Times are a-changin’, remote work for the most part seems to be here to stay, or at least a hybrid version of it. As a result, we get to continuously re-visit how we work out loud, collaborate and manage our time.
For some of us, this sounds like an exciting opportunity, and for others this sounds overwhelming – cue going down a rabbit hole of YouTube videos to avoid thinking about it.
Have no fear, the Commit team is here. We’ve done some research online and talked to some folks to build a top 5 list of tips for developers, let’s get into it.
1. Over communicate (pretend like no one knows what you’re working on)
This is a big one but first it’s important to recognize that everyone has different communication styles.
If you do an online search, the typical communication styles at the workplace everyone discusses are passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive and assertive. However, we’re a bigger fan of the DiSC personality types, as the following Atlassain article reiterates “but these [above communication styles] are all about a person’s outbound communication, and say nothing about what works best for them when it comes to inbound communication.”
So, step one is figuring out your personality type by reading the article above, you will find clear examples of how to communicate and what to avoid. The more aware you are of your personality type, the more you can practice your communication, you’ll want to get to a state of autocorrect.
The second ‘awakening’ we would encourage is reminding yourself that you work in a remote and possibly asynchronous environment. This means, different time zones, different cultures and different learned ways of working, so this is where you practice overcommunication. Here are a few examples how:
- Start a daily team standup to check-in on progress
- Create a dedicated Slack channel for your team to discuss any issues that come up – ours is called #product-engineering
- Introduce weekly metrics (i.e. number of bugs fixed, number of deployments etc.) so everyone clearly sees progress or lack thereof and you can start a conversation.
- Share with your manager your career goals and ask them to tell you what the next steps are for you to get there.
- Document progress and/or action items and provide weekly written updates. This way you can reflect on and celebrate all the work you’ve done. It is important to celebrate the wins too!
2. Try New Tools (and discuss them with your teammates as well)
Looking into new tools is a great way to improve the way you work, no matter what profession you are in. We talked to our community of remote developers and they shared with us a few tools they use to work better independently or collectively.
- Keep track of your list of to-dos: Todoist helps you keep track of your to-dos which is essential to keep your day well organized and gives you clear visibility on what needs to get done that day. And if you’re not a fan of that one, TickTick is another promising free online tool.
- Set up your remote work environment: CiscoVPN as the data and Docker Compose for setting up your local environment. Getting this right is essential.
- Explain your architecture: Ziteboard is an online whiteboard to use to quickly draw out an architecture diagram or something else during a screen share. This helps reduce any chance for miscommunication or confusion. Another great option is Diagrams.
- Document, document, document: Both Notion and Confulence are a favourite within our community for documentation which is key to any dev team.
- Keep track of your time: RescueTime helps you keep track of the time you spend on each app so you avoid losing time on non-productive tasks. We all get distracted and that’s ok, but let’s not get too distracted.
- Design those APIs: Swagger is your best bet. Bonus, it’s open source.
- Walkthrough what you’re working on: Loom is a great tool for recording internal screenshares and walkthroughs, sometimes text and images of your code are not enough to convey your points.
3. Get up and Get out (movement, not only typing or bathroom breaks is key)
This one should come to you as no surprise, movement is important, let’s not stay at our desks 8-10 hours a day. An article from the Mayo Clinic said that “researchers analyzed 13 studies of sitting time and activity levels. They found that those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to that posed by obesity and smoking.” Ouch!
There are so many different ways to move, so we’ve just created a list of some of our favourite ways below but ‘Bob’s Your Uncle’ – you can find many more with a quick online search.
- A walk around the neighbourhood
- A bike around the neighbourhood
- Invest in a standing desk
- Stretch sequences – this is a bit on the longer side but it is good for people of all levels.
- A quick dance session – we enjoy this one, you always feel better after, you cannot go wrong with a video that has received 34 million views!
- Joining a local league to practice your sport of choice
4. Be Kind, Rewind and Repeat (you’re second title is Chief Repeating Officer)
Forgetting is the new normal. We all have a lot going on and spending less time together in a physical space adds an additional level of complexity. You cannot just go up to the person and tap them on the shoulder anymore and remind them of what they owe you. Instead you flood their Slack or Email Inbox.
That’s why your new title on top of being __ Dev, is Chief Repeating Officer. You may think you’re annoying someone but you’re actually doing them a favor. Here are a few examples of how to remind someone of the work they owe you kindly:
Hi X, I know you’ve been extremely busy with X, so thought I would check in to see if you have made any progress on the request I sent you last week?
Hi X, I’m just going over my to-do list and noticed I haven’t heard back from you in regards to X, would you share with me an update by x date?
Hi X, how are you doing?
And then follow up on your ask.
Remember, be kind, remote work is an adjustment and there are a lot of cognitive implications tied to working at home. To learn more, read this Forbes article that discusses what remote work does to the brain.
5. Collaborate in a non-work way (think lunches, book clubs, open source projects, and communities)
Doing non-work things are also important, especially to get to know your team members in a different way and for mental sanity sake!
We are a huge fan of team lunches, book clubs and collaborating on open source projects.
Here are a few books our remote developer community is reading –
- The Cold Start Problem
- Elastic Leadership
- Clean Agile
- The Lean Startup
- Clean Architecture
- The Phoenix Project
If you love reading, here is another list, a top 10 so to speak that every senior engineer should read. And if you are looking for projects to contribute to, explore our community for remote developers.
And that’s all folks, let us know if you have any tips for working remotely, we’d love to hear from you.