Working remote

Late 2012, I was laid off from a 12 year job which turned out to be an inconvenient blessing in disguise. I rushed to get my resume out there and I fielded a bunch of opportunities. I was rather surprised that some of them were for remote work. I had never worked remotely before, so I didn’t know if it was going to be a good fit for me at all.

Fast forward to 2014, I’ve been working from home exclusively for over a year now. I think I have a pretty good system for myself going. One thing to keep in mind while you’re reading this, everyone is wired differently. It boils down to work ethics, in my opinion.
###Setting up a routine
As much as I hate routines, I think routine is pretty important when you’re working remote.

There’s a bunch of blogs online that suggest that you dress a certain way as if you were going into an office, etc. I hate getting dressed up, so I never bought into this. I’d rather dress for comfort. I’m going to be by myself all day long with hardly anyone to talk to, I’m going to dress however I want (and, yes, it involves pants).

My wife and I flip flopped the wake-up time that I used to get up when I went into an office. So, I get up 30 minutes later. She’s the first one out the door everyday and I deal with getting the kids to/from school. Once in a while, when dealing with 2 hour school delays due to weather, I’d get up an hour later.

After dropping the kids off at school, I head to a local coffee shop for an hour. This is my hour to work on personal projects or learning projects. This time is pretty important to me, so when it gets interrupted (such as 2 hour school delays), I get cranky about it.

From there, straight home to the mancave to look over my sprint board, log into campire, and get to twerk. At 10, Team Meeting on GTM.

My kids’ school half days are definitely a schedule disruptor for me. I make a point of closing my office doors if there’s too much background noise or interruptions happening.
###Keep moving
One of the things I invested in 2013 was a standing desk. I’m convinced that if I hadn’t bought it. I’d be 30-40 heavier than I already am. I want to lose 30-40 pounds, but that’s something manageable to work towards.

I know that every other blog rants and raves about standing desks, so I won’t go into recommending one over another. Just think about getting one. It does help. I was rather impressed when I went to GenCON 2013 and I found myself tolerating standing in lines because I was used to being on my feet for majority of the day.

It’s actualy ok to get up and take a walk around the house. It wouldn’t be any different than people going for coffee/smoke/restroom breaks in an actual office.

I’ve read a lot about how others make a point of avoiding chores. I don’t mind doing small chores such as throwing a load in the laundry, preparing a slow cooker, and other minor stuff. More than often, when I’m doing it, I’m thinking about a solution to a problem and stepping away from the screen is a good thing.

During the spring/summer/fall seasons, I make an attempt at lunch time to get out of the house and go for a walk. I’m also grateful for my two mutts that keep me company and help me keep moving as I have to let them outside from time to time.
###Remain connected with coworkers
In addition to using GTM for daily stand-ups, we’re able to fire it up on demand to meet with others. Sometimes when deadlines loom, we’ll fire up a «war room» and stay on GTM all day long. It’s good to see others working and having the audio open, feels like you’re all in the same office chatting / getting things done.

On the thought of peer programming, It can be a little nerve wracking to have someone other than you watching your screen, but the sooner you get over it, the better the experience. Typos are going to happen. Bad code is going to happen. You should view peer programming as an opportunity to teach and learn, and ultimately become better at what you do.
###Learn to step away
So, the hardest thing for me to do is to figure out the work/life balance when I’m working from home. I find it’s difficult to know exactly when it is that you’re punching out for the day.

While I’m still figuring out, a few suggestions would be to:

  • Close down the email programs. If it’s a true emergency, someone will be calling you. Seriously.
  • Stay ahead of your sprints and anticipate for issues sooner rather than later.
  • Invest in a laptop or a tablet, because if you’re like me, where my mancave has become my ‘office’, then during the evening hours, being able to walk away from the office and go to another room to resume surfing / learning / whatnot, is a good thing and draws a clear mental line that you’re done with work for the night. It sucks that my gaming machine is also my work machine. So, I haven’t been gaming as often as I’d like lately.
  • One reason why I think some people insist dressing up is that it gives their partners / spouse / children a social cue that they’re at work and not home to socialize too much with them. Dressing down does give that «Ok, I’m done for the day» feeling, so… I guess if that’s your cuppa tea, go for it.

###Remember there’s a life out there
All in all, just remember thre’s still life outside your front door. Listen to your needs. If you need to go get out of the office and veg somewhere for a few, discuss it with your team / boss and make time for youself.

Even if it just means going out to get a coffee or eating lunch somewhere by yourself, do it. Working remote doesn’t mean you’re dead to the world outside, it just means you need to assert yourself a little harder and work smarter.