What are some tips/things that you have learned after working remote for the first time that you wish you knew before you began?
I’ve been working remote for 10 years, and spend the 10 previous years in an office. Not sure I know what I wish I knew 10 years ago, but here’s my best shot.
Things that quickly became obvious:
Some stuff that takes practice:
Some expert-level school-of-hard-knocks stuff:
Suggestions that aren’t already in other comments:
In general, I’ve found setting boundaries, having a regular routine, and over-communicating helpful, but the specifics will vary between people, and between teams. It makes a big difference whether a team / company has a wide time-zone spread, for example.
That keyboard suggestion is really interesting. Makes me think about what other good priming strategies there are…
This last one remains tricky for me even after 9 years; it’s so easy to go heads-down on a problem you’re not equipped to solve and realize hours later that 15 minutes pairing with someone with domain knowledge would have taken care of it. You don’t want a culture of constant disruption, but you need to learn to recognize when it’s counterproductive to just try to power thru on your own. It’s a tricky balance.
Before going remote get speak to a doctor about mental health issues that you have that may not matter when you have a boss telling you precisely what to do, but do matter when you don’t. I was high functioning ADHD, got a remote job and struggled needlessly. A lot of workplaces don’t have proper communication with their remote employees and you can get away with a lot less productivity than you should. This creates guilt issues and exacerbates the problem.
Wake up at 8am and stop at 5pm. Setting a strict stop time will reduce procrastination, and put consequences around messing around during work hours. If you’re working late, it’s either because you’re slacking or you need a new job.
Exercise! Go outside and look at the trees.
Use meetup or other tools to make sure you’re hanging out with people on a regular basis, you will lose your domestication if you don’t socialize.
The biggest issues I have experienced about working remote are primarily around communication. Distraction is roughly the same at home vs an office for me (I have two young children). There is a difference between working on a remote team being the remote member of a localized team. I would caution strongly against the latter, it amplifies communication issues.
One issue I had to learn was to watch the medium that I am using. If I am using slack, email, GitHub comments, and things get out of hand - I get mad/defensive or sense someone else doing so, I do my best to hop on to a video conference as soon as possible. The written word can only convey so much meaning, video conferences work well to iron out issues and establish safety.
This one is probably me, but if you are remote and using slack, it might apply to you as well. I have to close slack and be OK with doing that so I can actually think and not be trying to keep up with the conversation. The key, at least for me, is being OK to close it and not worry what other people are thinking.
I also like to be explicit about expectations especially around communication. If you slack me, you can expect a response in within 2 working hours, if you email me 24 hours. If you try to reach me on facebook, you probably won’t ever hear from me. I have a README document that I link to in my profile so people can see it. When I meet with people for the first time, I share it. It has other things about me, it is a recent addition, but one that has so far helped.
I have the opposite problem from many: instead of home distracting from work, work distracts from home. Even though I’ve worked from home for 10 years or so now, I haven’t learned how to stop thinking about work.
(Maybe it’s not so bad. I get paid a lot of money to do what I love….)
The biggest thing I’ve learned is that you have to get out and be social sometimes. A good, old friend of mine also works from home and he and I meet up between once and four times a month. We set up shop at a bar or coffeeshop or restraurant with WiFi and work from there all day.
(To be honest, 90% of the day is spent socializing…but I don’t feel guilty given how much I work off the clock.)
I think I have a solution to help you stop thinking about work: get a boring job. Your prior posts sound like the tech you’re workinv on is simply too interesting. Working on SCO OpenServer or porting Microfocus COBOL to new platforms have a lot of potential here. ;)
I’ve been working remotely for a couple of years and there is not much I can say that hasn’t already been said in the previous comments. Nevertheless, I will leave here a recent blog post I wrote last month, about this subject. It is about 3 aspects that I found very important during my short experience.
Here is the blog post: https://blog.ovalerio.net/archives/1352
I learned that I feel a lot better as a human being by going into an office. It helps separate personal and work lives, physically and mentally.
I’ve been remote for 3 years, and Monday I start my first office-based job (small office, open floor plan.)
I’m excited to be around my colleagues and have the opportunity to discuss things in real-time. I’m not excited for what will be ~1hr commute per day. The freedom granted from working remote has been great - I can make my own lunch in my own kitchen. Hopefully I’ll transition back to a remote position after a few months of getting to know the team.
As for tips I echo everything said in the other comments. It’s great to be out of bed and directly on to PC for work, but it’s even greater to wake up and have a breakfast routine, a separate office and time blocks for flow-state work.
I found it’s easier to get into flow-state with people around because I’m less likely to be distracted if I’m in the office.
I worked for Sonatype for a year remotely, and before that, for Samsung and Apple for three years. The difference was night and day – Sonatype is a completely remote organization, so people have to go out of their way to exclude someone from discussion (and they don’t). At both Apple and Samsung, I was the sole remote employee on an otherwise colocated team. That, it sucked.
Ultimately, neither really worked for me, and now I got to an office daily, and I’m very much enjoying it. But for someone who is better able to function without daily face-to-face contact, I can recommend a true remote opportunity in general, and in fact, Sonatype in specific. It’s a great company, just wasn’t for me.
Personally I’ve found it’s important to have a routine, wake up at the same time every day, get dressed normally, stop working at the same time every day. Integrate a workout in your morning regime, doesn’t have to big, last summer I was running 6,5k every morning, but during the winter I just do about 30 minutes of weightless exercises (Though I do ski 12 hours every weekend). Now I need the daily exercise because I have adhd and try to find alternatives to medication, but I would guess it would put anybody in a good state of mind.
After setting a routine, the biggest issue you’re going to have is communication.. If you’re the only remote worker on the team, that’s going to be twice as hard. I’ve recently switched from fully remote contracting to a full time office job and in person communication is a lot simpler, so put a lot of energy in ensuring your communication process with your fellow coworkers is top notch.