(Guest writer: Julia Zywinska)
The COVID-19 pandemic is over one year old (unhappy b-day to you, bastard!), and many companies worldwide decide to go remote. We, the software developers, are pretty used to working from home, but rather from time to time than +365 days in a row and under lockdown.
Here are the most crucial things for effective remote work that will keep you safe from becoming a Mowgli from “Jungle Book” — meaning completely savage, not cute.
“What remote workers want most is flexibility and autonomy. The flexibility to decide when, how, and where we work — because we lead real, human lives and have personal responsibilities — and the autonomy of making those decisions without feeling like Big Brother is watching.” — Nichole Elizabeth DeMere, Zest.is
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Working from home — The YAYS and NAYS
There are a few vital (and obvious) benefits of working from home. Some of them are:
- No commute time — When working from home, you can sleep longer but also save some money on bus tickets or gas. Not mentioning no need to deal with strangers in the morning. That’s priceless!
- No work clothes — Because no one ever invented greater pants than sweatpants.
- Your work-friendly environment — While architects usually design the office space, you can arrange your area the way you want it when working remotely. And who knows better what’s best for your efficiency? No matter if it’s listening to death metal or working with a cat on your knees — the sky (plus your bank account and dignity) is the limit here!
- More laundry and cooking time — Yes, the possibility of cooking a full meal or doing laundry while working from home is excellent. Keep it healthy, keep it clean!
- Less stress — The study conducted by FlexJobs in association with Mental Health America showed that more than 80% of participants said that more work flexibility would benefit their mental health.
The bad news is, remote work also has its fair share of weak points. And they are:
- Distractions — TV, Netflix, HBO GO, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, iTunes, Xbox, PlayStation, PSP, vinyl, board games, books, eating, sleeping, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter… And for the people with kids you cannot even beging to count the distractions.
- Disconnection — Yep! Working in sweatpants can be awesome, but after a while, you probably miss your work buddies and other people’s energy in general.
- Distance — When all of your team members are in the same place, the communication keeps flowing, and getting any tips or answers will take a few minutes. When everyone works remotely, you never know when the message will come.
- Neglecting the work hygiene — Office = rules, home = working at night, working too much, or extreme multitasking, which is not suitable for anyone.
“How lonely working remotely can be — fortunately, Museum Hack is very intentional about putting systems in place to make sure we feel connected to our co-workers. We have department video chats and even video chats between co-workers solely dedicated to getting to know one another. Without systems like that, working from home could become very lonely, very quickly.” — Cody Nailor, Museum Hack
Keeping the balance
So how to make sure that after a few days of remote work, you will not be a shaggy couch potato in stained sweatpants and feel motivated to complete your tasks efficiently? There are a few tips that may help you.
1. A relaxing morning routine
We all know how it is sometimes — you open your eyes, reach for your phone to check social media, but you see a notification — there’s a new email in your work inbox. You open it and… bang! It’s 4 p.m.
That’s why before checking your phone in the morning, you should eat a nutritious breakfast, stretch or take a walk, and hop in the tub for a relaxing bath.
2. Don’t be a Mowgli
Working from home encourages nonchalant pajama fashion and slight neglect of personal hygiene. If you don’t want to feel gross, we recommend washing at least your face, teeth, and intimate area and changing underwear every day.
Don’t wear your pajamas all day — it doesn’t help with keeping the work-life balance.
3. Don’t ever work from your bed!
If you have a comfortable bed, working all day in a horizontal position can be very tempting, but after a few days and nights lying down, you may feel an energy drop and, even worse — back pain. A bedroom is for relaxing, not for working.
4. Stick to the routine
Once you lose yourself in the workflow, it’s straightforward to work more than anyone requires of you. To maintain a healthy work-life balance, plan a workday end time and stick to it.
5. Eat responsibly
Cook, not order! You have so much time, dude! When you sit all day, it’s an exercise. Also, try to eat at least three times a day (but five would be great).
6. Keep in touch
When you work remotely, it’s easy to lose touch with your friends and colleagues. And if you live alone, there’s a chance you will miss human contact a lot.
When the spread of coronavirus is a significant concern, it’s a good idea to talk to someone on the phone or FaceTime from time to time — it will help you feel a little more socially active.
Mission: Remote Work — Tools and Accessories
To be the most efficient during the lockdown, you should prepare not only strategically and mentally but also technically.
Luckily we have a bunch of tools, services, and accessories to make our remote work more accessible.
- Computer – First of all, you need an efficient computer. And a fast one, as most of the conversations, are online, and you need to know what’s going on on the screen.
- Noise-canceling headphones – It’s a life-changing accessory — especially if you have loud neighbors, kids, and/or pets.
- Additional screen – Working on a laptop for hours and limited physical activity can kill your back — screen is a must!
- Good Internet Cam with a clean lens – Because you don’t want colleagues and peers on the other side to see you as a Minecraft character.
- Comfy desk and chair – Again, you have to take care of your back.
- USB adapter – Your smartphone charging cable, mouse, keyboard, and other USB-powered devices will probably need some support, right?
- Strong WI-FI signal – Duh!
- Video meeting apps like Zoom or Microsoft Teams – It’s friendly and healthy to see people from time to time, trust us.
- Messaging apps like Slack or Whatsapp – You and your team might need it for ad hoc actions.
- Antivirus software – Some of us work on our private computers. Are you entirely sure all of your data is safe? Stay safe!
Remote Work: Company support is crucial!
There are several ways companies can (and probably should) support their employees during pandemic-caused remote work.
“Employers often overlook how essential it is to export their culture to remote workers.” — Augie Kennedy, ShipMonk
First of all, they should make sure all of the team members have all of the equipment they need to work comfortably. If not — they deserve a $$$ bonus to buy it.
Another thing is keeping the work-life balance. There’s time to work, and there’s time to relax — don’t mix it because it will probably end badly. The European Parliament plans to establish a law that allows employees to not answer work emails, calls, and messages in their free time, without any consequences.
On the other side, people working from home need flexibility, as some of them have kids that are also under lockdown or trouble with getting up at the crack of dawn caused by the pandemic stress.
Employers should do in our “new normal” work from home to understand people, their needs, anxieties, stressors, and any other struggles they face every day — to give them any support they need because people like to feel connected and like a part of the team.
That’s why employers should make sure everyone is OK and knows exactly what, how, and when they need to do it.
Group calls to celebrate successful projects, birthdays, and even weekends are also a great idea — every opportunity to meet people, even only virtually, is excellent nowadays.
All we need to keep the efficient work going is following a few simple rules: company support, human connection, work-life balance, comfortable work spot, good accessories; basically living like the the pandemic never happened, and like we spend all of the time at home because we want to, not because we have to.
And soon everything will be back to normal, they always do.
(This guest post is written by Julia Zywinska for Hongkiat.com. Julia is a communication specialist and a novice technology journalist. She used to publish in one of the largest information newspapers in Poland. Julia currently works at Asper Brothers, a Polish company developing software.)