Working remotely? How to be awesome at it!

Golden Gate Bridge

You may find yourself at some point in your career when you'll be given the opportunity to work for a company that is not based in the same city or region as you are, but instead, said company is located abroad. So, now you're going to work remotely. This means, that you and your team are not going to be in the same physical office space, but each in their own personal "office".

Now we all know the benefits of working remotely and I'm not going to outline them in this article but instead I'm going to list a few things that can help you achieve greatness when working remotely.

Whether you're working from home or from a co-working space there are a few things that you can do, to make the whole experience more pleasant and to make sure that you and your team are as productive as possible.

# Timezones

Make sure you know all the timezones, in which every teammate is working from. Using apps like (opens new window) you make sure that you won't ping your colleagues while they're having their sleepy time. Of course this doesn't apply if there is an absolute emergency, like failed deploys or huge merge conflicts, that require the assistance of a colleague that is in a different timezone.

# Schedule

Since we're on the topic of time, you might as well make sure to keep a very transparent schedule. If your colleagues know your daily working schedule, then you won't have any problems. This is really easy to achieve, just set up a public Google calendar with your team and you're good to go. If you keep a very tight and neat schedule then things won't go all haywire, in case of an unforeseen emergency.

While on the same topic, it's worth mentioning that you should differentiate your work schedule from your non-working schedule.

When you're not working, make sure to go outside, experience the world. That will get your creative juices flowing. Weather you're having an intensive creative job or not, going outside will reset your mind and you'll be more productive when returning to work.

Never force yourself to work late hours and always make sure you get enough sleep. As I already mentioned above, you should have a clear schedule that outlines your working hours and your non-working hours. This, of course, only applies if there is no immediate emergency, that requires your attention.

There are a lot of studies out there that explain the benefits of sleep. Of course we don't know the exact reason why we need sleep, but you should be aware of your circadian rhythm and have a clear idea about your sleep pattern. I won't go into details about this, but I recommend a very interesting article (opens new window) on the whole matter.

# Office

It doesn't matter if you're working from home or from a co-working space, however it is important to have a proper working space. Now, there are a lot of choices out there to choose from. Here are some of them:

  • A standard desk and ergonomic chair. I, for one, prefer this chair (opens new window), from Ikea, and any table that has enough leg room.
  • A standing desk. This can be any normal desk, where you can place something to keep your computer on a rise and you just ditch the chair.
  • A combination between a standard desk / chair combo and a standing desk. To be more specific, I'm talking about this (opens new window)
  • A treadmill desk? (opens new window) Well, you need to get your daily exercise, right? You do. And what better way to achieve this, then running and working at the same time. Personally I don't recommend this one, because your brain won't be able to focus on that many things, while working, and you'll tend to lose focus fast.

Another important thing to remember when working long hours at a desk is to always stay hydrated. Some recommend that you should drink a certain amount of liquids, in any given working day. Personally I believe that you should drink as much as your body asks for. And when it comes to drinking containers I absolutely love this canteen (opens new window).

# Staying connected

We were bound to reach this subject at some point. Now I'm sure everyone has their preferred social networks to stay connected with friends and family, but how does one stay connected with their co-workers?

There are a lot of good apps out there, that offer a lot of features for staying connected with your team. The most popular are Slack and Hipchat. But one has a slight advantage over the other as outlined in this Medium article (opens new window), that I recommend you read.

It's always good to have a team meeting with your team on a weekly basis. That way you can verbally outline your current tasks and what you're planning on working on. Having short 1 hour sessions with the entire team will give you a clear idea about the things that are getting done. You can use apps like Zoom (opens new window) or UberConferance (opens new window) to host team meetings.

I don't recommend using Skype or Google Hangouts for team meetings because the quality for those is very poor, when it comes to video / audio and the drop-off rate is very high (at least from what I experienced).

Another important aspect when working remotely is to have a access to a good bug / task tracker app. Now, I know each company has it's own system of doing things. Whether you're using an internal build app or something public, that anyone can use, it's important to keep it up to date with tasks and bugs. Make sure your team knows what you're working on and also you'll need an easy way to report bugs and discuss upon them.

I don't have any favorites, but I can recommend a few good apps, that I've crossed paths with. You could try Asana (opens new window), Pivotal Tracker (opens new window), Trello (opens new window), Jira (opens new window) and let's not forget Mantis (opens new window). All of these are multipurpose, so you can use them for either tracking bugs or tracking tasks.

# Recommendations

Before I wrap this up, I have a few extra recommendations.

Make sure that at some point, while working for the company you're working remotely for, you arrange a meet-up with your team face to face or IRL. There's nothing like meeting people in person. Sure, you see them via video but it's something different when you actually meet a person. You observe their body language and thus you'll be able to understand them better, when working on something.

And last but not least, try to use social media to stay connected. you'll find that socialising with your team outside the work realm is going to be beneficial for your work relationship.

# Conclusion

In order to be awesome at working remotely, you need to make sure that you have a well established schedule and you're office space is properly organised. I'm not saying you should follow my recommendations, it's your life, you can what ever you want, these are just things I came across while working remotely, that worked for me.

As an added bonus I highly recommend this article (opens new window), on Lifehack, about making the most of working remotely.

What other things did I miss? Let me know in the comments bellow.

Until next time, code long and prosper!