I've been working remotely since before the pandemic and love it. For those of you that work remotely, what are some tips or great things you've se...
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tl;dr: try different work setups out and see what works best for you even if you've never done it!
This is something I've been reflecting a lot on in the past weeks so I'll use the comment space as my notepad 😅
Where I'm coming from
When I started to work remotely I had to rediscover what I (dis)like about my adult life. We are socialized to believe certain things to be true that not necessarily have to hold up under scrutiny, like:
Since I no longer worked at an office, I allowed myself to go wild with testing what works for me. I asked myself questions like:
Because I take time to get used to changes, for the first year, I just observed my reactions to different settings. So, for instance, I'd work for a few weeks in a designated space, then a few weeks in my bed, then from a cafe, then from a living room, etc. Now, three years in, I have clarity on what I need to be happy, which informs the tips below, and also the companies I look for when job-searching.
1. Make sure to rest
Resting when working remotely is different from the in-person office experience.
First of all, most likely you don't have the clear "ritual" of finishing work (packing things up, commuting, changing clothes). Many people struggle with that even if they can't pinpoint the source of the discomfort. Resting becomes easier if you tell your brain: "that's it, work's done" so it's helpful to develop something along these lines. This might be changing clothes, going for a walk after work, leaving the space designated for work.
Secondly, you use your energy differently on zoom calls and in the in-person meetings. It's different for everyone so observe your body and your mind after different types of activities throughout the day. What leaves you exhausted or drained? What gives you energy? For me, zoom calls exhaust me and after a day filled with online chats, I find it extremely difficult to rest - it's like I'm running on a debt energy and even a good night's sleep won't be enough. A solution to that for me was taking ownership of my schedule and guarding the quiet times like my life depended on it (it kinda does).
Lastly, I see that my remote-working friends feel even more guilty to take time off, sick days, or mental health days because they are not commuting to work so who cares. Well, our bodies and minds care! It's extremely important that we schedule time to rest and totally disconnect from work. The world won't end if you're out for a week or two.
2. Find a way to connect to people
Working remotely can be lonely. When you work at the office, you share a little snippets of your real self with your colleagues throughout the day - the opportunities arise naturally, contrary to the online setting.
I love how StackBlitz manages that. We have minimal number of meetings but almost every day there's an opportunity to join and hang out with our team. On Mondays we talk about the weekend, on Wednesdays we play games, on Friday we express gratitude. We also host cook-together sessions and I feel like those are the times when I connected the most with my team because I saw them in their homes and saw their non-work personas. Also, we use Donut for online coffee pairings and I learned to use that time to actually learn something from my colleagues instead of just talking about the weather.
3. Find a team where you can assume good intentions
Misunderstandings on slack or on zoom can be really nasty. Of course you should improve the way you communicate, be kinder, softer, more open and understanding but even with that, you have little control over how others are so you may still end up frustrated. I paired my efforts at becoming a better communicator with finding a team where I feel safe. In such a team, I don't default to feeling like comments or disagreements are personal and that helps me react in a more constructive way. Most importantly, I don't end the day feeling frustrated because I know that all the things will straighten up sooner or later given we all care about each other.
4. Be comfortable
Comfort means something different for everyone. For me it's working in my pajamas and in my bed at home, not having meetings before 11am, but also working in a non-strict schedule. There are days when I wake up and want to go to a museum and then I start late. On Wednesdays, I play Scrabble at the local library with a group of lovely 80-year-old ladies. I take 1,5h lunch breaks so I can do analogue things like sitting in the garden, reading a book, or talking to my mom on the phone. Working remotely gives you more freedom to be comfortable and given all the stresses and obstacles that come with the distributed team, I think we should really take personal comfort seriously.
Wow, this is amazing info and so thorough! Honestly, this could be a whole post of its own. Really appreciate ya sharing! 🙌
I agree 110%, I am very new to this arena. I am a Surgical tech and have worked in the medical field for over 26 years. I now want to marry both Python/Jupyter/Anaconda/PyCharm and a few sectors of the Medical field.
I am open to any & all suggestions.
These few points are really important. We also recommend it to our employees.
damn, that is a lot of great information.
Thanks for sharing Sylwia!
From a personal standpoint what's important to me is to recreate what i have known before in non remote workplace :
From a company perspective , i think it's important to give employee the opportunities to know each other a create link.
Having starting and stopping routines.
I generally focus on the same type of work every day when I start. I try to quickly finish something important before getting into anything that requires more depth. It gives me some momentum.
To end the day, I have somewhat of a ritual to fully close my laptop, write down some key things for tomorrow, and disengage.
With these two things, the "messy middle" is more straightforward to handle, and I feel like I'm in a really solid routine.
With all that said: Remote work post-pandemic is 100% different than in pandemic. One factor is that I work part time from a nearby co-working space. This happens to fit with my lifestyle and routine (not always possible), but it's a great part of the pace. I have a somewhat different flow and energy whether home or "in the office" as it is. It's still the same "remote work", but I feel like I have a pretty solid "best of both worlds" setup these days.
Thanks for sharing Ben!
Join a gym or club. Being cooped up every day can get very lonely.
Working in the same place nudges people into collaborating, socializing, and making friends. When I went remote full time in 2016 I felt pretty lonely, I also started shaving/washing less, and eating worse.
I started going to the gym (7am crossfit) regularly in 2017 and its been a game changer. I was forced to wake on a schedule, and wash afterwards. I started to eat better, and after a while, I found I looked forward to working out with the regulars. They are a lot like my work friends used to be - we see each other roughly every day, but we dont necessarily hang afterwards.
Join a Co-working Space
For people that don't know, a co-working space is office space that you rent and where other random people rent and work close by as well.
I'm a full-time web developer and I've worked out of my co-working space cubicle most days. It's great because I:
Obviously this works best if you can afford it and the commute is short.
I feel that you are asking about working from home, not working remotely. Having been working remotely since 2015 (with 3 years break in between) I'd say the challenges with remote work are mostly organizational and there really not a lot you, as an individual contributor, can do about it.
Sure, there are some small things around communication you could implement (mostly revolving around communicating much more than you'd do working on-site), but it's not really essential.
Definitely I was referring to a lot of what you can do as an individual, but how your org works for sure as well falls into the discussion, e.g. async communication first etc.
For me the most important is to have some kind of "hello afterwork ritual". When I'm finishing work in my office I go down to my car, turn up some loud metal tunes and drive home. So when I am arriving I'm also mentally home. In the first weeks when remote work started during the pandemic I just closed my notebook and well - I'm home but my head is stucking at work. I realised I need to do something. Mostly I go for a walk outside or listen to some records of my vinyl collection, otherwise I can't finish work
Working on a laptop at starbucks sounds cool, but it's not healthy in the long run.
Use a good workstation, table, chair, monitor.
Agree on a good setup. If I do go to a coffee shop though, I have a stand. Here's my whole setup, iamdeveloper.com/uses
Use a Kanban board to keep focused and prioritize work! It helps make yourself accountable so you don't end up playing video games all day :)
Always keep your teammates up to date because you will leave, and suddenly they have something important :)
My new fav tip is if you have a hard time concentrating in meetings, get an under desk treadmill. I've been using one for almost a month and it's been really great...well, except the couple of times I almost wiped out.
Great tip, but also oof! 😅
I go to the pub!
In my case the most important tips are:
I wrote a full article about this interesting topic, because to be honest working remotely is not so easy 🙃
Best thing someone can do as an employee: minimize distractions. This was a problem in the office, with open office space, conversations happening constantly, etc. It can still be a problem at home. I now have a dedicated office room with a door that I can close. My productivity has never been higher.
Best thing you can do as a team: intentional connections. This was done very well on my previous team -- all of our daily standups were done over slack, but we had a dedicated time blocked off on Mondays (to share about our weekends, and talk about what we were excited to do this week), Wednesday afternoons (mob programming if anyone was stuck on any issue whatsoever), and Fridays (to discuss how the week went, what we learned, share weekend plans). Because the nature of these meetings invited us to share personal things as far as each person was comfortable, it built strong bonds, trust, and made us amazing at collaboration throughout the week. We not only got each other through the worst of the pandemic but were also top performers as a team. I no longer work on that team but we still keep in touch and meet monthly to catch up.
The biggest problem with remote meetings is that they are too long.
... most meetings you don't need anyway ;-)
I like to have a dedicated room for remote work which I only use to work. It is kinda my office with a proper setup to do so.
But I also like to be able to take my laptop and work from anywhere else. I always carry with me a foldable laptop stand, a wireless mouse and keyboard just in case I have enough room on a table, and of course a noise-cancelling headset.
What about you?
I know some people prefer to stay at home all day working, but I get cabin fever if I do that. I usually start the morning at home then work from a coffee shop or bar for the afternoon. It helps to be around people even if they're not your coworkers, and in a sense it's like you have new coworkers everyday :)
I also have found that usually whenever I get stuck on a problem and it's not budging, changing up my location (different coffee shop, coworking space, a park, etc) gets me unstuck in like 10 minutes. When I was physically in the office I would spin my wheels for hours sometimes on a problem, but being remote for the last few years I don't find myself experiencing that nearly as often as I used to. Like, being able to change up my location when I need to has made a massive difference.
Wrote about it here.
Great article, with a lot of good info! I work remotely for a major US bank so I don't have options like customizable work hours or a choice of what team I work with, but there is still room for personalizations that make remote work better.
For me, that really comes down to: 1) Much better office furniture (re: chair and desk monitors) than I would be working with in a corporate office space, 2) Better headphones than what they were providing at work, and 3) Break time with my cat. Some of the more open-minded employers still allow people to bring dogs to work, but for pretty obvious reasons, I have yet to hear about a technology workplace that welcomed cats (and cat boxes) on premises.
For me: have an end-of-day routine to separate work from personal time, make sure to have pauses along the day, and connect with others away from screens...