A First Timer's Guide to Remote Job and Ways to Stay Productive
This post is a response to my own journey. Earlier this year, I was in talks with Kitze about a full-time contract to work with him on Sizzy and a few other projects we had planned. It was a remote job. I was super-thrilled to accept the offer and start working with him, except there was one problem. The chaotic monkey inside my brain started shouting that I was very much used to the office routine and will not be able to do well in a remote job. So after arguing a lot with myself and discussing it with my mentors, friends, and parents, I accepted the offer.
It's been eight months I've been working on this job and it has been great so far. This is the documentation of all the problems I faced while getting used to a new work environment, and how I managed to keep my shit together, so I don't end up binge-watching Netflix all day.
The Sunny Side
Remote work is great! I'll probably never go back to an office job. Here's why:
Flexibility to Plan Your Day
One thing I don't like about office jobs is that you have to plan your day around your office timings. Having a remote job with flexible timings meant that I can follow a sleep schedule that works for me. I can do my chores between my work breaks so that I have more spare time after work. If things are going downhill at work, I can decide to take a nap or read a book to freshen myself up.
No More Commute
Working from home means I save 2 hours per day from the commute and getting ready for the office. That's about 8% of a day. I don't have to drive through annoying traffic daily. I can care less about rains and storms. I don't get stung by a bee on my lip on my way to the office. (This actually happened once.)
I hate it when I'm miles deep into work, thinking through 3145 dimensions light-years away into another galaxy and a co-worker pokes me back on Earth to ask for a USB cable. Working remotely means that I get to stay in my zone during deep work.
The Thorny Side
All these things are great! But we need to address the thorns too. There were a few concerns I had before starting the job, and a few issues I faced after getting on board. Let's pick them out, one by one. After that, I'll tell you how I manage to stay productive through all this.
If there was an Oscar for procrastination, I'd probably win all of them (but collect them later). Such was my condition a year back. I would spend endless hours on YouTube, Reddit, and Twitter. And the worst thing was, I would still do it even after realizing how much am I harming myself. My brain was addicted to avoiding what needs to be done and would rather focus on trivial things. And when I tried to force it to do something productive, it would come up with some rational-sounding excuses.
"Hey Brainy McBrain, enough internet for today. Let's work on those dust-eating side projects we started and never touched again."
"Yeah yeah, we should totally do that. But look how messed up your room is. Let's clean that first. Also, you were supposed to do your laundry yesterday."
"Ugh! Couldn't you tell me this when we were watching Gordon Ramsay yell at people on YouTube for hours?"
"And then we should get some rest since we'll be tired."
"Are you even listening?"
"Also, let's order ice cream!"
It's easy to stay productive in an office since that is a place exclusively made for work. There are people around you who are working on the same thing as you. You have frequent discussions with your team about your work. There are some awesome mentors and seniors who inspire you with their work all the time. It's easy to stay productive in such a dedicated environment.
On the other hand, spending most of your day alone at a place that your mind associates with leisure and rest? Trying to accomplish something every day in such an environment? Oh, boy! I've never been more afraid of myself.
Being majorly introvert, I had very little social life outside of work in Bangalore. I had many great friends at work, especially the BuilderX team.
I was very grateful that I got to meet these nice people every day. Taking up a remote job meant I would spend almost every day alone and interact with very few people. I was not sure how I'd tackle this.
Don't Work from Your Couch
Getting to work from your couch the whole day might sound appealing. But trust me, the best thing for your productivity is having a dedicated space to work from. Working from a coffee shop is good once in a while, but for most of the days, you need a home office. Get a proper desk, a decent chair, and create a nice environment that puts you in a working mood. You don't need a $1000 gaming chair or RGB mood lighting or any fancy stuff to do that. Simple things go a long way. Strictly use this space only for work.
Plan Your Day
This is something I have started doing recently and has worked wonders. Take some time in the morning or the previous night to plan your whole day. Dedicate fixed time for both work and non-work tasks. You'll get much more done than a day when you do things randomly.
Step Away from the Computer
It's very important to take a break at specific intervals. It's the only way I've found that helps me stay productive for 8-10 hours per day. Get an app that reminds you to take regular breaks. Time Out for macOS and stretchly for Windows and Linux are some great options. I prefer 10 minutes of rest after 50 minutes of work. You can experiment with different intervals to see what works best for you.
You must step away from your computer during rest. Watching a YouTube video or browsing Twitter is not considered resting. Take a walk, do the dishes, feed your pet, or use your break to complete any small chore.
Increase Communication with Your Team
One downside of remote jobs is that teams tend to communicate a lot lesser compared to office setups. I hate meetings and video calls, but I've come to realize that they are very important to get things done more smoothly. Have daily Zoom stand-ups with your team. Communicate and discuss everything with your co-workers over Slack and other tools as you would do in person in an office. It's always better to over-communicate than to under-communicate.
Right now we are just 3 team members working on Sizzy. As we grow, I plan to design a rigid communication framework that works and scales well for remote teams. I will write a blog post about it once we get there.