6 tips to better remote working for developers

6 tips to better remote working for developers

Times have changed and what used to be an exception is now the norm. Yes, I am talking about work from home.

I have worked for several years in an organization, from an office and the last few years I have been working fully remotely, with teams of different sizes.

I am assuming that you are part of a conventional software organization(imagine cubicles, coffee machines and shoulder surfing colleagues) and making a shift to working fully from home.

Here are the 6 things that can help you manage your work in a better way:

1. Keep track of your time

When working from home you might lose track of what you were working on and small breaks might start including full length feature films! To keep this in check you have to “Guard your time like a Hawk” and to do that you need to keep track of your time.

If you are diligent then even a notepad can help you, just keep on writing what you are working on at certain time of the day for example:

05:08 PM: Finish page for OTP verification 
08:01 PM: Review ticket 831

If you are on windows I created this small AutoHotKey Script that you can enter the date and time for you, using a shortcut Caps + t (you can easily change it in the script) or use this very easy to use Android App.

2. Master Written Communication

You can’t be face to face to your teammates just by revolving your chair. Can’t explain your thoughts using the full range of your vocal expression combined with the support of your hand gestures. Written communication would be the most common way of communicating your thoughts now.

So be as clear as possible, try to remove ambiguity as much as you can.

To do this, always read your message from the perspective of a person who doesn’t know anything about what is being talked about. This will help you add in a little more detail that helps the other person.

Another way is to reduce the use of pronouns and be more specific.

Example, Team Lead(without context) to Project Manager.

“The developers have implemented quote quantity checks. But is it needed? Maybe it is better to ask if they would need it?”

Who is they here? Instead we can say:

“The developers have implemented quote quantity checks. But is it needed? Maybe it is better to ask if {ClientName} would need it?”

3. Let your colleagues know about your availability

In the office people can see you and if you are there, it means you are still working(unless you are at the Ping Pong Table). Easy for people to reach out to you.

At home it is difficult for them to know easily. You might have gone for lunch while they just happen to break the develop branch. If a person needs your help, she might message you and wait for some minutes for you to respond back(which is time not well spent). But if you have already made others know they would come to you when you are back.

I usually keep a team channel(in tools like Slack, Chats), with notifications turned off by default, where we all just checkin and checkout. This keeps everyone updated, without others feeling that you are “always away”(just because they happen to message you when you just took a break).

4. Keep your Project Management tool up to date always

A project management tool is the strength of a team, especially a remote team. It is better to keep everything up to date there. Try to add information about what was changed and what has been completed.

Add Notes for other team members like QA etc. Write notes which can be referred today and also tomorrow.

This will greatly reduce the need for video or voice calls(which are not always convenient) and would allow for asynchronous work.

5. Use chunks of time to finish tasks

Ok this one applies whether you are in office or at home. Since no one is watching, the tendency to slack off is higher when you are working from home. Usually it is a good idea to keep the distractions at bay for a fixed amount of time.

This would mean that you would not peep into your phone, read news, take snack breaks or start talking to a family member for a fixed amount of time.

How much time? You need to figure out what works best for you and how long you can keep intense focus. I usually keep it at 30 mins.

Try setting up a timer or if you are using Ubuntu I really like the “Pomodoro” app.

6. Dedicated workspace

Quite obvious and also very important. If you are just using your sofa as your workstation chances are more often than not, it will engulf you in its cosiness sooner or later.

You need a dedicated space, even if it is a simple table and a chair. It will help you focus better and give your body the sense that you are on to work and not about to go to sleep(if you are on a bed). You will have much better body posture and save yourself from some aches here and there.  

Working from home is a great advantage, but you want to be productive as well. If you are new to it, it is really important to a keep a check on how you spend your time. You have to work, observe, identify and improve.

One Reply to “6 tips to better remote working for developers”

  1. What has also worked for me is to have a sense of start and end routine. I start my day with a tea, I also jot down a list of tasks I have at hand. I feel writing by hand helps me focus more. I Take lunch break just as I would in the office and end at a stipulated time .

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