Patrick Farrar

Things I've Learned About Remote Work

career continual learning

Over my career as a software engineer I've come to realize that in many cases when I feel like I've got (it) all figured out - I don't know half of what I thought I've previously known.

Remote working or even working in an office then going remote has been one of those things that has become a lesson that I am learning over and over again. I hope that this may help people realize something that took me so long to understand - Be Proactive.

Develop a Proactive Mindset #

Working remotely can offer great benefits of not having a commute, no (reduced) distractions, and increased control of time. Working remotely can also lead to overworking, lack of social connections, and a potential to feeling isolated to "what might be happening elsewhere". In my personal opionion, the benefits of remote work far outweigh the cons, as long as the person doing so puts in the effort.

One key is being proactive. Being proactive is a discipline of taking action and not waiting for things or results to fall into place. Over time being proactive can be developed by anybody. Our habits drive us to take action and if our natural habit is to wait for others to 'act first' people will always feel a sense of reacting to situations. Reacting to situation after situation can lead to extremely high amounts of stress and in the world of always on communication there will always be another email, slack message or text to check.

Here are some ways that you may be able to get better at being proactive and see the great benefits of remote work.

Create a workspace #

If the couch is your workspace that is awesome. However, if the couch is your workspace, eating area, place where you binge watch episodes of Succession, it might be time to find a dedicated space to work from. A key benefit between having a dedicated workspace is that it allows you to have a spot where you do work and other dedicated spots for leisure that are seperate. This will create a natural boundary between the two spaces so when you are in the WORK zone you are more likely to be prompted to work and less distracted by the Xbox that may be in the corner.

Another benefit of a dedicated workspace is that it allows you to create a place where you can shut off from at the end of the day. A common ritual that I have is that after I'm done working for the day I will always power my computer down and put it in the drawer next to me. This is for multiple reasons, 1) it allows me to disconnect from my work day to the next phase of my day on my schedule (talk more about this shortly) 2) allows for the next morning to start fresh without the clutter of thousand of tabs open on my screen. It's a small thing but shutting down each night allows me to feel a sense of starting fresh each day. It is a nice feeling.

Create a schedule... and stick to it #

If everything is important... Nothing is Important.

Saying no is one of the most difficult things to do but one of the most rewarding things in practice. In reality, every time we say Yes to something we are saying No to several other decisions at that same moment. Your schedule is one major this that you have absolute control over. Setting a schedule and communicating with others that you have a hard stop time is not a bad thing at all. It is a very good thing. Having constraints of a personally set schedule will allow you to figure out the best way to accomplish the tasks you intend to finish in that alloted time. If you are trying to build XYZ and know you need to finish in an hour to get to the next piece of your day - your proactive mind will figure out how to remove distractions (social media, coffee break, general tomfoolery) so you can focus and get things accomplished.

In most cases tasks are not of life or death importance, which means that picking the right hex value color code could probably wait for the morning. Often times are brains may expereince fatigue where a nice break that you schedule will provide could help you figure out what you were trying to accomplish.

Communicate Asynchronously #

This one may be difficult for some (and its tough for me still). Asynchronous communication is a form of communication where the repsonse may not immediately be returned. Asynchronous communication can be a highly effective form of communication for teams or remote workers that are geographicaly distributed. Asynchronous communication can allow the other party to dive deep into the topic and give a more clear detailed repsonse than potential in synchronous communication where immediate response is expected.

I try to imagine that the receiver of this message likely needs context and information I am providing them to help make a decision Overcommunicating in this scenario is key because the reponse back from the initial question may take time for another response, providing more up front information and context can prevent future follow ups.

Getting into this habit can be liberating for remote work because it can reduce the amount of in person meeting and lead to larger blocks of focused work time.

Overcommunication and providing working answers are examples of being proactive. Once I give scenarios or working answer I will always try to provide a suggestion of my pick. This is not done to anchor a choice but to give proactive insight into this process.

If it doesn't work... experiment with something new #

Not every situation is going to be the same. No situation is going to yield the same results. So why think that we can always apply the same tactics and tools to everything. There are times where async communication is no longer productive, then pick up a phone to move forward.

The biggest thing that I've realized it that in the world of remote work is having a plan and being proactive with that plan on where, when, and how you work will lead to a better overall experience when working remotly.

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