Tips for Remote Software Developers
Tips for Remote Software Developers
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Working remotely is quite different from working in the office. If you've never worked remotely, you may not fully realize just how different it is. For me, the transition to remote work was gradual. First, there were the occasional "working from home" days every month. Then, I worked remotely for two weeks to try it out. Today, I work remotely about 1/4 of the time.
While I've managed to make remote work work for me, the transition has not been smooth all the way, as remote work comes with its challenges. Looking back, I can now say I've managed to overcome most of the challenges for myself, but I realize there may be many faced with similar challenges, either getting used to remote work or even when considering it for the first time.
At my company, the work culture is what I would describe as "remote-flexible." Everyone can work remotely, if they wish, and some of our employees have been fully remote. However, depending on your role and seniority, the general preference may be that you spend a significant amount of time at the office, in the same room with your peers (e.g. when you're new or if you play a crucial role in product strategy — sometimes, there's nothing quite like being in the same room for brainstorming and remote collaboration).
As our team is mostly made up of software developers, we've learned a few things over the 6 years of remote-flexible team culture. Below, you can find the top tips for remote software developers! Read on, if you'd like.
1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!
You are responsible for keeping up regular communication with your team members (and clients and partners, depending on your company and your role). It may seem natural to rely on your manager or the rest of the team to keep you in the loop, but remember, you're the one working remotely. At the office, communication can happen way more naturally and without extra effort, so if you're not there, it most likely needs extra effort (unless your company is fully remote like Zapier, Toggl, or Buffer).
Pro tip: make sure you have the right collaboration tools in place for communication.
2. Develop Good Communication Skills
This may seem like a repetition of the first tip, but it really is not. Beyond keeping up regular communication, you also need to be conscious of how you communicate. Good communication skills help make sure nothing is lost in translation (read: lost in the digital transmission of communication). Clearly written communication skills (for email, team chat, texts, software documentation, and so on), as well as good speaking skills (for calls, presentations, video conferencing), are things you can develop if they are not your forte.
3. Arrange Regular Face-To-Face Meetings
If you talk to anyone working at fully-remote companies like Toggl or Zapier, they will tell you all about how their teams and the entire company meets up! That's right, being fully remote does not mean you never meet the people you work with. Calls and video conferencing can work most of the time, but sometimes, nothing beats meeting in person, sitting in the same room, and discussing something or another. There's just some magic that happens when people get together. And again, it is your responsibility to make sure face-to-face meetings happen, because you're the one that's remote!
Don't just take my word for it. Check out Toggl's case for "Why We Spend 40,000+ a Year on Our Remote Team Meetings".
4. Don't Skimp on Setting Up Your Workstation
Whether you're working from a home office, a remote coworking space, or keep traveling to different locations, do pay attention to the ergonomics of your situation. Make sure you have a comfortable chair, set up a proper desk with monitors at the correct height, if possible, get a good keyboard and mouse. Often, you can negotiate for your company to pay for some of the aforementioned expenses (after all, they don't have to set these up for you at the office!), but even if that doesn't happen, don't skimp on these. Consider it a key investment to your own well-being and success as a remote software developer. You can thank me later.
Do note: used chairs, desks, monitors can be as good as new ones!
5. Be Prepared in All Practical Aspects
Besides creating a "work environment" for yourself with a proper desk setup, there are a few more practical things to keep in mind. Keep backups of your work. If your employer does not provide a VPN, subscribe to one and use it when working from a public access point. If you travel often, have a good portable development system and take it everywhere (yes, that's also fully your responsibility!). Prefer a solid Internet connection over a fast one (or, if possible, work with your neighbors to be with different providers and share both of them!).
Read more: there are some great practical pieces of advice under this Quora question.
6. Know Your Limitations
While most tips to remote workers focus on how to keep yourself from getting distracted, a lot of our team members actually have said they work way more when they work remotely (counted in productive hours as well as in output). So, in fact, they have to be self-policing in order to not burn out when working remotely. What it comes down to is that it depends on what you're like as a person. If you know you're easily distracted, don't set yourself up for failure by setting up your workstation next to a TV with an Xbox. And if you find you can concentrate much better when remote, then know to be aware that you should also be getting your rest.
Read more: The Stress of Remote Working
7. Stay Healthy
I've noticed that working at an office usually creates breaks more naturally and more frequently. Whether it's coffee, cigarette breaks, lunches, or colleagues asking for advice, it just happens less when you're on you're working remotely — in my experience, it can be easy to find yourself working "in the zone" for long hours, and only realizing too late that many hours have gone by with little significant off-time for breaks. So, you need to be conscious of getting up at regular intervals to stretch, walk, get some fresh air, etc. Otherwise, burnout and exhaustion can be just around the corner!
Pro tip: fill a 1.5-2L jug with fresh water in the morning and keep it at your workstation to make sure you finish it by the end of the day. (Sidenote: this will also guarantee regular breaks to stand up, for bathroom breaks!)
Working remotely can be awesome if you make it work for you. It is a lifestyle change from regular office work, so you need to be aware of the differences to adapt. Here, I've outlined the tips that have worked for our team when working remotely as software developers. However, do remember that no matter how many "remote work tips" articles you read, you have to test them out yourself and see what works for YOU.
For further reading, see the recommendations below.
If you're considering working from a coworking space, check out this article on the benefits of remote collaboration.
If you are in a managerial role, you may want to read more about how to manage a remote team.
If you are a fan of different tools for work perfection, you can check out this collaboration software for your team.
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