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Working remotely

One piece of advice I once read (sadly, I cannot remember where), which kinda stuck, was this: “Wear pants”. What it means is that even though you work from home, you should dress and behave as if you were at the office. You should be prepared to have the boss come through the door any minute! You need to be structured in the way you work from home.

When I work remotely, I normally work from a home office, which is where I live. Some people work from co-working offices or similar, but my experience is (mostly) from home offices.

Where I come from, in Norway, when people say they are working from home, that usually means an off day. :) So when I tell people that I work from home, they often associate that with me not really working, or just working a little each day. This is, in my experience, what people who usually travel to work every day (let’s call them office workers) think I am doing, if they do not know me that well.

One piece of advice I once read (sadly, I cannot remember where), which kinda stuck, was this: “Wear pants”. What it means is that even though you work from home, you should dress and behave as if you were at the office. You should be prepared to have the boss come through the door any minute! You need to be structured in the way you work from home.

There are pros and cons of working remotely, however. I think some tasks are easier when talking to people face-to-face, such as planning. If you are doing a team planning meeting and one or more of your team members are working remotely, I have found that it is usually best that everyone is acting remote. That means that you should not put a screen in the middle of the room and have that screen be the remote team member. Everyone should put on their headphones and “be remote”. This way, it is easier for people to hear what is going on, plus they feel more included.

You also lose out on the creative ideas that can emerge while socializing, peer programming or just by being around other people at work. This is the biggest con for me when working remotely. I need to feed that creative process in other ways. I try to go out for lunch as much as possible, preferably not alone, talk with people at the gym, go to Meetups, etc. Also, I read. A lot.

For me personally, I find that the biggest advantage of working remotely is that I can focus for long periods of time without being interrupted. I find that I am very productive when I can schedule my own time and work long and focused sessions, then take a longer break. For more info/tips about how to really get some good work done, I can highly recommend the book Deep Work by Cal Newport. By applying his method, I can easily have long periods of undisturbed work sessions, which is very important in my profession as a programmer.

Why you should never interrupt a programmer

If you have trouble focusing, one way of improving your work sessions without being interrupted can be to try out the Pomodoro technique, which is a technique to help you manage your time spent working.

Change in scenery is important once in a while, not just for remote workers, but for everyone. If you have become too comfortable for a longer period of time, you should try to get uncomfortable again, for example by moving to a different country, which in my opinion is one of the best ways to get out of your comfort zone. If you stay comfortable, you will never evolve, but become stagnant.

This is true for many aspects of life, and it is also very applicable to my line of work. If I get too comfortable using certain tools, languages or techniques, I become hesitant to learn new stuff. Why would I when I am comfortable doing what I do? New stuff just means more work. This is a dangerous trap to fall into.

Personally, I am glad to see that it is more and more common that people are allowed, or have the opportunity, to work from wherever they feel that they can do the best work possible. In recent years, I have seen an increase in articles which embrace working remotely. Recruiters increasingly have more remote work available as well. I strongly believe people do their best work when they are allowed to choose their own surroundings (I love my colleagues!).

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