October 24, 2023
min read

Remote Work: Best Practices for Developers

Luis Minvielle

Anyone who has ever worked remotely knows that it's not a walk in the park (it’s actually a lot of sitting in front of screens big and small).

We are here to give you some down-to-earth advice and practical tips to make your remote work experience bearable (if you hate it) and better (if you love it). Working from home will never beat unwinding and playing ball with your dog, but it shouldn’t be a nightmare. Moreover, this advice could help you in your job search as well. We’re skipping already well-explored practices like setting boundaries and trying to be more specific. These are some remote work best practices to keep you sane:

Organise as if you were a company

Platforms like Monday.com and Trello have multimillion-dollar valuations because companies shell out top-dollar contracts just to organise themselves. You might want to consider them for your very own organisation if you’re a bootstrapped individual working from home. You can use these tools to keep track of your deliverables or show others how you’re progressing in real-time, so you don’t receive inconvenient “So what’s the status?” messages.

But what’s more: if you’re on your own, you’ll, in due time, have to work with someone, even if they’re a client with a Gmail email address. If you organise your projects like a one-person company instead of like a slacker, you’ll get a firmer grip on working by your bedsheets, and you’ll be able to invest time in hunting down more clients.

Invest in a good chair (or work standing up)

Having a good chair when working from home is not a choice any more. You should get one quickly. A high-quality ergonomic chair, like those that sit around in derelict office buildings, provides good backing for your posture, reducing the risk of back pain, muscle strain, and other discomforts that can arise from prolonged sitting. Yes, it’s true: you’ll get back pain sooner than later, but try not to make it a given and dissuade it a bit with a good chair.

This advice comes just as a study suggesting sitting all day can bring on dementia is making waves in scientific journals. So you could also consider a stand-up set. If you’re working in sales or in a managerial role where you spend hours in meetings, a stand-up desk could be a good idea. From anecdotal evidence, it’s still not a comfy option if you spend most of your days punching Python scripts.

Go for that mechanical keyboard

Mechanical keyboards are a divisive topic. Some users call them a point of no return and advocate for their adoption, while others bash them specifically for that: you won’t be able to type again anywhere else if you switch to a mech keyboard even for a day.

Besides its hefty build, some users point out its entangling clanging as its most important differentiator. A keyboard with specific mechanical features could help you type in your Slack message with, at least, some ASMR comfort tied up to it, meaning working from home with one of these could make you drift away like a snake being called out by a flute player. It certainly tops traffic noise on the commute back home.

So, let’s look at it this way: Getting a mechanical keyboard, especially if you’re a programmer who spends all day long either typing code or browsing Stack Overflow for code, is a kind of self-care act. And if you really become enraptured with it, you won’t want to work anywhere else. Now, isn’t one of remote work's topmost challenges to stop working at all? Having special gear that you only use to work and that you can't work without could play the trick.

Let your colleagues know what you need

A recent survey once again demonstrated that the most significant problem most remote workers face is communication.

We already know how important, essential and well-covered it is to keep tabs on your colleagues or managers. But remote work brings the challenge onto the home turf. When it comes to your household, provided you share your flat, explaining the ins and outs of your work routine could help your roommates have your back. Give them the lowdown on what you do and how you need to do it. Whether it's quiet hours for meetings or simply some uninterrupted focus time, letting them know how your remote work is rolling might help you feel better altogether.

Go out, work somewhere else and have a chat

Occasionally venturing out to co-working spaces can be a way to meet new people and inject some assortment into your work environment. A change of scenery — from a café to a workation — can be a lovely reminder of why you’ve gone remote in the first place. 

So, remember, just because you work from home doesn't mean you have to confine yourself to your four walls. Browse through our selection of co-working spaces in Berlin, Vienna, and London.

Learn to leave the small talk behind

HR teams are still hosting mandatory virtual watercooler meetings (yes) for workers to ramble freely and “connect.” It's rooted in tradition: Back when the office was the norm, you had to throw in some old-fashioned small talk with colleagues to look like you were working instead of waiting for your boss to leave. 

With remote work a thing, many workers have struggled to replace this act and have insisted on asking about our weekends over text messaging apps. Now, it’d be rude not to answer back, but you can always give a different example. And since you’re working from home, if you need to ask for anything, just ask. Leave the preambles aside. Leave the small talk behind. Do you need the DevOps expert to deploy a test environment for your new weather forecasting API? Just send the message over. It is important to be amicable, but not shallow. You can always ask your colleagues how they’ve been in the first minutes of a team call.

Turn off email notifications

This sounds like a non-remote 2023 work recommendation, but it makes special sense if you’re working from your bedroom. Consider this: If you’re a remote worker, you have a special work setup — usually a company computer — you’ll be observant of most hours of a workday. Now, when you turn your back on this screen to get up to water your plants, stretch out your legs, or cook a prefab bean chilli meal, do you really need to be attentive to an email asking about a .zip file that you turned in two weeks ago? You don’t. You’re not a doctor who’s been requested to show up to the ER to save a life. So, turn those email and Slack notifications off and focus on irrigating the plants for five minutes; your anxious colleague can wait.

Push for an async work culture

An async way of working means it’s project-driven, requires no meetings, and has no emergency call-ups. In certain industries, including software development, this is entirely feasible. Think of it as contributing to an open-source project with the “help-wanted” tag. You’ll browse the repo, pick up a JavaScript issue you find interesting, solve it, and push it. The piece of software, which has probably already shipped, launches an update and puts your patch in. See? No meetings or time zone mismatches played a role in getting the software in better shape.

Some companies do require deadlines to ship software, and that’s understandable. Moreover, meetings are not an all-evil concept and can be helpful (sometimes). But if you try to imprint an async work culture on your colleagues, you’ll most likely own your remote work time in a more amicable way than before. If you go async, you can get by with a single daily check of your Slack client; that would be a remote work best practice, if any. It will also help when you go somewhere far away in a rattling different time zone to enjoy a workation.

Checking in on the go: Download work apps on your phone

It’s a given at this point, but we’re pressing on it: Downloading work apps on your phone is a smart and convenient way to preserve remote work sanity even when you're on the move.

We’re pushing this best practice because some companies only allow you to download their apps if you first install a cumbersome mobile device management (MDM) software. It's a bit of a hassle, but it's entirely worth it. Thanks to the oft-dreaded work mobile apps, you can always join a Zoom call while on the bus to shop for some groceries, provided you downloaded it in the first place. You can also answer Slack messages while you wait for your dentist to call you into her office. Just make sure you turn notifications off, especially if you’re on a hiking trail on a Sunday morning.

Level up your remote meeting game

If you’re going to work remotely, rain or shine, then make sure it’s at least satisfactory.

And even if you’re in for the money, earning a compliment here and there never hurts and will help you start your day with ac slightly better predisposition. This works especially when those are not servile and are honest “attaboy” praises — which means you kind of agree with the props. One quick way to impress your colleagues and bring in plenty of kudos messages is to level up your videoconferencing setup with a proper camera, a sound background, and open blinds.

If you suddenly pop into team calls and are caught on camera with:

  • An HD look and feel, courtesy of a reflex camera you’re using now
  • A podcaster mic
  • A good assortment of books just behind you
  • A vinyl record or two, to show how much you love 2010s hip-hop 
  • All while basking in sunbeams…

… then you’ll know the “Cool setup!” calls are earned — which means they’re way more valid. Unless it’s too flamboyant, this strategy works for an interview, too, since you’ll be a memorable candidate and you’ll come across as someone who cares about details.

Go for a generic virtual background

This best practice is diametrically opposite to the one we just suggested — levelling your videoconferencing game up — but it’s just as useful. Suppose you’re private, you like travelling and fooling around, and you don’t want your manager to know you’re pushing Java code from a hut in Bali, Indonesia. Using a dull virtual background every time will prevent anyone from noticing you’re someplace else than your bad-lit room. This is especially helpful for digital nomads.

Get a new remote job with these best practices

When you're working from home, it's easy for the lines between work and personal life to get all tangled up. Try setting physical boundaries too. Shutting your laptop, closing a door (or even drawing a curtain) can be much more useful than it sounds to leave all the pending duties behind.

Follow these simple and effective strategies in your remote work routine, and you will notice some real changes in how you go about things, making your at-home experience not as dreadful. Moreover, you’ll soon realise many of these strategies, such as having a good videoconferencing setup, could help you land a job. We continually vet and feature the best jobs in Europe, so go check our job board. Good luck!

Remote Work: Best Practices for Developers

October 24, 2023
min read

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