Remote work has been the fastest growing sector in employment for some time now, for many reasons; the increased productivity, better health & happiness for employees, lower costs for employers. This was particularly true for IT professionals such as developers/programmers, who can often work easily from home as long as they have an internet connection. Then Coronavirus became a pandemic, and people all over the world were sent to work from home.
While the office can be a pretty distracting place, with people stopping by your desk to chat or ask for advice and all those pointless meetings, a lot of people worry that there are more distractions at home. While it’s true, the lure of Netflix or the demands of your kids or fur babies can pull you away from work, most people find they are still more productive at home. Here are some tips to help you achieve the same.
Your Home Office
When you go into the office to work, you have a whole routine that prepares you for the working day. Getting up, getting dressed, the commute, the first coffee of the day… You need something similar when you’re working from home. As tempting as it might be to work from the comfort of the sofa, unless there’s literally nowhere else, you’ll get more done in a dedicated work space. If you can, use a spare bedroom or little used room as a home office; set up a desk or table and keep your work stuff laid out all the time.
If you don’t have the space for that, then have an ‘office in a box’ that you pack away at night but can set up again the next day. Create a ritual that means, ‘I am going to work now’.
While you probably already have an internet connection and a laptop or desktop with a webcam and mic, if you’re going to be working from home then you should think about upgrading. Fast internet is important for video conferencing, you don’t want to be the one person who is pixellating or cutting in and out. Getting a quality webcam and headset will also ensure that you’re both seen and heard clearly.
The chances are that you already have the software tools you need to work from home. Cloud-based solutions and Software as a Service has ensured that most people can work from anywhere they can get an internet connection. Here’s a checklist of must-have tools:
- Email & calendar
- Video Conferencing software with screen sharing capabilities eg. Zoom
- A text chat solution eg. Slack
- Task Management software, eg. Trello or Basecamp etc.
You’ll also need access to your regular work tools like development platform, version control etc., whether that’s through the cloud or a VPN.
Best Remote Work Practices
The most fundamental difference to working from home is that it’s harder to stay on top of what everyone else is doing. When you share an office, you’ll pick that up from conversations you’ve overheard, or appeals for help. That’s why when you’re working remotely you need to make an effort to communicate.
If you generally work using the Agile Development Methodology, then have your daily stands up via Zoom or if that’s not possible then have a dedicated #updates chat channel so you can write a quick one line to keep everyone else appraised.Try and get some social time at the beginning and end of calls so that you can build and maintain relationships with your colleagues.
Check with your manager about their expectations for office hours. One of the beauties of working from home is increased flexibility; you’re not tied to the 9-5. If you work better in the early morning, or into the night, is that acceptable to your boss? Will they understand if you need to work different hours to accommodate child care, or your spouse or partners need to work from home too?
When it comes to your code, make sure that you use the version control system so you don’t end up with two developers working on the same piece of code, and over writing each other’s changes. Use your task management software to give updates about how you’re getting on and report any roadblocks as soon as possible.
Finally, distractions. If you’re the sort of person who can’t help but CTRL-TAB every time you get a Facebook notification, then you may need a little help. There are app like Cold Turkey which can be set up to block websites and software that aren’t work related between certain hours to help you stay on target.
The Adjustment is Worth It
Moving to working from home can come with a learning curve, but it’s undoubtedly worth it. Your health will improve without a commute, and you’ll be a happier, healthier person – which also benefits your employer! Remote workers are generally more productive, and by following these tips, you can be too.