6 Months Working From Home
I started my first remote role as a Software Engineer. I’ve been working from home for the last 6 months, and here’s what I have learned so far!
Most of the recommendations I’ve seen say to set a strict schedule for yourself, so that you know when work starts and ends, keeping a clean separation of work and home life. I think that’s wrong. The dream would be to work whenever you feel productive, starting and stopping on a whim… Wrong again. The key to feeling good about your schedule is working when your team works. I am in a timezone 1 hour ahead of the rest of my team, and their typical hours are 8 AM to 5 PM. That means I will get messages, emails, etc. between 9 AM and 6 PM. It always feels much better when I am available on my computer when these interactions come through. Like most offices, a majority of developers don’t show up right at 8 AM, so typically no one is looking for me until at least 10 AM, which gives me the flexibility to start any time before that. Not needing to set an alarm is a very freeing experience!
Where you work is important! I’ve seen many recommendations to set up your office space and stick to it, which is MOSTLY true. You may have heard the expression “dress for your day”. I take a similar approach to pick a location to work. Most days I will work in the office, and if I need to be “heads-down” I’ll have some light music playing in the background. However, if I know I have a lighter workload sometimes I’ll take the laptop down to the couch, or kitchen table. Sometimes it just feels good to escape the office!
This could look different for each individual, but it is good to have a network to reach out and talk to from time to time. I am very lucky, to have a great network of friends that also work remotely. This was a HUGE help when I first got started in this role because the one week of orientation on campus was not enough for me to connect with many coworkers in this new role.
The age of the company can impact how you are viewed as a remote employee. There are companies like GitLab that are very successful with 100% remote employees. While older companies still think that working from home means Netflix on your couch and missed messages and phone calls. If you’re being hired into a role where your team only has a few remote employees, you can expect some micromanagement and may have to jump through some hoops to prove yourself as a disciplined remote worker.
A manager I had once approached me saying “Did you really bring a keyboard from home?” in disbelief. Yes, yes I had brought in a keyboard. The hardware you use is more important than you think! Things like a good keyboard, mouse, and monitor setup can make or break your working from home experience. Make sure that the tools you interact with the most feel good to you.
Wearing comfortable clothes is ok! Just don’t work in the same clothing you wore to sleep.
- Set up the “Do not disturb” times on your phone! If you can’t survive without phone notifications, then at least go into Microsoft Outlook/Teams or whatever tools your team uses and set the quiet hours.
- Invest in a good headset/headphones with a mic. I recommend looking for comfort over everything. I can’t wear over-ear headphones without getting headaches, so I’m using some Bose earbuds. I highly recommend something with a dedicated microphone mute button of some kind. I picked up a USB adapter for my headphones off of Amazon for less than $15.00.
- Get set up with a USB switcher or software like Logitech Flow. Being able to bounce back and forth between your home laptop/PC and work laptop/PC is nice.
- Sit far away from the snacks! Or just don’t keep any snacks in your house.
- Get outside! At my previous employer, we used to do a lap around campus every day over lunch. A walk outside over lunch or after work can give you a boost for the afternoon, or provide a way to signal the end of the workday.
- Take breaks! This is especially important as a developer. You know when you are being productive and when you are running into a wall. Take those opportunities to get up and go for a quick walk, or grab a drink. Just avoid that snack drawer!
While working from home full-time has not been the dream I always thought it would be, it is still an amazing opportunity. It provides some amazing freedoms, that the office would not, and yet more stability than you might find as a freelancer. It is still a goal of mine to start my own business, and have the creative freedom of working for myself, but being a remote software engineer is a nice step along the way. Thanks for reading!
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