In 2019 I took a remote engineering role, motivated by a young family and a long commute.
Stepping away from a Software Management role, where I'd divided my time between technical leadership and people management, to a fully remote engineering role, was always going to require a change in mindset. Through this journey I've learned a few strategies which may be useful for others on the same path.
Separate your work space
I took a month off between jobs to build a home shed-office (pronounced 'shoffice'). This was the single best investment I made in the transition, it won't be feasible for everyone, but whatever your environment, consider this a sacred space that needs to be treated with respect:
- Keeping the space tidy, and clutter free.
- Educate others in the household to respect this space, this is where you will conduct yourself in a professional manner.
- Have an 'off switch', it can be closing a door, or packing away of equipment, but make sure you know what that ritual is, and repeat it.
Invest in audio visual
Regardless of how your company is distributed, stand-ups, company all hands, and 1-2-1's will likely feature the medium of video calls. How you appear and sound becomes an extension of your professional demeanour:
- Consider face on cameras, with support for HD.
- Simple lighting rigs will brighten dim spaces and improve streamed picture quality.
- Headphones with built in microphones will offer superior audio fidelity.
Balance over burnout
If you are fortunate enough to find a pursuit in life that you are passionate about, and create a set of favourable conditions to work in, it's very easy to get the balance wrong. I've spent most of my professional career fighting to get a balance that was right for me and those I love.
- The brain processes information sequentially, which is why context switching is so expensive. Plan in half day increments.
- The context switch must factor in breaks.
- Exercise is paramount to a healthy physical and mental relationship with work. Set yourself up for success, prepare your workout/gear in advance, then you only need execute on it, a context change lends itself to this.
Continuing the topic of mental health, even the most introvert among us need to socialise. The opportunities for this are reduced when we are not co-located, so seeking and creating these opportunities is important.
- Asking for help is one of the easiest ways to do this. Pair programming using collaboration tools bridges the gap.
- Daily standup in a remote environment will take longer, as it's not just about impediments and work in flight, it's an opportunity for people to share and connect.
- Creating features of your work week, such as workshops and lightening talks will also create conditions for people to share and discuss areas of expertise.