Healthy and Productive Remote Working

29 March 2013

Working from home poses some interesting challenges when it comes to productivity. I’ve been working remotely for just over a year and a bit, and I’d like to share a few tips that have helped me stay on track.

Clothes.

This is something that often comes in as a joke in conversation. When talking to other developers at meetups, people will usually say something along the lines of “Good to see you, thanks for wearing pants!”. As hilarious as this is, it’s actually pointing out something significant in people’s perception. Working from home makes it remarkably tempting to stay in pyjamas all day. I’d be lying if I said that I’ve never worn pyjamas while working, but I can confidently say that I am more productive when I take the effort to get properly dressed. Plus, this will ensure that you’re ready for any surprise Skype meetings.

Routine.

Forming a routine helps with productivity. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a long drawn out process. Each morning I try to avoid looking at my laptop until I’ve gotten ready and dressed, began making coffee, and stretched* for a few minutes. I’ve heard of people taking a walk or jog to simulate a commute. I’ve never found that necessary, but our brains do need a few minutes to start working in the morning. As a rule, don’t touch the production environment until you’ve had some coffee.

Indulge with Purpose.

In your own home, you’re surrounded by distractions. Learning to ignore them is important, but there are days where the urge to read a juicy Hacker News story, play a newly released video game, or watch the newest episode of a show, is just too great. If it’s constantly crossing your mind, it’s affecting your productivity. My view on this is to embrace the distraction. If the newest StarCraft just came out and you’re aching to play a ladder game, do it. Working remotely, you can have uniquely flexible hours. Just keep in mind that you’re going to have to make the work up.

End of Day.

When I first started working remotely, one of the most difficult things was turning off at the end of the day. Unlike leaving an office, where you’re physically removed from your work, a home office is always right there beside you. It’s tempting to work late and get ahead on a task, or spend your personal time thinking about a work related problem. It’s important to have a end time where you stop all things work related. When that time hits, do something else. Prepare dinner, do some dishes, tidy up a little. If you’ve got a significant other, spend some time asking about their day. You’ll be more eager to start work the next morning.

Productive Streaks.

These are days where you’re really getting shit done. Code is flying out of your finger tips without pause. These days are my exception to the “End of Day” rule. Take advantage of them, but don’t be so hard on yourself the next time you’re having a lackluster day. You’re not a machine.

Get out, talk to people.

This is one of the biggest things for me. It’s not every day that I’ll take a walk to buy a coffee or tea, but when I do, it’s always refreshing to get out of the house. This is made much easier if you’re already dressed up. Take the time to talk to the people working at your local coffee shop, get to know their names. When working from home, it’s amazing how long you can go without actually speaking a word to anyone. I’ve also really enjoyed going to local developer meetups, such as the Ottawa Ruby and OttawaJS. Social skills need kept up, and networking with your local community is important.

Exercise.

Not everyone’s favourite topic, but I’m mentioning exercise because it has helped me quite a bit. I find that I have increased energy levels and a clearer mind when exercising regularly. Plus, getting in shape is a nice benefit.

*Stretching

I think it’s really important that developers spend some time taking care of their money-makers. We work our arms and wrists all day, and if you’re anything like me, you probably play video games as a hobby. Taking some time to stretch and prevent injury will do you good in the long run. You’ve got a lot more typing to do in your lifetime.

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