Remote work is becoming more popular than ever, especially for programmers. In fact, in 2015 about 8% of all programmers worked from home in the U.S.
Remote work has a lot of perks: no commute, more flexibility, and fewer distractions like meetings and chatty co-workers, which means more time to code. But being an effective remote worker means learning how to deal with the pitfalls, such as increased social isolation and a blurrier line between your work and home life. Here are some ways to ensure that you enjoy the benefits of remote work while staying involved with your co-workers, maintaining work-life balance, and having an active life outside of your home.
There’s no shortage of online communication tools these days. If you do work from home, it’s important to make sure you’re using these to communicate with your co-workers and managers effectively.
A video chat client such as Skype or Google Hangouts is essential for getting face-to-face time with your co-workers. With a good set of headphones and a microphone, you can meet and chat with your co-workers right from your home office. It’s also a great way to still be able to pair program and have meetings without having to go into an office. Video chat combined with a terminal sharing client like tmate lets you work side-by-side as if you were in the office together. By also sharing your code through a version control system such as Git, you can make sure you’re getting the latest updates from your co-worker so you stay synced up. So don’t be afraid to ask your teammates to hop on a video call when you need to — getting face-to-face time is important, even if it’s online.
The rise of chat clients such as Slack and HipChat are also utilized throughout companies, even ones without remote employees. Chat clients are indispensable for staying in touch with your team. Say hello when you’ve signed on for the day, let teammates know when you’re going to lunch, and tell them when you’re done with work. You can also chat about life events and encourage your teammates to do so as well. Talk about a hike you’re going to take next weekend or a new movie you saw that you liked. Be sure to ask your co-workers about their weekends or vacation plans. While you don’t want to send too many messages, don’t be afraid to have casual conversations with them online. It helps bring the team closer together and makes them feel more connected, even if you don’t see each other in person every day.
A culture of transparency around the work being done is important, so be sure to ask and answer questions often about the project. Keeping track of projects also helps keep progress clear between teammates. Try to ground your communication in relevant project metrics. For example, Celerative integrates with your project management tool, such as Jira, and displays a dashboard with metrics like your sprint burndown for deviation tracking, your timesheet, and your team velocity. Knowing where your team is on a project is important for reducing uncertainty surrounding the work and increasing productivity.
Work in New Places
Working from home every single day can get tiring — but remote work doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be at home. Be sure to reinvigorate yourself by getting a change of scenery every now and then. Sites like WorkFrom can help you find places around your neighborhood where you can go do work. Try heading to your favorite coffee shop for a few hours to clear your head and get re-energized.
You don’t even have to stay in your neighborhood. Remote work lets you travel while still getting work done — so don’t be afraid to get out of town for a change of pace. If you’re sick of gray winter skies, try heading somewhere sunnier to recharge. Staying stuck at home can be a quick recipe for burnout, so be sure to switch it up and try new places to find inspiration.
Taking a break is important whether you work in an office or not, but working from home allows you more flexibility to take the breaks you really need. Instead of the standard break room coffee, try taking a walk around the block or do some light stretching. Walk to your favorite lunch place, or go on a short drive. Breaks are beneficial for your health and productivity, so don’t be afraid to take them as needed. Just remember you’re still on the clock, so try to manage your time well and communicate when you’ll be away from your desk.
Social isolation can be a big setback when it comes to remote work — but it doesn’t have to be. Finding other remote workers can help you interact with others without going to the office. If you’re a freelancer, Celerative’s success managers can help you meet other freelancers in your area so you can start building a local support system.
Networking is important, both for personal and professional development. Find conferences or networking events in your local community so you can get to know other professionals in your area. Don’t be afraid to schedule coffee or lunch with people you click with. As long as you take the time to build a network around you, remote work doesn’t have to be isolating.
Some companies have employee retreats, where your team can engage in activities like hiking or bonding exercises. See if the company you work for offers this — it can be a great way to get to know your co-workers in person, and help you build better bonds with each other. If you live near your co-workers, try to set up days where you can all get together and work. Getting in-person time with your co-workers doesn’t have to mean going to an office.
One of the biggest struggles of remote work is separating your home life from your work life. If you don’t have a commute to break things up, it can be hard to know where work ends and personal time begins.
It’s important to set expectations for your working hours with your team. They should know when to expect you to be online, and you should know when it’s okay to log off for the day. Setting clear boundaries between your work time and personal time can help you stay balanced, even if your office is at home.
In an office, your co-workers and managers can see if you’re struggling with something or dealing with interruptions. This isn’t the case for remote work, so you have to become comfortable with communicating any issues you’re facing. This can be anything from a tricky bug you’re stuck on, to your child being sick and needing care throughout the day. Make sure your team knows what challenges you may be facing that day so they know what to expect.
This means also giving updates and estimates on the work you’re tackling that day, and keeping people in the loop through chat or stand-up updates. Having a clear and shared vision of the status of the project helps you anticipate problems so you don’t diverge from expectations for that sprint. Using Celerative’s project dashboard to track your projects ensures information symmetry and that everyone is on the same page — everyone knows what work is being done and the progress you expect to make throughout the week.
Embrace the Benefits of Remote Life
Many people dream of dropping their 9-to-5 office life for the flexibility of remote life — so embrace it! Remote work ensures fewer interruptions from co-workers and no commute, meaning more productivity and personal time. It means being able to travel and work if you want, or the ability to stay at home with kids. Not to mention the financial benefits of being able to live wherever you want — if you work for a company in San Francisco, you don’t have to pay San Francisco rent so you can be close to the office.
A Stanford study also showed the productivity benefits of working from home — they found that remote workers had a productivity boost that was equal to a full day of work. There’s nothing more frustrating than being at work and feeling like you can’t get anything done. Working remote may be the change you need to get into the zone and pump out work.
Remote work provides ample benefits for both your personal and professional life and the hiccups that come with it are something that you can work around. So if you’ve ever dreamed of taking the plunge and leaving the office life, don’t be afraid to. By knowing what you’re getting into and learning how to handle the pitfalls, you can be successful in your switch.