How to thrive as a remote software developer: a simple guide
September 8, 2022
Ah, to work from any place on Earth, for as many hours as you want, with nobody giving you the side-eye because you’re reciting the NATO phonetic alphabet for fun or listening to Celine Dion while you code. Perhaps you’re imagining lounging in a hammock by the ocean, laptop on your legs, or curled up on your minimalist Japanese sofa in a treehouse overlooking a rainforest.
There are undeniably fantastic benefits to working remotely, especially if you’re a freelancer and can make enough money to live the life that you want. Even if you work as part of a team as a waged employee of a company, the ability to work remotely is still very liberating. With WiFi and mobile data hotspotting being what it is today, we are much less limited in where we need to work.
As long as you have access to the software and hardware that you need, an ergonomic work environment and the internet, you have a great foundation for a good working setup. Offices are set up as work factories, or stations, designed for collaboration, with workplace etiquettes in place as well as health and safety measures, with regular updates and reviews around improvement.
Your remote working location likely isn’t inherently work-friendly, unless you’ve been working remotely for a long time. You probably had to make some adjustments to get it to that higher level. Whether offering software development or web hosting services, to thrive in any career when working remotely, you have to take care of yourself and your environment first and foremost. So let’s dive into some top tips on how to thrive in this environment as a remote software developer.
If you’re working from home, you want to make sure that you have a desk that is free from non-work-related clutter, and at the correct height for your body. You need a chair that supports your back and won’t contribute to any work-related injuries, such as bad posture or repetitive strain injuries.
If your company got you to fill out a release of liability template, then you already know it’s all on you to stay healthy and safe. Your chair should be height-adjustable, and your desk should be able to comfortably fit everything you need.
Your screen – and it’s a good idea to have a standalone screen separate from your laptop – should also be height-adjustable, and also have different light settings to be kind to your eyes. There are several health and safety manuals online that you can peruse to make sure that you’re sitting at your desk in a way that is safe for longer-term use, without putting pressure on your neck, straining your eyes or otherwise harming you in some way.
Physical work/life separation
Not everyone can afford to have a separate room for their working hours at home, but if you do have a space that can be converted, go for it – it’s worth the effort for your mental health while working remote. Having an area, even if it’s just a corner of a room, that’s dedicated to your work will allow you to switch off mentally from work at the end of your day when you move into the non-work parts of your home.
This is also a useful way to explain to children in the home that you are at work. You can explain to them that when you’re at your ‘office’, you are actually at work, and even though you are in the house, that doesn’t mean you are always available. Some people opt for a good pair of headphones to block out distractions and focus on work, as well as listening to calm instrumental music like LoFi.
You are a plant with more complicated emotions
Humans are simple creatures really – like many plants, we need to be fed, watered and exposed to sunlight and warmth. Make sure that you’re drinking enough water throughout the day. In an office, you might see others drinking tea to help remind you that you’re thirsty or that you should drink water. When you’re on your own, you’re more likely to forget to look after your basic needs.
You should also make sure that you get some natural light throughout the day, perhaps by sitting next to a window, or at the very least going outside for sunshine and leg stretching breaks. You should also make sure that you take regular breaks away from screens to give your brain and eyes a break, and walk around to give your body a much-needed stretch.
Whether it’s going into the kitchen to speak to a family member, going onto the balcony to wave to your neighbor, or organizing regular calls with friends or colleagues, make sure you have some human contact peppered throughout your day. Your remote working colleagues and friends will appreciate the thought.
You can also set up an informal co-working space with people you like. You might set up shop at a laptop-friendly coffee shop a couple of times a week or month to get more of a social atmosphere into your life. If you don’t know any other remote workers, you can just take yourself to a laptop-friendly establishment and sit alongside other remote workers.
And finally, you can also organize walks around the nearest park for your lunch break with people nearby to switch off from work for an hour.
Mental work/life separation
It can be easy when working remote from anywhere for people to expect you to be available all the time. Make sure to set yourself clear working hours outside of which you won’t go onto your work laptop. If your work laptop is the same as your personal laptop, you can create different accounts for work and personal time so that you don’t feel tempted to answer any messages you receive after 5pm.
It’s important not to let your work spill into your personal life - balance is necessary for good physical and mental health. Not to mention a lot of people work better to clear deadlines than they do if the deadline is open-ended. You don’t want to be pulling all-nighters all weekend because you didn’t set 5pm on Friday as your absolute final deadline.
Having access to your team’s software is essential for your work, or a version of your own WebEx competitors software if you’re a freelancer. Ensure you’ve got all of the tools you need to for your work to avoid unnecessary stress in the future.
Naturally, a good internet connection is essential to your work, so that can limit where you work from somewhat. Luckily the internet is getting better everywhere over time so the constraints software developers would have had a decade ago, when POTS was more widely used, are less relevant now.
Communication & Teamwork
As well as communicating to fight loneliness and protect your mental health, you should communicate as often as possible with your teammates via text, video calls, and phone calls, even if these calls are short. Seeing a face and hearing a voice is a quick way to touch base with people and get on the same page about your mainframe modernization and integration project.
Avoid losing touch with the team and missing out on what’s going on because you’re afraid of being bothersome by contacting people too much – there’s no such thing as too much communication when you’re already working remotely. Also, don’t assume that everyone knows the same things you do – a lot gets missed when people don’t communicate in person, so don’t be afraid to offer in-depth updates regularly, and ask for the same from others.
Choose the right company
If you’re just starting as a remote software developer, you’ll want to make sure that you choose a company that is well-equipped for remote work. The best case scenario is an all-remote company, because with everybody being in the same boat, no one gets forgotten about or left behind because they’re the one remote worker on the team.
An all-remote company will also have the tools and practices in place, as well as the culture for good communication, that you will need to thrive in your role and collaborate with your team. Remote work should be fully integrated into the company’s style of working, not an add-on without much thought given to it.
To thrive in any career, you have to keep learning. This is even more so in a fast-paced environment such as software development. You can make use of affordable online tutorials and training events to progress your career and enhance your skill set, as well as join in with any training your company offers.
Hopefully, this guide will have given you some solid tips to help you on your path of remote work as a software developer. Work/life separation is a must, and it’s often as simple as creating a healthy, dedicated space for your work apart from the rest of your home. Staying in touch with your teammates and choosing the right company to work for are also essential steps in having a healthy, happy career.
About the author:
Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered cloud communication platform for better and easier team collaboration via the Dialpad voice over internet phone system. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. Grace has also written for domains such as Bizmanualz and UpCity. Here is her LinkedIn.
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