Person woring with radio

I know most of people are not used to working from home. I get that. I do respect not everyone wants to go offline/online, resign from their work outside the home, leaving the environment that is meant to be a place for rest, not for work.

Nowadays there are problems with working remotely that started to be more visible, and I want to share with you some basic rules that are important while working from home. Most of them will look very obvious but I assure you - they are not for vast majority of people. Let’s make these rules clear then!

Can you turn the camera on?

Do you think your face look bad? Or there is a mess in the background? Believe me, people don’t give a shit about that. They care you’re human. If you’re going to be another avatar on a call though…

Now it may be a bit problematic in terms of network traffic, but if the call quality is okay it’s better to keep the webcam on. It’s getting harder to yawn at the company meetings as well!

Working from your couch is bullshit

Well, you can see some teenagers sitting on some piece of crap or even lying on a ground. That’s not going to work in a long run. It’s better to have some work equipment like chair and desk. It does matter what kind of chair and desk you are going to use but it’s better to have the worst one that none. Don’t use your laptop directly as well - it’s better to have a mouse and keyboard, and, ideally, additional screen, which free you up from sitting in the very unhealthy position, leaning over the laptop. It sounds like a crap but the sitting position impacts the way you’re breathing and even your hormones so it’s better to stay sharp instead of drinking tenth coffee this day.

Right, so: chair, desk, mouse + keyboard, monitor. This is the order I recommend you to fight for. I have heard that there are some companies that provides such equipment on demand, but it’s worth to buy one as well - it’s better for your health. At the end of the day it’s you that care about your health, backs, neck and ability to walk, the most.

Control notifications

Some people moan about the number of notifications - it’s no longer possible to reach you out at your desk so it’s going to be email/chat/phone call. Surprised? Well, these notifications are inevitable. But here’s a pro-tip:

you can turn them off for a few minutes

Believe me: if someone’s saying it’s wrong, just put them on hold as well. I absolutely agree that being unreachable for a long time may be distracting for peers, but 30 minutes of delay shouldn’t kill anyone.

Audio hygiene

Are you on a call? I can tell that. And I am leaving in the building next to yours! Get headphones, even these ones from your smartphone should work. Don’t piss off your roommates or family with your calls. And remember, it’s not secure neither. If your headphones (or earplugs) are not comfortable - try another ones. To be honest, headphones designed for listening to music are not the best to use for calls and it’s in the other way around. I have a few pairs on my desk right now, because I can’t use noise-canceling ones for Zoom and Jabra mic+headphones set for listening music while I am coding.

Ideally, you should not use the microphone built into your laptop too: they are good only when you leaning over the laptop, which takes us into ergonomic concerns back again. If you think that it’s great to have speakers and built-in mic because you can stand up and walk over - no, that’s not fine, especially for other attendees.

Oh, by the way: put yourself on mute if you aren’t speaking. It’s hard to learn that at first, but afterwards it’s going to be the best thing you’re doing: you’re not disturbing your call mates while farting or petting your cat. The problem is, you can’t hear the noise you’re making and people around you probably are polite enough to keep the “stop breathing to the FUCKING MICROPHONE” to themselves.

The drill is: unmute, say hello, mute back. Repeat.

Now, you can complain on all these heavy breathers on every call! How cool is that?

Synchronous work - easy-peasy?

So you now think you’re the master of the remote work? Do you feel that you can manage your distractions, take yourself into the zone any time you want, be the productivity monster? Well, so get this one: the next level is: stop making calls. Stop asking people to do things NOW. Be fully asynchronous. You want to keep emails? Fine, keep using them, but don’t use chat and video calls for work-related items. You can use something like Trello, Jira, Confluence, Wiki, Email, recorded audio or video, and other tools that allow you to put things for later for other people. Does it sound terrible? It is, for every micro-manager and people that doesn’t do much. Imagine that some teams and even whole companies out there are working in that model. Absolutely asynchronous. That’s insane! We will get there someday.