't travel that's well through chat and emails. Take the time to respond carefully, fully, and don't hesitate to request a video/audio call if necessary. Communication among people is still primarily an oral tradition, and body language is also an important part of it. And something I often forget:

  4. Don't hesitate to schedule a meeting, even for 15 minutes. Create a chat room for it, if necessary. In an office, this corresponds to take a room to talk without both disturbing other, or being disturbed. Be sure that your online status says "In a meeting" during this time. This way, your conversation will be more productive and you'll keep the noise level at a minimum for everyone.

Well, that's my tips. No as well broad as yours but I hope that could help some people to join in the remote wagon. My quality of life has greatly improved since I did, and I'm pretty sure it is a step in the right direction to reduce the impact urbanization and promotes our more rural regions.

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

I LOVE THESE Tips! I agree with all of them :). Thank you for sharing them!

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Philip Hallstrom

Regarding communication/intentions. Emoji, while not perfect, can go a long way towards helping clarify intent. Use them.

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

I use emojis all the time!! I think it helps that I am a fairly animated person, so it's in my nature :)

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Guillaume Martigny

Hi Fabien,

Does GenVid's hiring ? Finding a cool game-oriented company which is ok with full-time remote work is a gem.

Don't want to sound cocky, but for a high-end streaming solution, your website could use some love.

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F.

Remotely off-topic (no pun intended, sorry): do you think that working remotely is a good start for a junior developer? With university a part-time remote job sounds perfect to me, I can just go to the library, do some work and when I'm done I'm ready for my academic duties, but I'm finding it hard to land a remote job as most of the postings ask for Sr. Devs. Is it because a junior dev is hard to manage remotely?

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Lindsey Kopacz Author • Edited

I think a better strategy for part-time remote work while studying at the university is looking for small freelance gigs. Most freelance gigs you can work where you'd like, they are easier to find and can give you the flexibility you need. You can take on only as many projects as you'd like!

This is my personal opinion, of course! I think finding a remote part-time JOB would be difficult, but maybe it's actually out there! Has anyone seen anything like that?

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F.

I've seen many that required to clock in for 5 hours a day, but as I said they where looking for senior devs..

As for the freelance gigs well, I actually haven't found any haha
The main difference would that I'd be left on my one and I don't know if I can already tackle that kind of job

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Guney Ozsan • Edited

For a junior it may be harder to find a corporate remote job. But you can find jobs from single employers with single needs. Go find a local shop that needs a website, or one with a website that needs some fixes or improvements. Such things can be a good start.

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F.

Thanks for the tip. Unfortunately where I live there aren't many tech companies, and the few ones weren't looking for junior roles so I had to look "outside". I'll scout the web for some local shop.

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Corey Cleary

When I was working remotely I found that having a routine helped, but also "breaking" that routine sometimes and changing scenery helped a lot to.

So many times I would be working from a coffee shop for a couple hours, get completely stuck on a problem, take a walk to another coffee shop 15min away and 5 minutes later have solved the problem I was having.

Being able to change the scenery like that was, for me, the most helpful part of working remotely.

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

That's super true! I love the flexibility of it a ton. I love that I can go take the train up to my mom's house and work from there that week too. Admittedly, I get super distracted in coffee shops, but I love that I can change my scenery or work somewhere else depending on my plans for the week.

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Denise Nepraunig

Thank you Lindsey for sharing your experience. I have the luxury to be able to reach our office within 5 minutes with my bike. Total remote is not a good solution for me because I really like my colleagues and the social environment (water cooler chat). On the other hand I really enjoy uninterrupted deep work which is hardly possible at the office. Combining these two things led me to a solution where I currently work at the office before lunch and after lunch I work from home. This is a great combination of both worlds. I guess it only makes really sense if you have short commute times.

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Hassan Schroeder

That combination approach can also be practical if you can work while commuting e.g. on the train.

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

I love that! It's great to have that flexibility at your job!

I definitely love the social aspect of being in an office. I think if I lived alone, I would probably want that flexibility as well!

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Beatriz

Great stuff already! I'd like to add: video conferences are your friend!

  • Have buffers between meetings
    If you were on-site, you'd need to walk to a meeting. Keep ~5 minutes if you're in back to back meetings to remind you to walk

  • Have water cooler video slots
    I had an "open" video conference time where I posted a video conference link when I had 15-30 minutes at a given time and posted the link in random or other Slack channels. This helps to just chat with others.

  • Have art or something that can spark conversation within eyeshot of your video
    It helps break the ice and gives people a little of your "flair" similar to what you'd have at your desk

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

I love the time slot suggestion! Brilliant!

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Óscar A. Montiel

I find helpful the use of the Pomodoro technique too.

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

I really need to get better at that! I've been meaning to do it more often, but keep forgetting!

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Óscar A. Montiel

I use an app, Pomodoro Timer for Android. Simple and efficient. I really, really endorse using the technique.

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Tiago Celestino

At work I've started work remotely twice a week. It's interesting, because the company is in the other city and the company offers work remotely as benefits and a way to engage people to work there.

From São Paulo, Brazil, traffic is terrible and I prefer work at home than go there every day in the week.

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tpaktop

Thanks for sharing your perspective, Lindsey. I find many things very resonating to my own experience. Cannot overstate the importance of social aspect - going to coworking space couple of times per week helps too to make it less isolating experience.

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Michael Tharrington (he/him) • Edited

Hey Lindsey!

Just wanted to say thanks very much for sharing these tips. I just started a WFH position this week... with DEV actually! :-D I'm a Community Coordinator, and admittedly not a dev... yet.

Anyway, when I applied at the start of last month, I actually selected this post as something I'd choose to tweet out—basically meaning I think it's super valuable and well written. I can't remember what I actually wrote in my sample tweet, but I'll just say that at the time I dropped this in my reading list and I'm so glad I did.

I've been following your tips and living a healthy WFH life... I already have 3 cats (who do their best to distract me!) and I'm even regularly brushing my teeth, haha! But seriously, thanks for this, it's good to hear from somebody else who's already been there.

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

I am so glad! I'd love to hear how that goes and if you have some tips that you'd like to add too :)

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Danny de Vries

Having a morning routine is absolutely key for me. I don't understand how people roll out of bed and open their computers to start working.

This is huge for me, I need a morning routine over anything else. In the mornings I need time to set my goals for the day. Same goes for the evening, I need to end my day and have time to reflect and collect my thoughts.

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Al Chen

I work remotely at a wework in nyc, and can definitely relate to not setting up enough time to be "social" at the office. When I visit our HQ in the Bay area, the moments to socialize during lunch, at the kitchen, etc. get "built in" to your day whereas out here, I've grown accustom to being floormates with other employees from other companies on my floor.

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David Makogon • Edited

Great list. As a 100% remote worker (aside from travel), I depend on specific routines to keep me functional, and your list covers much of those routines.

Specifically: Morning routine (coffee, breakfast, workout), lunchtime dog-walk (~2 miles daily), non-work hobby stuff (photography and related forums).

The other thing I must remind myself of: Family time and disconnecting. That means... leaving the office and going upstairs. Putting the phone+laptop away during the evening when spending time with the family.

Oh, and then there are "hours." At home, I'm not boxed into a set work-day schedule, especially working with a global team. Sometimes there's a doctor appointment or kid activity and I disappear for a few hours during the day, but then I can get back to stuff in the evening. Easier said than done: Such a work schedule requires buy-in from the family, and careful (and considerate) coordination.

One last tip for other home-workers, which touches upon your item #5: Webcams. On almost all of my calls & meetings (aside from global team meetings where it would be a mess if everyone had video), I have my camera on, which encourages other teammates to do the same. This (in my opinion) has a profound effect on reducing work-from-home isolation.

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K

"Make plans to socialize outside of work at least once a week"

This always reminds me of:

I have the feeling most people who want to work from home are not very social. Maybe they don't like much people, and then they want to get out of the office, so they don't have to meet them.

In the end, they sit alone at home and wonder how they could have gone for weeks without socializing.

For me, it was somehow different.

I didn't work for a year, and at the end of it, I had a full schedule. I had the feeling to have so much to do in my private life, that I couldn't work anymore. So I started working remotely because it gave me much more time for my friends and partners.

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Shauna Gordon

It comes from a combination of the "hacker" stereotype and the fact that a great many (if not most) software developers (who are arguably the pioneers of mainstreaming remote work) tend to be introverts. Between the two, you end up with the stereotype that "working from home" equals "no socializing, ever." There also now seems to be this idea that your work is your socialization (this, to me, is all kinds of messed up).

The reality, though, is that if you're not socializing outside of work (regardless of where you work), it's ultimately your own fault. Working remotely just shines a GIANT spotlight on your negligence in that department, because it removes the "socialization" veneer of working in an office around other people.

Working remotely forces you to be mindful of a great many things that you can essentially ignore/neglect when working in an office.

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

That's such a good point. I never really thought of it that way "Highlighting what you ignore/neglect when working in an office" <- SO FREAKING TRUE.

I guess for me I never really had problems socializing outside of work. In fact, I usually need to cut that back because I am human and the amount of socializing I did was really hard for me to maintain my home routines/structure. I am really glad you pointed this out though because that is definitely where I think working remotely gets a lot of the negative associations.

Working remotely I think will get more popular with my generation (millennial) because of the flexibility of it. I have a suspicion that it's going to be even more popular when my generation has more kids (my friends with kids already are taking more work from home days)

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Guney Ozsan

I can't stress this more: "if you're not socializing outside of work (regardless of where you work), it's ultimately your own fault. Working remotely just shines a GIANT spotlight on your negligence in that department".

I believe the most healthy relationships emerge from your permanent hobbies. Work socialization can turn into changing skins every time you change your work, which is more often now than older generations.

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

Yeah, I honestly hate changing my personas. I am usually unapologetically myself during interviews (note this does not mean unapologetically cocky! hahaha), so that if I act like myself during work, nobody is confused.

But to your point, being proactive outside of work to socialize is very very important. I agree that working remotely just points it out and makes it more obvious how much you need it.

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

I don't know, most of the people I work with (a mostly remote company) are actually very social people. I guess it depends from culture to culture, but the reason I put that tip in is that regardless of people being social or not, we all need some human socialization for our health. It's good to be proactive. :)

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Desi

I am so, so glad that I'm not the only one who needs help remembering to brush their teeth. 🤦🏼‍♀️

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

Definitely not the only one!

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Andrew (he/him)

Do you have any tips for finding remote positions? How did you find yours?

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

Hey Andrew,

To be honest, I am the worst person to ask this question because I am the queen of stumbling upon opportunities instead of actively looking for them. The way I have found all my positions (remote or not) has always been from my network. I found my current role because I was working on a volunteer project and a fellow developer on the project thought I knew my sh*t and asked me if I was interested in a job where he worked. Frankly, I did NOT want to be remote at first and being remote was the major con of taking the job. I eventually fell in love with the flexibility and freedom it gave me though, it didn't take long ;).

I have seen a few posts/comments on posts with links about where there are lists of remote opportunities. I will do my best to find them and comment them here.

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F.

You can find many offers on WeWorkRemotely :)

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Kevin Lamping

Hey, I actually wrote about it here if you're interested: dev.to/klamping/how-to-find-a-remo...

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Mikhail Sidorov

Thank you. This is very similar to my personal experience.

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João Vanzuita • Edited

pretty cool article!! the tip that most work for me is "dress like you're in the office", sounds silly, but it helps me to keep professional. And if someone calls me or nock my door, "I'm ready".

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

Yes, absolutely. I dress like I would come to the office, but sometimes I still come into the office with a T-shirt and jeans hehe!

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Kyle Galbraith

Excellent article Lindsey and thank you for the tips!

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

As always, Kyle!

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Omar White

These are all really good tips, I think the one about taking breaks is even a good reminder for those of us who are in office most of the time.

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Vikas Rana

So Good. I am thinking to take a print out of it and then paste it on my desk.

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

<3 <3

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Alexei

Great tips! but I also want to know how hard is it to get a remote job?

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

I think this depends, which is a frustrating answer-mostly on experience. I think for more experienced people (I had 3 years experience before I got my first remote job), it's a bit easier to get one because you feel a bit more certain about where your skill set lies and where you bring value.

To be honest, getting a remote job wasn't all that different from getting a non-remote job. The interview process was similar except...remote haha!

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Lindsey Kopacz Author • Edited

This is a really insensitive response. Crying is a human emotion. When you are dealing with difficult times crying is very healthy ways to deal with things so long as you're not sobbing uncontrollably and unable to breathe. Dealing with difficult times doesn't make me an unstable person if I cry.

The professional I saw for years actually encouraged me to let myself cry, and surprisingly the more I let myself cry and get it out the better I was able to handle those solutions in the long term. It's a little bit telling about our macho culture seeing the broad judgment you made on me because I admitted it was ok to cry if you were having a tough time.

Some people are not cryers, and that's ok. I am though. It's always been a therapeutic release for me. When I give myself permission to cry, I usually only cry for a minute or so, then I'm able to get back to work. I don't suffer at all. I suffered all those years I WOULDN'T let myself cry.

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Manuel • Edited

Lindsey, I'm pretty sorry.
I didn't mean you are an unstable person, I just was concerned about you, suffering. If cry helps you, great, I'm with you. Really.

I have a bad background because of my wife crying because of her boss being too tough (yelling and insulting) at her (and her tolerating this.)
My words were because, I think, nobody should ever need to cry because of the job we are doing.
Sorry.
As I said, that wasn't criticism, it was a real concern about your wellness, not anything else.

I know (by my wife experience) that work issues may be harder for women, not because of them, but because some people shows more contempt (disdain, scorn; I'm not an English speaker) with women and I can't accept that; and I think nobody should ever accept that.

I'm not a "macho" guy, I just think one has the right to do her/his job without the need to be in a position were one needs to cry (or suffer). (I cry, I cry a lot, but it is when I have a problem with my kids that I don't know how to handle. And yes, I resort to professional help in that case. And they help, that's why I mention it.)

So... sorry, I'm really sorry. I'm not insensitive, perhaps I'm too much sensitive. Crying, for me, is feeling bad, and I don't want anybody feeling bad because of a job, there are much more important things in life. (Now I see crying is like a scape valve for you, fine.)

Again, I'm pretty sorry, obviously I wasn't able to express myself correctly.

Manuel

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

Thank you, Manuel! I really appreciate the heartfelt apology. It seems like it really was a misunderstanding and miscommunication.

For clarity, which I will edit in my post to make it more clear, there is a difference with using crying as a temporary release vs uncontrollable crying and/or depression from continually being sad.

The way it came across to me at first was crying is always bad, I must be crazy, etc etc.

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Shauna Gordon

When I give myself permission to cry, I usually only cry for a minute or so, then I'm able to get back to work. I don't suffer at all. I suffered all those years I WOULDN'T let myself cry.

I just wanted to say that I can empathize with this part. I'm a crier. It's the way my body releases stress. (Have you ever heard that joke that's along the lines of "I cry because murder is illegal"? It's like that.)

For years, I was ashamed of it and fought hard to suppress it at work, in particular, because there is a stigma against any kind of crying. That only made it worse, and it was only when I accepted that it was how my body responded to stress and that there was nothing to be ashamed of was I able to deal with it better (because, of course, trying to suppress the crying just added more stress).