Running Remote: Survival tips for remote software developers
by Wade Sellers
[[HackerNest Nota Bene and not-entirely-shameless plug: this is a collaboration post with our pals from the Running Remote 2019 Conference. It’s in Bali (Indonesia) at the end of June and features digital team leaders sharing how their remote teams excel. They have a special offer for HackerNest members until March 31st -- we dig what they do.]]
So I took the full dive into the Digital Nomad lifestyle. Now, I can say I’m “Running Remote” -- and I’ve learned so much. This write-up highlights tactics gathered from seasoned software developer professionals, living remote-paradise-lifestyles, that really helped with my adjustment. Hopefully, they’ll help you, too.
I live in beautiful Bali nowadays and spend a lot of time staring at code that I’m either developing myself or troubleshooting for a client. I’m also an iOS development mentor for high school teachers, which means helping them and their students overcome obstacles with their coding projects. Basically, I live and breathe code on a daily basis.
I wanted to truly optimize my experience, so I reached out to several remote developer online communities I’m involved in and asked everyone what helped them succeed at software development while living their remote lifestyles. All the advice they gave me was helpful, but I want to share the 3 specific tips that kept popping up in everyone’s suggestions that really stood out.
Elevate Your Screen
I’m often at a cafe, coworking space, or the occasional hammock (although I’ve found that nearly impossible to operate in despite all my hopes). I begin my work and find myself getting into “the zone”. It’s easy to tell because I gravitate towards the typical ape-like coder position, hunched over with my face inches from the screen, most likely failing to blink at a healthy frequency. By nightfall, I’ll feel the strain in my back and the need to stretch/crack my neck constantly. The big (but simple!) fix: elevate your screen and put your body into a better, more comfortable position to help you survive prolonged work sessions.
I made the ergonomic decision to invest in a laptop stand and external keyboard/mouse setup and found that my back and neck issues decreased dramatically. You aren’t trapped working at that corporate desk anymore, so create proper ergonomic conditions in your newfound remote workspaces and get enormous benefits to your health and well-being. Make the effort and be proactive about maintaining a healthy posture. When you sit and work for a substantial chunk of each day, even making minor adjustments/improvements will pay off in a big way.
Move faster with micro-sprints & breaks
It might seem counterintuitive that taking more breaks could lead to increased productivity, but cutting up work into smaller tasks and getting away from the screen more often is one of the most consistent suggestions shared. I won’t lie. I’m still struggling to make this a habit, but when I do slice work into smaller pieces and take walks in between them, I find I maintain a longer workday without burning out.
There’s value in getting ‘small wins’ throughout the day and gaining mental clarity by removing yourself from the code. Giving your subconscious a chance to tackle tough coding problems can be very beneficial. When I’ve completed some tasks or get stuck at a hurdle, I’ll often take a scooter ride. Motorbikes are the main form of transport in Bali. Riding around, I get to see the lovely beach town of Canggu, explore smaller streets, and find places I’d like to visit on my off hours. This also gives my brain a break and/or lets my subconscious work through whatever obstacles I’m up against. When I get back to the laptop, I’ll be amped-up like an athlete at half-time, with newfound energy to take on the next micro-sprint.
Officially schedule your fun
This one is my personal favorite. I schedule leisure activities the same way I schedule work and meetings… officially. In my calendar. When I started this “Running Remote” lifestyle, I wanted to make sure I had room to take advantage of all the fun, unique experiences my new “Paradise Office” had to offer. Seeing these on my calendar next to my work commitments gave me an extra boost of motivation and energy to help me get things done and succeed that wasn’t there previously. Perfect validation that this lifestyle works well for me.
Supportive coworkers and managers respect my openness and commitment to a healthy work-life balance. Setting transparent expectations for work commitments has resulted in a noticeable decrease in the number of times I have to adjust personal plans for meetings scheduled with my team. Colleagues naturally seek open time slots for meetings. When I give more info upfront about my day’s schedule, it makes it easier for them to pick times that wouldn’t disrupt my daily flow (out of mutual respect and consideration). It’s not a perfect science, but I find things run smoother with the added transparency.
A nice byproduct of showing my engagement with the various fun networking events and opportunities in my local coworking hub is that it signals to my managers that I’m increasing my value by interacting with fellow remote workers and giving back to the community while also learning from others. I like to think of this as living an open-source lifestyle: sharing my insights on what helps me operate better opens up conversations on things other remote workers do to succeed as well.
Are you running remote, too? If you have more survival tactics that can help other remote software developers succeed, please let me know. I’m taking these strategies and others I compile to the Running Remote 2019 Conference to share with the global remote community. If you want to visit Bali and get a ton of valuable, actionable info from those who succeed with their own remote teams, you really should come.
Thanks for taking the time to read and I hope you’ve found some value in what I’ve shared. I’ll see you sometime around the globe, fellow software developer nomads. Let’s continue to shape how the world works, one line of code at a time.
[[HN: Wade will be sharing stuff like this and more at Running Remote 2019 in Bali. Tanky special offer for HackerNest members until March 31st!]]