Working Remotely: Lessons Learned

2016-12-13 | Remote Work

About three months ago team Codeplace came up with an idea: an optional remote day, a sort of experiment to see if this was something we could implement more permanently.

Most people were excited but at the same time a little skeptic: the idea of working alone didn’t seem all that appealing; also, we happen to have a very nice view from the office, which I enjoy. Here it is in all its glory.

Three months later, I’m now a preacher of remote work: it made us re-evaluate our internal processes, it improved communication, it made us more productive and, most of all, it improved work/life balance for everyone.

However, it hasn’t been all fun and games, here some of the lessons we’ve learned from this experiment, hopefully you’ll be able to apply them to make the most out of your work:

Find an ergonomic space, it makes all the difference

When we first started thinking about going remote, the weather was great. I think that was actually part of the reason why I didn’t really like the idea of working from home.

However, by the time we actually had our first remote day, the weather was terrible.

Some of us were brave enough to go outside — to the library or to a coffeeshop — but most of us just stayed home.

This meant we had to find somewhere in our house to work, which varied greatly for everyone: some have peaceful home offices, others share a house with lots of other (noisy) people.

Regardless, one thing was clear: it’s better to go to a coffeeshop than having to work with your laptop on the couch. It gets uncomfortable real quick and it’s not worth the neck and back pain that follows.

Keeping your pets around makes things less lonely

This one is a double-edged sword for anyone with cats that love to sleep on keyboards, but in general, it’s very helpful to have a furry friend around.

It really doesn’t feel like working alone and you get to talk to them whenever things are frustrating.

Pro tip: take them out of the room when you’re on a Skype call with your colleagues.

Try to exercise

The other day, we were comparing our phone pedometers and one thing stood up: most of us are pretty active but on remote days, our step count was in the low dozens … ouch.

It can be tempting, specially on winter days, to stay home and not move from your chair unless to go get snacks.

If you’re working from home, try to take some time to exercise: take a walk around the block on your lunch hour, go buy some groceries or clean the house if the weather is really bad.

Ideally, it won’t affect your work schedule and it will actually be useful.

Learn how and when to communicate

We’ve always used Slack for internal communication and since we’ve gone remote we’ve started using Skype for our daily standup and for discussing more detailed/complex information.

Apart from that, we have everyone’s phone number so, if anyone happens to not be online and we need something urgent we can always reach everyone that way.

One of the perks of remote work is making your own hours, so this is not for everyone, not everyone likes the idea of having to be accessible all day when working remotely.

The trick here is to find a consistent form of communication and establish clear times for communication.