Coronavirus has changed the way we do business. Overnight, companies that have spent years putting off remote working strategies have been forced to go online just to stay open. However, even before mandatory distance work, developers have always regarded remote work options as one of the most important job factors: 33.3% of respondents in the 2020 Stack Overflow Developer Survey, which surveyed over 65,000 developers, cited remote work options as one of the most important considerations for choosing one job over another. Remote work brings up fantastic benefits: no long commutes, no traffic jams, and the power to manage your own schedule and work. Here are a few tips to help you unlock the full potential of being a remote developer.
Be clear on your expectations and responsibilities
There are a variety of ways to work remotely, including:
- One-to-one, where you’re working for a single person.
- A company that has many remote contractors. (Check out the five best companies to work for remotely.)
- A company where you are the only remote worker and everyone else is on-site.
- You’re partly working remotely and partly on-site (this is probably the most common arrangement at the moment, given the realities of the Covid-19 lockdown)
However, whichever of these arrangements you pursue, you should ensure that you and your client (or employer) have an up-front and fair understanding of work expectionas. After all, just because you’re not in a traditional working arrangement does not mean you should be treated any differently from a normal, on-site employee.
And so it is important to enforce reasonable boundaries upfront – for example, stipulating that you won’t work at inappropriate times like after 8pm or before 6am, or over weekends, without a previous agreement on overtime or other remuneration (just like you would in a formal workplace).
Formalise your work arrangement with a contract. This goes a long way in preventing and lessening workplace misunderstandings and disagreements.
Set appropriate boundaries
Your bedroom isn’t your office. To maximise your focus, and create a clear mental distinction between work spaces and relaxation spaces, you should make sure that where you work isn’t a place where you want to do anything but work.
There are two ways to set boundaries while being a remote developer: first, you can leave your home and work in a dedicated workspace, be it a coffee shop or a makeshift office. This isn’t so easy with lockdown regulations in full swing, so the second option is to section off a part of your home – a space room, or a quiet desk by the window perhaps – that is used only for work. This space should be free from distractions.
To help emphasise the work-home separation of spaces in your house, we recommend you dress ‘for work’ (even if no one can see you in your PJs in the Zoom call). This will help to put your mind in the zone to be productive.
The converse of this boundary setting is also true: when you switch off after work, don’t bring your work into the bedroom. HyperionDev front end developer Tafadzwa Gonera emphasises the importance of being able to switch off and separate your work and personal time.
“The most important thing I’ve learned in my developer work is balance,” says Tafadzwa. “You can spend hours writing reams of code, but this can be a trap that’s bad for both your health, and the integrity of the code you write. Early on in my career I would spend my evenings studying and learning but that burns you out quickly.”
Make sure you have the right tools for the job
Once you have set aside your quiet corner or spare room, it’s important that you have everything you need to work effectively and productively. Here are a few things you should add to your office must-haves:
- Headset: You’re going to be on a lot of conference calls, so you should get a decent headset with a good microphone so that you can communicate yourself clearly. As an added bonus, noise-cancelling headphones can help you to concentrate and stay in your coding flow state by cutting out outside noises and distractions.
- A stable Internet connection: this goes without saying. If you can’t be online, you can’t work remotely, and few companies will tolerate a poor or unreliable connection for long.
- Take care of your eyes, hands, and back. These are vital to your work, so make sure you have a decent ergonomic chair and keyboard, and that you’re managing your screen time to prevent eye strain. Light filters like Flux make all the difference in helping to minimise damage to your vision.
- Time Zone Converter – for working with clients or colleagues around the world. Try Time And Date’s World Time Clock or Every Time Zone.
- Bug Tracking Software – a software application that keeps track of bugs in software development projects. Here are 10 free and open source bug tracking software solutions.
Ensure your developer growth
Being a remote developer comes with unique challenges. The foremost challenge is that you are essentially working ‘alone’: you need to hold yourself accountable to your projects and tasks, often figuring out solutions to problems on your own.
This ‘being alone’ also extends to self-improvement and career development. You need to make sure you’re putting aside time every day to improve your programming proficiency, expanding your skills and knowledge, and building your career prospects.
Some tips for growth for remote developers include:
- Setting aside an hour a day to learn something new.
- Join the online developer support community. Stack Overflow is the most popular of these: attracts over 50 million developers on a monthly basis, to the point where 90% of respondents to Stack Overflow’s 2020 Developer Survey said they had used the site to solve problems. It’s not the only place to figure out problems, however: the Programming subreddit is also a good spot to bookmark, and you can also check out free and paid forums like Experts Exchange and Quora.
Enjoy the benefits of remote work
Finally, you should make sure that you’re making full use of the benefits of remote work. After all, if you’re not enjoying the relative freedoms and pluses to this new arrangement, what’s the point of it?
- Take advantage of the lull during peak traffic hours, and finish running your errands without worrying about crowds.
- Refresh if you’re feeling groggy or can’t focus. A power nap or short break away from ‘work’ can make all the difference in helping you to focus and work to your best ability – and you can always schedule the missed time later in the evening or early the next morning.
- Go on that holiday. So what if you have to spend some of the time working – at least you’ll be in a new environment.
- Switch off from the ‘office space’. Spend quality time with your family. If you have children, fetch them from school. Find a new hobby, and take time to enjoy it.
Does the freedom and self-determination of remote work sound appealing to you? Software developers and programmers work in jobs that are increasingly remote, sometimes working across timezones for companies on a totally different continent. If you’re looking for the skills to join this freeing and highly-paid line of work – or if you want to pad your core skill set and open up new career opportunities – you should consider enrolling for one of HyperionDev’s online coding bootcamps in Full Stack Web Development, Data Science, and Software Engineering.
Our bootcamps teach real developer skills to make you job-ready for your new (hopefully remote) tech career in just 6 months. Best of all, they can be taken part-time and online, so you fit a tech future into your spare time.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on 12 October 2018 and has been updated on 22 July 2020.