So I’ve done this for a number of years full-time and also managed a team while doing it, and it can be challenging. Prompted by a twitter conversation – here are a few things that helped:
Radio, something that can be on in the background, not a talk station (the ones that try and get you angry). Definitely don’t do TV. This is bad even in the office. I’d also however suggest podcasts as fantastic alternatives. I’m currently listening to:
Do pay attention to comms. One thing we did was a daily report and call. It seems onerous but it really helps and if you have to tell other people what’re you’re doing there is an easy reference and you don’t have to do the job twice. It also gives a feeling of an overall sense of accomplishment. Which brings me to another point. Same as at the office, you have good days and bad days, it’s fine. The comms is to give a sense of progress and load, not a tool of blame, and it is very important to emphasise that. Some days it just doesn’t happen, and sometimes you might find that your load has turned into a rabbit hole and you need some help. All of these things are fine.
Do watch your hours. WFH is double edged and people often feel the need to over or under do. If it helps or you are freelance or need to fill in timesheets I recommend Toggl (others are available).
Biggest challenge is lack of human contact. Do talk to people, for some, extended periods of time on your own is hard, especially if you work by bouncing ideas around. Phones etc work well. It doesn’t even have to be work colleagues, a quick call with someone is good.
On video calls – I’ve got pros and cons. The audio is important, trying to force a video down a slow link isn’t. Yes there are endless studies about visual cues, but video conferencing often falls into something called the uncanny valley meaning it’s worse than audio. This is particularly painful if you are on wifi with lots of participants and it’s breaking up.
I’d value a clear audio call where you are focused purely on the sound over a dodgy video call. Skype works and is my default, although lets be honest, it’s not always great over a weak connection (yours or theirs). Do be careful if you have this on multiple clients at the same time, it will get confused and can have issues (common is to have it on your phone and your laptop – calls then need to be routed to both). Zoom has issues (supposedly fixed), then you have Google Hangouts and Whereby (both of which I have yet to try). Cisco VoIP isn’t bad – depending on the model – although the InfoSec people might get twitchy. Your solution will depend basically on who is paying for it. With the exception of Cisco, all of the above have “free” tiers, Skype probably has the lowest barrier to entry in terms of getting up and going and allows
On your network connection (internet), Broadband is great, but it’s not endless, so be prepared for some flaky connections and also some unexpected interruptions. Local network and power outages mean you might rely on your mobile phone more (which might also conk out – you are probably in a residential area…?). Get used to finding your providers network status page.
Other than that, it’s your home, yes DSE applies here in the UK, however it’s also your kitchen with your coffee and biscuits. Which is another point, you’ll notice eating habits change.
Having said all this, it’s great for a work life balance particularly if you have kids.
Tools I’d recommend for remote working:
- good voip solution (see above)
- good Instant Messaging application (slack if you must, but be aware)
- wiki – good way of putting knowledge out there
- sharepoint(!) – don’t email files, it means merge nightmare later
- issue trackers even if it’s a spreadsheet but please no, use ClickUp or Jira or something.
- personal task list – can be part of the issue tracker or your own – I use Todo
And I can’t stress enough: Look after yourself! If it’s getting too much, call someone, preferably before it’s overwhelming.