One of the benefits of working for WebDevStudios is that we all work remotely. The “remote” in remote work, to me, has always seemed equal parts freedom and challenge.
There are numerous articles about how to work remotely, offering advice like: establish a routine, over-communicate, limit distractions, and have an area for “office” use only. Those are all fantastic, and there are probably a few more tips that should be included.
For me though… the siren song of being a remote employee is, well, the “remote” part. By that, I mean not simply remote from the rest of the company but remote from the normal comforts of home.
I often work from my hammock or back porch, but I’ve been known to `git push` from my children’s schools, local parks, docks (with requisite toes dangling in the water), the backseat of a van on a road trip to WordCamp Miami, my garage, a hotel room, friends’ patios, on a hike, the beach, my local sushi shop, coffee houses, and various other places.
Many of my colleagues take similar approaches, sometimes hailing from coffee shops, boats, the gym, their patios, and beyond. Here are some things I do to make “remoting” easier:
Web development doesn’t have a lot of prerequisites. A computer to bang on, an internet connection to send your code up, and that’s about all a remote web developer needs!
I work from an older MacBook Air that gives me gobs of battery life. There are no external monitor, keyboard, mouse. In most cases, this means I can work half the day without thinking about charging (more on that below).
My local development environment is pretty lightweight. I like laravel valet, because is allows me to avoid anything that requires me to run a virtual machine (VVV, Local by Flywheel, etc.). My general IDE is PhpStorm, but I’ve disabled many of the power-hungry plugins. I don’t use the terminal storm provided, and I don’t use the git tools. So, those are two easy wins. The terminal that ships with MacOS is more than sufficient for most things.
Outside of that, I keep an eye on what my computer says is using “Significant Energy” and either kill those tasks or figure out how to make them behave a bit better.
I hear you. What about Slack? Currently, I use the Slack app for my primary team and keep everything else on my mobile device with alerts on. If need be, I log into that team in-browser. That’s because I aggressively use a Chrome extension that suspends inactive tabs. However, Chrome is rolling out a similar native option. I’ll be curious to see how that works.
I drive carpool most mornings. My checklist, as I walk out the door, is just two things: my coffee and backpack. That way, if the mood strikes or traffic is bad, I can just get to work.
In my bag is a set of all the cables I use at home, which, to be fair, is a laptop charger and phone charger. It’s nice at the office to route your cables and make things looks presentable. It also takes time. I have my “permanent” laptop charger setup at home and another in my bag.
In addition to that, I have a set of ear buds, and… not much else. If this bag is heavy, I’m not likely to want to deal with the hassle. But with it weighing so little, I rarely give it a thought.
Security and Privacy
Auto-lock your devices. That is kind of a no-brainer anyway. I generally am not working in a public place with any kind of crowd, but when I do, back to wall is a good practice. On the occasions I am working somewhere a bit more public, the earbuds come in handy. Often times they aren’t even plugged into my laptop. White cabled earbuds are the universal sign for “do not disturb.”
Also, since you’ll be working on someone else’s connection, a VPN is a requirement.
One of the major issues I run into while working outside is screen washout. If I’m in my IDE, restoring visibility is often as simple as picking an inverted color scheme. However, when that’s not enough, I find that hitting up the accessibility settings and increasing contrast tends to restore screen visibility.
What about wifi? When I’m outside, I often use my phone as a hotspot. Some carriers limit or throttle hot-spotting. I’ve not had issues, but I also have a mental list of locations close by that have given me permission to hop on.
Yep! Breathe. Things are going to work out.
Most remote workers are driven and need to “fix that one last thing” before the next screen break, client call, lunch, or the end of the day. Working away from the office in an uncontrolled environment means that sometimes you have to break a bit earlier. Several times I’ve parked myself somewhere long enough to end up driving home in rush-hour traffic, a thing that working remotely is supposed to avoid.
I dig the frenetic energy of working from an unfamiliar location. I find it exciting and as a result, I have more fun working!