How to Successfully Work from Home as a Software Developer
We’re a week or so into this COVID-19 stay-at-home reality, and those of us in a software development profession are fortunate enough to be able to work from home without issue.
But are there no issues?
I think most of us have worked from home on occasion — when some appliance repair appointment is in a 4-hour window, or when you’re not feeling so great but don’t want to use any sick hours. That’s pretty easy. You get done what you get done, and then head back to the office on a later day.
What about working from home full time? What about your entire family being home all the time with various distractions or just people constantly moving behind you and throwing off your feng shui?
I’ve worked from home for long stretches and for a couple of different jobs in my work history. Here are some tips you can use to get you through this global pandemic work from home reality.
Maintain your normal working schedule
This is a matter of simplicity and sanity. Go to work and leave work at the same time. You’re still “at work” for the same amount of time, so why not just keep the same working schedule?
If you wake up at 7 AM and are bored by 7:45 AM, don’t start working until your average show-up-at-the-office time. With the lines blurring between work and home life even more, you don’t want to start fudging the lines between them if you don’t have to. Read a book, cruise funny Reddit gifs, or occupy yourself otherwise.
If you normally take breaks at 10:30 AM and 3 PM while you’re at the office, do that at home. Take your regularly scheduled lunch break. Leave work on time.
Put your work laptop away in a bag, and start your normal evening activities. Don’t work in the evenings unless you’re in some sort of on-call critical failure situation. Maintain your schedule.
Set boundaries for your colleagues, bosses, and family members
Just like scope creep can bulldoze a project’s perfectly rational timeline, everybody working from home can creep into everything you do.
Everybody at home can be a distraction from your work, and you still need to get things done. If you live alone, then your collection of streaming services, video games, and naked yoga playlists will be calling out for some attention.
Don’t answer work emails after hours or as soon as you get out of bed. Use your judgment here, but it can usually wait. If it can’t wait, there will be no question.
Don’t let your job creep into your time. Don’t let your boss keep calling you and bugging you after hours. The same goes for your coworkers. You need your you-time.
Likewise, don’t hold two-hour long debates with a member of your household during the workday. If you need some semblance of quiet to get your job done, either find a quiet place or ask those around you to contain their ruckus. If headphones and symphonic black metal get you to your quiet place so you can work, then do that.
Don’t let work interfere with your life and don’t let life keep you from getting the job done.
Don’t neglect your health and hygiene
It’s easy to just wake up, open your laptop, work for hours, roll onto the couch, binge something, then roll into bed and repeat. Don’t do that.
You still need to brush your teeth and shower, even if you don’t leave the house for days. Hygiene isn’t about other people. It’s about you.
You still need to exercise, because wasting away on the couch is a terrible idea. “An analysis of 13 studies of sitting time and activity levels found that those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to the risks of dying posed by obesity and smoking.” (That’s from the Mayo Clinic)
Take a break to go for a walk around the block or down the street — maintaining social distancing if we’re still in the pandemic. Swing the ol’ kettlebell around. Curl some dumbbells. Do lots of burpees. Pump some iron.
Then wash your hands thoroughly, take a shower, etc.
Keeping healthy also includes your diet. Don’t just have some beer with vegan mac and cheese all day every day. Drink plenty of water, eat fruits and vegetables, and don’t snack all day long.
Your life and your job aren’t the same thing
Working from home can be great. You save money on gas, you can sleep in a little later because there’s no commute. And the best part is that you don’t have to wear pants.
Nobody needs to wear pants to write good code.
Keep those boundaries between you and your job. You’ll thank yourself later, when things are still somewhat normal in your professional life, even after up to 18 months of working from home with a side helping of pandemic social distancing.
And who knows, maybe you’ll get so good at working from home you won’t ever want to go back to the office…no matter how much free coffee they have.
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