Things I’ve Learnt From ~Two Years Of Remote Work

Things I’ve Learnt From ~Two Years Of Remote Work

Pulling the plug on in-office work the right way

Photo by Goran Ivos on Unsplash

I’ve been working remotely on and off for almost two years now. It’s been fun to pull the plug on in-office work and finally live the life where I get to wake up at 10am and work late into the night. It’s been awesome having teammates halfway around the world and e-meeting a lot of interesting people. And it’s been fun finally getting to earn more than a decent living ;-). But it isn’t all roses and rainbows. Working remotely has taught me a lot, not just about my craft but about myself and the lifestyle of the remote worker. Here are a couple of things I’ve learned over the past ~two-ish years. I hope it helps make someone’s journey a little bit easier.

  1. Plan your days for success. Don’t just jump in and start your day without a plan. Plan out each task and break those tasks into sub-tasks. This will help with one of the fundamental differences between working in an office and working remotely. With office work, just showing up nets you like 50% points for the day. With remote work, you’re judged solely by the work you produce. Plan your tasks, break them down into subtasks and then dig into them to make sure every day you’re ticking off tangible stuff everyday.
  2. Discipline yourself. After you plan your tasks, next step is the diligence to adhere to them and get them done. Working remotely can be an exercise in having resolve of steel. Distractions abound — especially when you work remotely from home. There’s no one stopping you from binge watching Netflix or hitting the Xbox and then rushing through your work at the end of the day. Do not equate remote work with unemployment. No, this is not the life where you’l wake up at 12pm and be out chilling by 3pm (If you do find this setup though, hit me up with a referral 🙂 ). It’s about a flexible work lifestyle, not a reduced-work lifestyle. In most cases it’s actually harder working remote because, like I mentioned, you are judged solely by the work you do and the hours you put in. There’s no medal for just showing up.
  3. Bad days. It’s easy to have bad days when working in an office. Everyone sees you showed up — you just couldn’t get a lot of stuff done. When you’re remote, a bad day can look like you’re not even trying or you’re off somewhere billing hours and doing nothing. Be vocal, communicate to your lead — lead developer, client, project manager — whoever it is. Also, figure out what gets you out of the slump. For me it’s video games and driving through town on off-peak periods when there’s light traffic. I’ll sometimes go for a night drive at the end of a hard day to clear my head so I’m bright eyed and bushy tailed by the next day.
  4. Figure out the chain of command. Every company structure is different. Figure out early who you’ll report to. In some places, it’s a lead developer who’ll interface between you and management. In other places you might answer directly to management (who may or may not have tech experience), at others you might need to answer to different people on different things. Lead developer on tech stuff, PM on timelines etc. This all brings us to the next point…
  5. Learn to communicate!! This comes with two exclamation marks because of how important it is and how easy it is to get wrong. Communicate. Struggling with something? Need some time off? Unclear about a task? — Communicate. Talk. Reach out. As remote workers we often have to over-communicate to make up for the fact that we’re not face to face with our teammates. You also need to learn to communicate in the language of the team you’re working with and the person you’re reporting to. No tech babble when talking to a non-tech member of management, no obscure idioms or references that won’t be easily understood. No “hip” abbreviations. Try to be as clear as possible. Again, over-communicate.
  6. Get good internet. Can’t stress this enough. Get the best internet you can possibly afford. Now is not the time to be stingy with what is essentially the most important tool of your trade after your laptop. Find out what your options are and make the best decision you possibly can. Do get an upgrade if you can. I currently use a Radio to Home service which gets me about 5mbps (pretty decent when working from Nigeria) on a good day. No throttle and unlimited data usage. It’s expensive and doesn’t even come close to global standards but it’s totally worth it to not be the only one on a Zoom call going “Hello… Yes… No… Can you repeat that… I can’t hear you… Let me try connecting again… ”.
  7. Move! Make sure you have some sort of workout plan. Remote work is in many ways even more sedentary than working in an office. No early morning rush, no walking (even if it’s just to the car and from the car into your office). It’s just you, a few paces to your home office and that’s it. (Sometimes I’ll even code several hours in bed). It’s important to have a plan for moving your body everyday. Don’t worry, I’m still struggling with this one. Moving on…
  8. Find your Zen. This is one that’s been tough for me. You need to be in that zone where you’re super productive but able to get enough downtime to recover. You need to find that place where code flows and solutions come freely but you also need to find space to do things your enjoy and can help you relax from that code-rush high. I’ve often found myself trying to do so much at the beginning of the week and then getting burnt out by Wednesday. It’s really easy to lose your handle on work/life balance when the edges between the two are as blurred as they are when you’re working remotely. It’s important that you give yourself enough time to recharge between bouts of intense productivity. Planning out each day in the week and ensuring that you’re spreading the load out efficiently can help you not overload yourself and keep you from burnout.
  9. Choose your team wisely. As fun as it sounds to work remotely, the truth is that not every team knows how to do this effectively. I’ve been on teams that have struggled to manage remote staff and it’s never fun for anyone involved. Ideally, go for a team that’s had experience running a remote setup. Also find out as much as you can about the internal workings of the team before you start. What are their daily routines and how do they fit into your lifestyle, who do you report to, how large is the team — Not all remote situations are created equal. Do your due diligence before signing the dotted line.

That’s it from me. I’d love to hear any tips you guys have for working remotely and if you have any questions or just want to reach out, hit me up in the comments below… and please do hit the clap button if you’d like to encourage me to write more often :-)!

Source: Medium:Remote Working
Things I’ve Learnt From ~Two Years Of Remote Work

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