Working from home tips from our experienced remote employees
For people who can do their job with just a computer, it’s getting easier and easier to work entirely remote. Fast internet and affordable devices mean an ever growing number of people can do their daily tasks from all across the globe.
Here at Stack Overflow, we’ve been championing remote working for over a decade and have always had a third or more of our employees working somewhere other than one of our offices. This is more than just giving people a chance to work from home a few times per month. At Stack, if one person is remote, everyone’s remote. Our CEO and senior leadership team take meetings from their office, even if most of the people on the call are in the building, so remote folks feel on equal footing with people who have a physical space.
As of this Monday, all Stack Overflow employees are working remotely. We’re concerned about their health, and our work culture is already geared towards remote work, so the logistics around this decision were pretty easy.
But for many people, it’s not the logistics that are the tough part. It’s the day-to-day working life. It’s adjusting to spending a large part of your day alone in your house instead of around your co-workers in an office. So we asked some of our long-time remote workers, folks who have spent years doing this, for tips on how to make remote work effective, enjoyable, and sustainable.
Tips from our team
Where you work matters. Even when you don’t head to a separate building for work, it should feel like a separate space.
Kezia (Product Team):
Have a separate space as much as possible. A separate office is ideal, but even if you don’t, just allocate a space you can leave at the end of the day. Mentally, it helps me to disconnect. Close the door, I’m done with work.
Abby (People Team):
It’s been crucial for me to designate space and time for work, even when I’m living in a place without much room to spare. Even just having a few square feet in the corner that I don’t use for anything else helps a ton with being able to switch “work brain” on and off.
Brandon (Engineering Team):
If kids are at home and you have a separate space, come up with a system to let them know when it’s okay to come in. We made a red light/green light that I hung on the door. At first, it was a novelty that Dad was home all the time and it helped.
Joy (Marketing Team):
Have work clothes and home clothes and change when you leave “work.” It’s the physical clue for me to stop thinking about work and focus on being home.
Tying that where to a when can help, too. Working from home can blur the lines between personal and professional. Make sure those boundaries stay up.
Eric (Sales Team):
Keep yourself to a schedule, especially when it comes to the beginning and the end of the day.
Kezia (Product Team):
Have a no slack/phone time if possible. For example, put your phone in another room for dinner—otherwise, you never really disconnect. This is true if office or remote, but there is something about being home all day that makes these transitions trickier.
Brian (Engineering Team):
You know when you are most productive, so schedule your day around your most productive time. Listen to your favorite music, nobody is there to disagree with your choice. Ergonomics, don’t work from the sofa or you will regret it by day three.
Again, just because you don’t have that hard separation between work and home doesn’t mean you should neglect your daily care rituals.
Sara (Community Team):
Get dressed every day, do your routine. It’s easy to procrastinate showers and stay in the same PJs for three days and that’s a fast track to depression.
A silly one but in the morning I’ve started to bring a “tray” like a fancy cafeteria tray into my office and on my desk. It has — coffee, a big jug of water that i have to drink before noon, and breakfast (usually fruit or oatmeal). It’s a nice ritual that sets the tone for the morning. Then once the tray is all empty (gross from old banana peel sitting there all morning) it makes me get up and go and figure out lunch, or just leave the tray in the office.
Ryan (Marketing Team):
Do some meal prep ahead of time or come up with go-to lunches. From an office, it’s easy to just look for the nearest fast food spot. At home, you may not have that. But you still need to get yourself fed.
The great outdoors
We all get a little stir crazy sometimes. Get out sometimes, as we are all basically houseplants with complicated emotions.
Erin (Marketing Team):
Try to get outside! Whether it’s for a walk or just sitting on a porch. Get sunlight and, more importantly, fresh air.
Taryn (Engineering Team):
If possible, go for a walk or something before you start the day. It makes it so you don’t just wake up and go to your desk and helps with prepping for the day. Also end the day by leaving the house even for 10-15 minutes, it helps you decompress after being “home” all day.
Working remotely, you don’t have the luxury of body language or bumping into people in hallways, so communication becomes key.
vinko (Engineering Team):
Overcommunicate. Write (and speak) much more than what your natural tendency would be. Otherwise things will be missed.
Tools of the remote trade
We wouldn’t be able to do the work we do without solid collaboration tools. All Stack Overflow employees spend their days in Gmail, Google Docs, Slack, Stack Overflow for Teams, Trello, and Hangouts, as well as other tools that cater to their specific roles. These allow us to work together without being in the same room.
As for meetings, we use Google Hangouts and Zoom (for larger meetings). Rarely will you see people physically in a room for a meeting. It’s more common to see people in the same office—sometimes even the same desk—all on separate Hangout screens.
Without the ability to glance across the hall to see if your coworker has a minute to spare for a quick chat, you’ll need to rely on your tools to indicate when you are available and when folks should wait a few minutes before expecting a response. You’ll also need to be proactive in checking on people, so a quick DM or shout out in a Slack channel won’t hurt. If the person you need to speak to doesn’t seem to be available, you can try using “Find a Time” on Google Calendar to set up a call. Set up your working hours so that anyone setting up meetings with you, especially coworkers in other time zones, can effectively schedule meetings.
Not all in-office habits and systems are going to translate directly to a remote equivalent. A video chat may not always be convenient, so ask yourself, “Can this meeting be a document/email/Slack message?” Learn to move more of your communication to asynchronous channels.
On the other end, for when folks are looking for you, make sure to use your Slack status to show your team whether you’re available for a quick question or hangout. Use “do not disturb” or snooze notifications if you are going on a call or trying to get some work done without interruption. Those tools will set your coworkers’ expectations for how quickly you will respond as well as protect you from distraction, which can be a big issue when you’re not accustomed to working from home.
Ultimately, both video chats and chat messages are ephemeral information sources. We use Stack Overflow for Teams internally to make sure that any important questions only get asked once and everyone has access to the same information at any time. Teams allows us to maintain a collective knowledge base that is available no matter when you have the question. Remote work often means asynchronous work, so the ability to get an answer without relying on a person can speed up your productivity.
We hope you’re finding your rhythm with your daily work as people around the world adjust to new circumstances. Leave your best tips and tricks for remote work in the comments, or just share a bit of your experience with remote work if you want, and we’ll approve anything that’s respectful and on topic.Tags: announcements, remote work, stackoverflow
Please tell me part time income on mobile
Part time income.
Sent from mobile.
I agree that Email is a valid form of asynchronous communication.
Thank you for the tips. It’s my first time working from home, going on day three now. I think the tips will be very usefull
lol. good one.
Zoho Remotely seems to be convenient for Work From Home with its suite of tools.
Here are some of my tips:
Pro tip: Check the privacy settings for your camera first thing.
Ashutosh: income depends on your level of seniority. Your knowledge, your ability to solve your own impedients, your ability to successfully complete your taks independently, your ability to estimate your tasks successfully, your ability to self-motivate, your ability to communicate with other team members. Without knowing those, there is no answer to your question.
‘Tools of the remote trade’ – Some of the icons are familiar but some are not. Would be useful to make them clickable so we can find out more about them. Thank you for the article and stay healthy.
+1 for this.
Clickable links, tooltips, or just a list of tools, would be extremely helpful.
Exactly what I was thinking. I found out that that one of them is Figma, which is a collaborative design tool (I don’t include the link, just search for it). CodePen was easy too, because it’s easy to search.
I’d appreciate to know about the others as well.
Here’s a rough list:
Specs, Ideas, Brainstorming
– Google Docs/Sheets/Slides
– Stack Overflow for Teams
– Google Slides
– Adobe Illustrator
Design Reviews / Socializing Design
– Google Docs
– Google Slides
Code / Design Systems
– Stack Overflow for Teams
– Google Docs
– Stack Overflow for Teams
– Google Hangouts
– Stack Exchange Chat
– Google Hangouts
Get off social media:
I’m not your employer. I don’t care about your productivity. But now that you’re remote, you’re going to feel more isolated and anxious. And scrolling through an endless timeline of news updates and sad stories isn’t going to make that any easier. You will get distracted from the reality of your life (you’re working from home, making you a member of one of the safest groups in this outbreak) and find it difficult to concentrate on what’s in front of you.So, get off social media during the day. Or, if you use mindless scrolling as a mental break, slap on some filters or change who you follow. I follow a lot of artists and find that brings a much-needed balance to my feed.You know things out there aren’t great. You don’t need a second-by-second playthrough.
For anyone looking to acquire a few extra skills in remote facilitation and collaboration check out this course as well. I worked with the authors of this course before and they really helped our teams a great deal with remote working:
It helps to have a fridge , a microwave, a coffee maker, and a nap-ready reclining chair in your home office–I spent the last decade of my professional career in my basement.
It also helps, in addition to your home office computing environment, you keep a smaller environment wherever you spend your evenings, allowing you to do useful stuff when your husband/wife/kids/pets/whatever are watching some inanity on the telly. It also helps to keep a computer by your bed–my brain seems to do a lot of background processing and often pops up results at three in the morning and if I wait until actual morning to note them down I forget the details.
Have two phones, one personal, the other business.
Have a time-zone map-app that tells you what time it is wherever it is your co-workers are. (In my last gig, we had people from the Czech Republic to western Canada, from northern Canada to Brazil, and sometimes Japan and/or Australia.)
Working remotely never strained my sanity in the least, except for the issue that other co-workers who were supposed to be working at home weren’t available. Quite the contrary, my sanity was most strained when AT work with the endless and worthless meetings that hindered productivity.
I like what Erin said about the importance of getting fresh air, whether it’s just sitting outdoors or going for a walk. The small business I work for recently started offering the option to work from home, so I’m currently looking for a desk to put in my study so I can have a dedicated place to work. Since I haven’t worked from home before, the productivity tips you shared here will be really helpful!
Under real-time collaboration tools, what is the topmost right icon?
I love these tips. I work remotely and many of my colleagues and acquaintances do as well. Many people seem to underestimate what a bit of fresh air and motivational music can do for your morale. Yes, working at home is the dream, but it can also be unproductive and at times more difficult than working in a traditional setting like an office. For example, just the other day while I was working on a very important task, my bed (which is just a few feet away from me) started calling out to me. I mean it when I say that it took every ounce of discipline I had in my body not to go ahead and lie in it for the rest of the afternoon. One advise I can add is that you should invest in an office setting at home. This will enhance your productivity immensely. Keep the articles coming, they’re great!
Based on Ryan’s list above, it’s Stack Exchange Chat.
Here are some more tips working from home.
– Don’t underestimate face time: Go to meetings, events, happy hours, trainings, and other outings as often as you can.
The next best thing? Pick up the phone to congratulate someone after a job well done, or the completion of a project rather than sending an impersonal email.
– Keep it professional: Even if you don’t have a dedicated office, try to set up a workspace and make it off limits to the rest of your household while you’re working.
– Be responsive: Get in the habit of sending a prompt reply whenever you get an email, even if it’s just to say, “Got it,” or, “I’ll get back to you by noon”
– Set specific touchpoints with your team: It’s smart to set a time each day/week for regular check-ins with your manager and/or your colleagues.
I did remote work (at home) for 4 years, then got back into the office. I had/have a separate office. Location is important, but the #1 item is mindset. Unless you can be focused on doing your work at home as if you were in the office, it doesn’t matter. Some people may not have a choice of the location where they can work. It may only be a sofa. But if your mental state is focused on what needs to be done during the day, then one can work anywhere. Don’t go to a social place, although these days that’s a moot point and are restricted anyway. Distractions are always prevalent, whether real or made-up. It is important to limit those. Working remotely, i.e. home, can be fun. You can make the coffee how you like it, you can use clean dishes, you may have snacks readily available, you have your choice of music (DO NOT turn the TV on) and have control of the thermostat. You may have some leeway as to how you dress or what you do, but you are still working for an organization who depends on you. Definitely, get up away from your work area occasionally. Go for walks, especially if you have pets. You may think that “no one” is watching you, but you’d be wrong. You still have goals and deadlines that need to be met. Don’t take advantage of your opportunity. Remember only the location has changed, your responsibility has not.
Our agency is a small team made up mostly of freelancers, who work remotely most of the time. In order for us to be able to work effectively, we couldn’t be without the following tools :
Team / project management:
– Google Hangouts for daily video calls and screen sharing,
– Slack for day to day messaging and file sharing
– Trello for your team’s to do list boards, schedule boards and kanban boards,
– Google Slides (for proposal docs, pitches, high level ideas)
– For frontend devs working remotely, using Storyboard in your project to help build our and test UI components (https://storybook.js.org) and all state variations works amazingly well. It ensures people can build and test things in isolation and avoid stepping on each other’s toes, as well as providing a lovely design system UI.
– For larger development projects with a team of remote devs, using Gerrit (https://www.gerritcodereview.com/) for code review before pushing into a git repo can work well and ensure at least another pair of eyes are looking over everything that gets committed
– Sketch / Sketch Cloud for collaborative design projects (although we have started to look at using Figma which seems very promising)
“Tying that where to a when can help, too.” (At first read this looked wrong but now I comprehend it. Italics on “where” and “when” would have helped.
“We hope you’re finding your rhythm with your daily work as people around the work [WORLD] adjust to new circumstances. “
Thanks Mike, fixed em.
Purevpn is offering a 7-day trial for remote workers trying to access data from another location like their homes.
yess i got the trial for remote access
As a guy working from home for more than 1 month, I could say that having proper breakfast, lunch and dinner are critical. You don’t want to join a video call meeting with an empty stomach and a distraction feeling. BTW, the post is very practical. Cheer.
True. Working from home is a need of the hour, in today’s situation. I reckon the COVID-19 pandemic will show us the need to have an alternate source of income. With this pandemic looming large, i feel it is of utmost importance for each of us, to devise the right platform and learn the right skills that will enable us to go through this pandemic. I work as a management consultant at a firm. I have already accepted a 3)% paycut and was really tensed about repayment of my mortgage and my loans. I felt really nice, when i discovered John Crestani’s free online training tutorial that actually helped instill confidence in me.
I’ve worked at home for nearly 2 months already. In the first few days, everything is good for me nothing happens. But so far I feel inconvenient and like an ancient man, haha. Cause I don’t meet anyone for a long time. Hopefully, the pandemic will end up soon and people can return to normal
Great list! One technology that’s absent is ClearForce, which uses continuous evaluation to alert managers/HR in real time about risky employee behavior / red flags that can lead to insider threat (fraud, theft, workplace violence, stealing company secrets, etc. https://clearforce.com
Another post with tips https://tracklify.com/blog/how-to-keep-team-performance-remotely
Hi, can I share this post in the Vietnamese version with my friends via my website www. webhouse . asia
Unfortunately, we cannot legally permit translations of our articles.
Very practical and detailed on the use of tools for remote working. The knack of knowing when and how to use these online tools makes a huge difference in communication while work from home or remote working.
This is a good blog especially now that we are in pandemic stage
I absolutely love the red and green light idea for kids! I am a work at home mom, and these tips are really smart. I have a blog for work at home moms, and I think I’ll share the idea. Thank you! My favorite tool for remote work is Toggl. It’s free and you can see how I use it here: https://modernwahm.com/tips-for-working-remotely/
Routine, routine, routine. We utilise tools like Slack, Hangouts, Zoom etc to keep a face-to-face style morning meeting to keep momentum up for projects as well as day-to-day tasks. Simple security issues, such as passwords, need to be visited often as well.
For managing work remotely you need to have an efficient work station along with the following tools!
1. Fast internet
2. Regular meetings through zoom share or other conferencing software
3. High-quality mic
4. Proper Doc and Plan
5. Team coordination
You can read here some actionable tips on how to manage remote work during COVID-19! https://thriveglobal.com/stories/some-challenges-for-remote-workers-and-their-solutions/
Interesting points! However, I do think that as we navigate our way through the pandemic, more spacious office working could also be an option to keep up social interaction and motivation.
Working from home is not as easy as it seems. Office work keeps you motivated; you have to get up, get ready, and get going but that’s not the case with working from home. I really like the tip of having a space designated for work. Also, time management is essential. One tip I like to add is to do something that you want to in the middle of the work. Keep the breaks short but they should be there. Check the social media, watch some funny video, or go for one-round of your favorite game or any other 10-15 minute task. These little breaks will refresh your mind, as at home, there are no colleagues to divert your mind from the work for a while. You will be more productive with these breaks for sure as you won’t get bored by working continuously.
Because of this pandemic, a lot of things change. I’ve been depressed a lot lately and my daily routine was broken. My good habits and discipline are not to be seen. This is a good wake-up call that we still need to take a break and have an exercise. I’ve been feeling weak because of long hours just seated in front of the computer. I will also use Toggl and Trello for my time management.
This is such a helpful article. I’m recently retired from a job that had rigid daily start and ending times, so working from home on my own schedule was very foreign to me. These tips seem so simple but they have helped me tremendously.
Thank you very much.
I spend most of my time working from home and find that the workplace affects work quality a lot. A quiet and convenient workplace will help me do better. I cannot work while children are playing around. And it’s also important to stick to a specific schedule. Otherwise, my job is easily delayed.
Thanks for the post! Interesting to know that most people have faced similar problems.
By the way, we also used employee monitoring service, another software to monitor productivity and time efficiency. For me personally, the most challenging thing was separating work life from home life. Since you’re home all the time, you’d always find something to do around the house. It wasn’t easy to avoid getting distracted every 5 minutes by any little thing that crosses your mind. You need to adjust your thinking and try to find a balance. You need to allocate space in the house and try to equip it as close as possible to the office workplace. It’s helped me a lot.
Get a good productivity tool, for example kanbantool.com . It makes me more productive so hopefully it will work out for you 🙂
After the pandemic, the incidence of working from home has increased astronomically. Companies are now taking new strategies to let their employees work from home. After the pandemic, the incidence of working from home has increased astronomically. Companies are now taking new strategies to let their employees work from home. Now I am doing a work from the home model with HOPLA Online. Thanks for sharing such a nice post. Keep it up.
Thanks for sharing! I think tools can be very useful indeed. If you want to try a good one, I’d say give kanbantool.com a go. It’s a great time and task management tool, my team likes it a lot.
Working from home might be challenging, especially when people you live with don’t understand the idea and keep on disturbing you. But ah well, you gotta figure it out somehow. What helps me is using a time management tool – kanbantool.com . Thanks to it, I’ve become better at managing my time and tasks, I don’t waste as much time on figuring out what to do as I used to, and I also usually have a better idea of what the process of performing specific tasks should look like.