So, you wanna be a remote developer?
Perhaps sit on a beach with your laptop sipping Mai Tai’s watching the sunset? Sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s a lot more organizing and planning than it is sipping and relaxing. Remote work can give flexibility and freedom to travel, take care of kids, support aging parents – with proper organization and setup, that is.
Here are my steps to becoming and succeeding at remote work:
Want to go remote, but not sure how to start? The first step is evaluation. Where are you now, where do you want to go, and how is your current setup hindering that.
- Evaluate your needs. Are you going 100-percent remote across multiple time zones? Do you need one or two work from home days to account for child care? Do you need a ton of schedule flexibility to care for an aging parent? Knowing what you need helps you negotiate, communicate and find a fit that works for both you and your employer. Know your “non-negotiables” and where you can be flexible.
- Evaluate your current job. What do you do? Are you able to be successful at your job while remote? If you do a lot of your work in person and need physical presence (ie: a dentist, or office operations manager) it might not be a great candidate for remote work.
- Evaluate your current company. Does your company allow remote workers or are they open to it? If they do, are they set up to support remote employees? There is a big difference between being on a remote-first team vs. being the one remote person at your company. Considerations such as using webcams for meetings, having established Slack norms and other policies help create a robust remote culture. If your job and company seem like they might work remotely, start there. Talk to your manager and create a plan of how to make the ask. Bring to the table actionable items on how you will make remote work successful and ask them what their needs are. I am a developer, so that is a career where folks are more open to remote options. When I went 100-percent remote at first, it was with my existing job. Be aware: not every state is eligible for remote work. Companies might take this moment to try and squeeze a little more out of you by giving you this instead of a promotion or moving you to 1099 contractor status. Make sure you know how much money you need, what your floor is, and the ins and outs of 1099 employment.
2. Getting a Remote Job
Getting a remote job is not that much different than getting any other job. Make sure you find out up front if remote employment is allowed. There are many remote-focused companies (For example, Wirecutter, where I work now. Check out our job openings) and job boards. My partner Seth Puckett wrote about his experience getting a remote job that could be useful.
Start early. It takes longer to find remote jobs, as there are fewer openings and lots of competition.
(Psst, Technical.ly’s NET/WORK tech jobs fair is happening on March 27. Learn more and register as a job seeker or talent seeker below.)
Once you have a remote job, it’s time to set yourself up. Here is my equipment setup (note: I am a traveling remote developer so this is optimized for long term international travel):
- MacBook Pro
- Samsung Note 8
- Roost Laptop Stand (don’t sacrifice your back alignment!)
- External USB Keyboard
- External USB Mouse
- Cable organizer
- Cable ties
- Headphones (I hate mine, check out the Wirecutter’s amazing list though)
- Laptop cover
For me, it’s been about making sure my ergonomics are taken care of. If you are a home office worker, have a dedicated space and consider standing desk adjustments, extra monitors, happy zen water feature, etc. Make your home office your special work space so at the end of the day you can ‘leave’ and move on to home life.
4. Tips for Success
There has been lots written about what it takes to be successful and happy as a remote worker. But here’s one of my favorites from fellow #dctech organizer Lindsey Kopacz on 10 things she has learned from working remotely.
Here are my suggestions:
- Have a dedicated workspace and work hours. For me as a remote traveler this can be challenging, usually I have a corner where I set up my station, an outfit that I change out of when my day is over, and strict hours where I am on or off line. This helps to not get distracted when at home with all your fun house items as well as create a visual and mental space for your work vs. your home life.
- Have an outdoor space or get outside every…damn…day. I personally like to take a walk after lunch to have a coffee. Make plans with friends at minimum once a week (I am super extroverted so I need more than that) and stick to those plans. You are missing out on the human interaction of the office, and you need that from other places now.
- Consider how much time you spend with and away from your partner. I work from home with my partner. That means we are together a lot. Create space for yourself, give your partner space and don’t talk to them at any moment all day. They are working and concentrating, as well.
- Communicate with your team, your manager and your coworkers. Then, communicate some more. Ask about expectations of working hours. Track your tickets and comment on them to give asynchronous communication AND a record of the conversation. Give feedback on PRs. Set up “coffee dates” where you both get a hot drink and talk over Slack/Zoom/Hangouts for 15 minutes. These things would have happened in the wild at an office. Now you need to create them intentionally. Communicate and document.
For those considering traveling while remote working:
- DO. YOUR. RESEARCH. Find a space with good, reliable wifi and have a backup plan always.
- Try not to travel during the week, and give yourself some time to adjust to your new working space.
- Make sure you’re giving yourself downtime. You want to explore every lunch break and after every work day, but we need rest and relaxation as well.
- Have a way to engage with communities, either online (slack groups etc.) or in person (I use Internations to find happy hours of other travelers or Twitter to connect with locals). Take tours, join hostel happy hours, make friends at the coffee shop you visit on your lunch break.
I would LOVE to hear your thoughts, opinions, or suggestions. I am always learning how to be a better remote worker and traveler. Please tweet me @sirJessTheBrave with your comments. If you are interested in following along with my international remote work adventure please visit our blog, www.sethandjess.com, where you can find our thoughts and other social links.-30-
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