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Remote That Works

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In today’s world of total online existence, in which even your neighbour’s dog has its own Instagram, there is one thing that remains practically unchanged, and that is work in the office. In the past century technology advancements have changed many things around us, but has the way we work changed a lot? Not that much.

On the one hand, we do have a much healthier working environment now, and more convenient working spaces, but on the other hand, the offices are still not as good and convenient as our homes, sweet homes. Probably that is one of the reasons why the new trend of working remotely – whether from home or any other place – is booming.

Is remote only for tech employees?

When it comes to remote work, tech industry employees are the major evangelists here. And what can you expect from people who have the whole world at their fingertips and all they need for work is a computer connected to the Internet.

And are people of other professions (e.g. teachers, marketers, doctors, etc.) able to work remotely? Probably it’s not always possible, but in most cases it’s just a matter of motivation and using the right tools. You can be in Peru or the USA, it does not matter, as long as you are doing your job well.

Motivation

Well, working remotely is not that easy, but I would recommend reading this book. It’s up to you to decide if you want to quit your day job or not, but there are things you should be prepared for before going remote. First of all, take a close look at all the cons, which could become a problem for you later. For example, there would be no boss watching you, so you won’t have any control or extrinsic motivation to work; no chatting with colleagues during lunch time; no ping-pong or other in-office games and fun activities with the team.

Second, you should answer a few important questions about going remote: Why is working outside of the office attractive to me? Would it help to improve my productivity? Maybe I would have more time to spend with my family.  Answers to these questions would give you a broader view of the situation and would help you to understand why remote would be a good option for you or not.

It’s nearly impossible to cover every aspect of the question in a single article.  So, if you decide that remote work is right for you, then I would recommend reading Remote: Office Not Required. It is a pretty comprehensive guide to the “work from home” phenomenon.

Tools

There are many different tools available today for effective remote work, and in fact no general rules. A lot depends on your personal working habits and routine, so I can only give some basic recommendations based on my experience.

First of all, think about the time window, when you would be available to your colleagues, as it’s better to be predictable. Create a schedule and share it with everyone in your team, so they would know what is the best time to reach you. Second, you should think about collaboration tools. For example, you can use Pivotal and Jira trackers for task management, HipChat or Slack for communication with the team. Task or project management systems allow everyone in the team to be on the same page. I would say having collaboration tools is the most important factor as it enables the team to negotiate, solve issues, and do planning while being completely distributed. There is a great choice of such tools available today, so don’t be a technophobe, try different variants and pick what is best for you. My team, for example, uses Jira and Pivotal for task management, and HipChat for communication. These tools are effective and sufficient for most of our everyday communication and collaboration, though we may also use Hangouts for active discussions.

And last, don’t forget about regular meetings in real life, those would help to keep you in touch with colleagues and boost the morale of the whole team. For example, at Stanfy we have an offline meeting at the end of each sprint (which is once every 2 weeks).

Stay in touch

Being a remote worker sometimes means being alone most of the day (if you work from home, for example) and distant from everyone you are working with, which can play against you. Humans are mostly social creatures and need IRL activities to stay mentally healthy. Usually teams have various team-building events a few times per year just to keep in touch – it helps to better understand your colleagues and tighten the work bond.

My experience

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My remote work experience started during my last years at the university, when I had both to attend the lectures and go to the office. The only solution for me was to work from home and connect with the team remotely, which appeared to work pretty well. And today, while I am finished my studies, I still prefer remote mode for a few reasons. First, it gives me the opportunity to have my own schedule. Second, I no longer need to spend hours on public transit traveling from home to the office and back. And third, I can choose or create my own personalized working environment. These small aspects are a huge benefit for me, and I think make me more motivated and effective and happy with my job.

I had a long journey getting to my current work routine, starting from only a few hours of remote work a month, while now I spend only two days per month in the office. My motivation is quite simple – I must get things done, and it works great for me.

I understand that there are some cases when remote work may not fit a person. Maybe you really need to socialize and see your colleagues in the office every day; it’s totally up to you to decide. But I also believe that while the world is getting more connected, people will change the way they work in the nearest future.


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MadCode Meetup: Pair Programming. Great Tool on a Rocky Path

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December 18, 2015

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