March 19, 2020
10 Tips for Developers Working from Home
Sophilabs' company culture prioritizes onsite work, as it facilitates connection and spontaneous collaboration among teammates. When we do need to work from home, however, we encourage each other to form good habits so we can continue doing our best work. We know that if you're used to working in an office environment surrounded by your colleagues, working from home can sometimes be a tough transition. In light of that, we decided to share our top tips for staying productive and organized while working from home.
Setting Up Your Workspace
An important part of working from home effectively is setting up your physical space to facilitate maximum concentration and productivity.
1. Designate a specific area to work.
One of the biggest challenges of working from home can be staying focused and motivated when you're working in the same place where you relax or watch TV. Experienced remote workers recommend designating a specific space to work as a way to help you get in the right mindset every day. You don't need to have a home office or spare room in order to do this; even a corner of your kitchen table is a great option if you set it up properly. The key is to avoid working in a space where you normally lounge (i.e., your couch or bed).
2. Make sure you have everything you need to work without interruption.
A flat surface such as a desk or table along with a chair with good back support are ideal for working comfortably for long stretches of time. Set up your workspace close to an outlet or power strip so you don't need to stop working to charge your devices. Keep any reference books, notepads, and pens or pencils at your workspace so you don't waste time looking for them. If you have video conference calls scheduled, make sure the background is tidy and professional. At sophilabs, we recommend a clean, blank wall or a well-lit room with no clutter as a suitable background when communicating internally or with clients.
3. Set boundaries with family or housemates.
Sometimes it's a little hard for others to understand that you need to work just as diligently at home as you would work at your office. Let those you live with know that when you are in your designated workspace, you need to be able to focus. Communicating clearly about when it's ok to interrupt can make a big difference. However, maintaining peace and quiet in your workspace can be especially tricky if you have small children. Luckily, parents who regularly work from home have shared their advice on how to stay productive with little ones around.
Getting Things Done
Cultivating certain habits can help you do your best work while telecommuting.
4. Establish a routine
If your employer doesn't already require you to be online during business hours, make sure you set a regular work schedule for yourself to help you stay organized. Lots of remote workers find it helpful to get up at the same time every day and dress as if they were going to the office. While it's very tempting to stay in your pajamas all day, many people find it easier to stay motivated when they follow a getting-ready routine and wear their normal work clothes. 1
5. Schedule your breaks
Setting fixed times to take short breaks throughout the day can help you maintain a high level of productivity. It's a good way to avoid taking too many spontaneous breaks or, on the other hand, exhausting yourself by overworking. When sophilabs' team members work remotely, they include their lunch time on their calendars so our team knows when they'll be unavailable.
Software development is a team sport, and you'll need to keep your communication skills very sharp in order to collaborate effectively while working from home.
6. Check in frequently.
Without the ability to swing by someone's desk to ask a question or give an update, it's very important to communicate constantly with your team via your regular communication channels. Let them know when you're taking a break so they know when to expect a response from you. At sophilabs, we constantly update each other on Slack, preferring to err on the side of over-communication so everyone stays on the same page.
7. Use your camera.
Don't be camera shy during video conferences. Using your camera improves communication and helps you connect better with your team and with clients and stakeholders. Just make sure your background is presentable (see Tip 2). 2 At sophilabs, we encourage our teammates to turn on their cameras so we can feel united as a team even when we're working from home.
8. Share your screen.
Another way to boost quality communication is to share your screen during video conferences. That way you have the same visual reference as you would while meeting in person. Our team at sophilabs regularly uses screen sharing as a way to support clear communication.
9. Invest in a headset.
Finally, a headset with noise cancelling headphones or earbuds is your best friend when working from home. A headset can block background noise, helping you focus on the matter at hand and increasing the audio quality of the call for both you and your interlocutor. Sophilabs recommends using a headset as best practice when taking video conference calls from home.
Working successfully from home isn't only about what happens during working hours, though. Setting clear boundaries for when to stop working is just as important, which leads us to our last piece of advice.
10. Avoid burnout.
When you work in the same building where you eat and sleep, it's easy to let work take over and continue working beyond your regular hours. However, this is a recipe for burnout. We recommend trying to achieve a sustainable pace by intensely focusing on your work during office hours and logging off completely at the end of the day. It's difficult to give your best effort at work when you're "on" 24/7, so make sure you take time to rest and recharge. Experienced remote workers recommend putting electronics (such as your work phone and laptop) away and out of sight at the end of the day so you can truly turn off your "work brain" and relax.
Software development lends itself well to flexible work arrangements like working from home, but remote work still requires some adjustment for those of us who are used to commuting to an office. We hope our top 10 tips help smooth the transition for any developers who are new to working from home. If you found our tips useful and identify with the way we work, consider joining us!
Ryan Donovan, "Working from home tips from our experienced remote employees," The Overflow, Stack Overflow, March 12, 2020. ↩