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BLOG:Top Tips on Working Remotely

Top Tips on Working Remotely

The technology team at Universal Mind has been developing solutions for our clients from remote locations for well over 10 years. For this blog post we surveyed our development team to build a list of tips for remote working. Here are some of the top comments presented in no specific order.

Keep a schedule

Define some regular working hours and try to stick to them. Your co-workers will know when you are available and a set schedule will help define some boundaries between work hours and home life. Some find it useful to schedule “think time” on their calendars to ensure they have some adequate “heads down” time each day for things that require focus.

Buy a decent headset

Remote work means lots of conference calls, Google Hangouts, etc. No one wants to hear your voice echoing in a group call because you haven’t made even a minimal investment in a headset. Check that the headset has a mute button with an indicator that shows when you’re on mute. This low-cost one from Logitech has worked well for a number of us.

Find a dedicated workspace

Your work location should have a door so you can shut out distractions and make it clear to others you are “at work”. This is also important for phone calls where you need to mask out background noise like the dog barking at the UPS guy that always comes during your conference calls

Make sure people around you respect your work environment

Just because you’re working at home doesn’t mean you have time to do the laundry, run errands, etc. during your workday.

Test your conference software

Having an important meeting with your client today? Make sure you test / upgrade your conferencing software well before the scheduled conference call. Perform a test call with a co-worker to make sure things are working properly before you initiate that important conference call.

Get up and get out

At least once a day to try get outside and away from your office location. Go outside and think, take the dog for a walk, stretch your legs. Sometimes it helps to take a walk and think through that tough problem you’ve been slumped over your desk working on for hours. Some of our developers find a change in venue helps - like working from a coffee shop now and again. While you are out of the office during the day leverage apps on your mobile device to keep you connected and available should someone need to contact you.

Get on your feet

Sitting for extended periods of time isn’t good for anyone. On a long conference call? Consider standing up or walking around during those meetings. Perhaps consider a standing desk as well.

Collaborate with others

Remote work can be isolating. Decide on a collaboration tool to engage with your co-workers during the day. At Universal Mind we’ve experimented with various software tools. Currently, we’re using Slack for this. Your team should also be having daily scrums/standups to foster daily communication among team members.

Invest in good equipment

It’s worth investing in things you use 8+ hours a day. You’re sitting in that chair much of the day and the $50 special you picked up at the office supply store probably isn’t going to cut it for long term daily use. You’ll be looking at a monitor all day long as well. Your eyes matter and it’s not worth looking at something that will give you eye strain by the end of the day. Some of our developers like to use multiple monitors, others use one large monitor. One thing we all agree on is don’t skimp on desks, chairs, and monitors.

Your network connection matters

Your voice chat, screenshares, code commits, etc. all travel over your network connection. A poor connection not only hampers your own work, but also prevents you from communicating well with others. Make sure you have sufficient upstream bandwidth to stream audio and screen shares. Also realize residential broadband internet service is apt to fail from time to time. Make sure you have a tethering plan on your cell service so you can fallback to that if your primary internet connection fails.

Make sure you’re sharing the right content

Nothing is worse than that inappropriate growl notification popping up during a client presentation. Well before the presentation enable the “do not disturb” or “busy” mode on your social networking and chat apps or shut down the apps entirely. If you have a multiple monitor setup consider giving the presentation from the monitor that does not display notifications. Don’t be an over sharer.