Since the start of the pandemic I’ve been working remotely from my the leisure of my home. It’s been +2 years (wow, time flies!) now and during this time I’ve learned a lot. Here are my 4 lessons learned working remotely.
To clarify, I work in a distributed team and we’re all working remotely. My experience and lessons learned are based on this type of team setup.
This point is probably the most obvious one. I miss hanging out with my colleagues, whether it be getting a coffee, talking about the weekend or just having people around me while I work. One thing in particular I miss is being able to roll over to someone’s desk and say “Hey, can you help me with this?“. In a remote world I have to schedule a meeting, maybe share my screen and make sure we don’t talk over each other in Zoom sigh!
Lesson learned: Interacting with other social beings is more important for my well-being than I thought
I work in a team and we used to get together every Friday in the office for some good ol’ fun by playing Exploding Kittens, maybe having some snacks and beer, or just bonding over non-work related topics.
Today is different. We have a slot every Friday afternoon dedicated to having fun but it’s just not the same. Sometimes people have too much screen fatigue and just wants some time away from the computer, which makes a lot of sense, and they skip the meeting. Or sometimes you’re in the middle of something on Slack and it’s hard to focus on the having fun part.
We do have fun in the meeting but it’s not comparable with having a laugh face-to-face.
Lesson learned: Digital social activities cannot replace in real life social activities
At the start of the pandemic I quickly realised that if I was gonna make it I needed to start taking better care of my self. After not leaving my apartment for a few days and feeling terrible, I set out a goal for my self to take a brisk walk before work every morning. This evolved into a passion for exercise and now I take runs or go to the gym before work, and the difference is like night and day! I take the time I was spending on commuting and use it for something healthy instead.
A downside to working from home is that at the end of the work day it’s easy to just keep working. I sometimes forget about time and then all the sudden it’s dinner time and I’m still writing code. “Just one more test” I tell my self. This is a drawback and what works for me is sticking to my schedule I had at the office.
Lesson learned: Spend the time you save from commuting wisely, and stick to the schedule you had when working at the office
Because I work as a software engineer, writing code is part of my day-to-day job. Sometimes in my team we do what we is called pair programming, that’s when we write code as a together as a pair. One person writes the code and the other one watches, makes comments and asks questions. There are many different ways to do this and I won’t cover them all here.
Pair programming over the internet is hard! We struggle a lot with this in my team. There are tools that help us, such as Tuple, but even with the best of tools available it’s hard. I easily lose focus when I get some irrelevant notification, or want to check something on my computer.
I miss having pen and paper to quickly sketch out my thinking to my colleague, or a whiteboard where we can have lively discussions and other people can join in. From experience, this is how the best solutions are discovered.
Lessons learned: Even with the best remote pair programming tools available, nothing beats in real life pair programming
To summarise, here are the 4 lessons I’ve learned working remotely for +2 years.
- Interacting with other social beings is more important for my well-being than I thought
- Digital social activities cannot replace in real life social activities
- Spend the time you save from commuting wisely, and stick to the schedule you had when working at the office
- Even with the best remote pair programming tools available, nothing beats in real life pair programming
We’re living in an interesting time period. Remote work has been around for many years but it’s just recently most software companies are forced to adapt to this new environment. Personally, I think remote work is here to stay, whether you like it or not, and companies that do not offer remote work will lose talent.
Computer science has been around since the 1960s and we’re still trying to figure out the best software development methodologies, programming language features and ways of communicating. The remote work era has just begun and I can’t wait to see what innovations comes next that will help us move into this new way of working.
I’ll most likely be working remotely in the upcoming years, and I look forward to seeing what additional lessons I have learned reading this post in a few years from now!
Originally published at prplcode.dev