Working from home

career
6/15/2020

Working from home allows for greater work/life flexibility, saves time by not commuting each day and gives you access to your own kitchen for lunch. Over the last 2 years, I've worked at home for a couple of days a week and gone into the office for the remaining days, however due to COVID-19 my workplace has adapted to allow everyone to work fully remotely. I have to admit, I've been really enjoying it, and of course the dog is also very happy about it!

I've decided to write this post to give some thoughts from my own experience, and some tips to help you work from home successfully, even if you are planning to go back into the office soon.

Photo of laptop in a clean, modern workspace

Why work from home?

Simple. Having our whole team able to work remotely has allowed us to continue working through the COVID-19 lockdown, causing very little friction in the business. In fact, we've even been able to onboard a number of new employees, both in engineering and other roles. Having a good remote working setup has allowed us to continue with business as usual. However, it's not always easy and there are some challenges, particularly if you're used to working in a close office environment. For example, it might be difficult to concentrate on work when working in a home environment, especially if you have children around you. You can also feel isolated with lack of social interaction that you might get in the office.

What you need to succeed

As a software engineer I think working from home is something that is fairly easy to achieve. Most tools I use work the same whether I'm in the office, working at home or even working elsewhere remotely, like in a coffee shop; all that's needed is a stable internet connection and you're good to go!

I don't think this only applies to being a software engineer. Many jobs rely on computers and use of the internet, so these tips may still be relevant regardless of what your job is.

Communicate

  • This is probably the most important thing in regards to working in a team.
  • Keep your status up to date. If you use a tool like Slack or Teams, let your team mates know if you're available or if you'll be away from your computer for a while. Both platforms have ways to set your status and auto-replies if you're away.
  • Rather than always messaging privately, post questions openly where possible so others team mates can see them and/or reply.
    • This gives you more chance of getting a reply from someone who may know the answer.
    • It also gives others visibility of issues that may arise, and facilitates the spread knowledge without the same thing being shared across numerous private chats every time someone needs to know the answer.
  • Use the correct communication channels. Emails if you can wait for a reply, instance messaging for more general communication and private messages for more real-time chat, and phone calls or video calls where you need to have a "face-to-face" conversation. Each of these methods are suitable for different situations.
  • Find ways to socialise with your team mates virtually. Quizzes and games like https://www.jackboxgames.com are great fun over video calls!

Create a dedicated work space

  • With a dedicated workspace you're more likely to be able to concentrate. Try to make it similar to your usual office working environment, or just a space that you feel comfortable and able to concentrate.
  • If it's not possible to have a dedicated working space, try to create somewhere that's work friendly. Clear your dining table to work at, for example.

Have a routine

  • Keep work and home life separate where possible. It's easy for the lines between home life and work life to begin to blur when working from home.
  • Get dressed as if you were going into the office. You have to look the part to feel the part!
  • Have dedicated work time. If you usually work 9 to 5, try to keep work time within those same hours at home. As mentioned, it's easy to blur work and home time if you don't do this.
  • Take regular breaks. You can only concentrate for a certain amount of time without taking a break, especially when staring at a screen. Go make a drink or take a walk around the garden every now and then. It's also good to give your eyes a break; take a few minutes away from the screen and focus your eyes on things further away.

Keep controllable distractions minimal

  • As tempting as it might be, keep the TV off when you're working.
  • Listening to the radio or other background music can help if you don't like working in silence.
  • If you live with people, talk to them and let them know times when you need to focused without interruptions.
    • This is particularly relevant at in these times when children are at home more than they usually would be.
  • Don't worry, this isn't what working from home is always like. We are living through a strange period of time at the moment. You're not alone and it's understandable that there will be some distractions.

Don't over do it

  • It's easy to work far more than you usually would since you don't have a commute when working from home. You should work to achieve the results you need, and working over time is of course fine occasionally, but shouldn't necessarily become a habit.
  • You need your own down time to relax and enjoy your life besides work.
  • Find a hobby you can take up if you don't already have one
    • Learn a new skill that you've always wanted to learn.
    • Get outside. I've really started to enjoy gardening recently as it's nice to get some time in the garden away from a computer screen.
    • Take walks in a park.
    • Do some exercise. This is something I definitely need to do more of; good for both your physical and mental health!

Remote working

Conclusion

Whether you are working home full time, or just a few days a week, I hope these tips help you to work successfully and keep yourself happy and healthy.

If approached correctly, being able to work from home can be a great opportunity for both individuals and companies alike. It enables you to have more family time, save time commuting and more. For companies, it can reduce costs by not having to have as much office space, and allows for hiring remote workers from locations unrestricted by the location of an office. In this fast paced modern world with innovative technology it's becoming easier and easier to achieve.