Before becoming a software developer, I had no clue what this job required or what did a developer did through the day. Many years later, I have a pretty good idea about the workload and can share some advice on what the ideal workspace for someone that writes code is.

First of all, let’s get something clear, software developers do not write code all day, it isn’t the same as writing a blog post or anything else. Working as a software developer is something like 20% code writing and 80 problem-solving. This 80% involves thinking about a problem or a new feature. Sometimes this is a back and forth exercise where the input of other developers or other collaborators might be needed. It isn’t until you have a pretty good understanding that what can be done that you actually get to write software. And because of this, a quiet place with little or no distractions is needed to be productive.

A quiet and distraction-free place

Image credit: https://stackoverflow.blog/

A quiet place is preferred and often required if you want to focus on a problem and a solution. Many companies have resourced to open office spaces with the idea that this sparks collaboration and communication between employees. I can tell you from experience working for years at an open plan office, it doesn’t work for thinking, focusing, or getting things done. When you walk into an open plan office the first time you’ll notice is people wearing headphones, and if you look closely, many of them will be wearing noise-canceling headphones. Software developers need a quiet place to work, private offices, a spacious cubicle, or a desk at home are ideal places for this type of work.

A distraction-free work area is also important, this isn’t to minimize or avoid collaboration, the idea is to not let co-workers or other people or situations have access to a software developer unless there are a clear need and an intention to do it. And don’t worry, people can still just chat or hang out at times when walking on a hallway or via an electronic communication channel.

A comfortable chair and a good size desk

Image credit: Autonomous.ai

While it is OK to use any coffee shop chair or your couch at home, any longer-term seating setup needs to include an ergonomic chair and a stand-up desk preferably. Anyone who spent hours in front of a computer screen will benefit from a good ergonomic chair and a stand-up desk. The right size desk should fit at least two large computer monitors and a laptop, this is a very common setup for software developers.

If you are looking for a good quality desk and chair at a reasonable price I recommend the Autonomous.ai standing desk and chair. I’ve owned both for a while, and I’m pleased with it.

When working from home

If you are a remote worker, having a quiet and distraction-free place is also necessary. This isn’t difficult to achieve, most people working from home will enjoy from a quiet home during working hours as kids go to school and spouses will be at an office, or working at home and focus on their own tasks.

If you work from home and don’t have a spare room or office to work from, find a quiet corner away from the front door and the kitchen (which tends to be a place for families to hang out). Your bedroom might be the perfect place for it, that is if your partner allows it and you are disciplined about working and non-working hours.

When working from a coffee shop or other public space

Ideally, you’ll find a place with comfortable seats, good internet connection, and great coffee and reasonably priced snacks. This isn’t always possible, but if you spend enough time to find the right place(s), you’ll be surprised at how accommodating public spaces can be for you to get stuff done. You’ll need to be prepared to work at these places and to do it successfully I recommend you read this blog post which includes tips and advice about working successfully at coffee shops, etc.

Conclusion

The ideal workspace for software developers continue to be a private office and having the option to work remotely whenever needed. This gives the software developer both a quiet place and a chance to work the hours that are more convenient for her/him. The private office can only help so much avoiding distractions, the best thing to avoid distractions is to form a culture of independence where people collaborate when necessary, without interrupting a co-worker, especially if it isn’t without a purpose

The advice above is by no means a recommendation to isolate software developers. However, to do their job and do it well, software developers need the time and space to focus and work on hard problems and to create solutions. Software developers will always be able to interact with others whether in person or online when needed to collaborate or just to socialize. What’s important here is to have that quiet place when you need it.

 

I have been a software developer for many years now, and for the last 5 years, I’ve been working remotely 100% of the time. What does this mean? It means I’ve been working primarily from home, but it doesn’t mean I’m always home; instead I try to balance my time between multiple places inside my house AND more importantly, I go out and about when I can and when the weather permits it.

Working from a place other than your home is essential in my opinion, having a different environment, a different view, and a different location to code is stimulating, and if I might say it, empowering and motivating too. Many times I will walk outside my home and just pick a random direction, but I’m lucky to live in Seattle (just moved here recently) where I know I’ll find a coffee shop (and a good one that is) in almost every block.

What happens if you don’t live in the city you might ask, well, the majority of my time as a remote software engineer I lived in the suburbs of Austin, TX. Of course, my options were much limited than now, but none the less, I was always able to get in my car and drive to a coffee shop or any other place with a good WiFi and simple food and beverages at reasonable prices, like Panera Bread for example.

OK, so enough about my own experiences and on with the tips. Below is a list of things that will help you be more successful when working outside of your home, at a coffee shop, at the airport, at a restaurant, etc.

Here’s what you are looking for

  • Portable power
    • This is by far the most essential item to have, never assume that your laptop or tablet will have enough power to last as long as you need. Invest in a portable battery that can charge both your laptop and other devices such as your phone or tablet. Personally, I use an Anker portable battery, and it is enough to fully charge my laptop once + my phone.
  • Good headphones (ideally noise canceling + mic)
    • Why? Well, as a programmer I need to focus on my code, and public places tend to be full of noise. While I don’t use them all of the time, they are definitely a handy item to have when working outside of your home and in a noisy environment. Also, if you collaborate with other people, make sure to get headphones that include a mic so you can have a conversation with your team when needed. I use the Bose QuietComfort headphones, and while they aren’t cheap, they were a good investment for me.
  • A good cell phone plan (with unlimited data preferably)
    • I cannot say this enough, you need to make sure you can provide yourself with a good, fast AND secure internet connection to your laptop or tablet when working outside of your home. Yes, nowadays coffee shops and most public spaces do offer free WiFi, but most of the times the speed and the security of these WiFi connections is questionable. If the free WiFi at your local coffee shop is enough for you then fine, but for me, it is not. I recently switched from Verizon to T-Mobile which has an unlimited data plan (and it even works internationally!). It costs me less per month, and it works much better for my family and me. I often turn on my Personal Hotspot to share my data connection with my laptop, it has saved me from poor free WiFi connections many times.
  • A newer laptop/tablet
    • While it isn’t required of course, with a more modern device you’ll benefit from the longer battery life, and while you’ll want to carry a portable battery, it is still a good idea to have a laptop or tablet that has a great battery life, if possible. I recently got a Microsoft Surface Book 2 from work and the battery life is pretty good. Tablets in general also enjoy a great battery life as many other light laptops do such as the MacBook Air, etc.
  • A great backpack
    • This is important, while any backpack will do to carry your laptop, portable battery, multiple charges, and other cables, headphones, etc. I do recommend getting something that can help you organize these items quickly and also comfortably. I have been using this backpack for a few years, and while small, it can carry all of my devices, a 15″ laptop, an iPad Pro, a mirrorless camera and a Kindle along with my cables, portable battery, and a few other things. The backpack is compact and very comfortable, and this is the reason I like it. I can walk for miles with it, and it doesn’t bother me, and at the same time, it’s small enough to place it by my feet anywhere I land. It also fits perfectly under airplane seats.

This is all folks, these are the most important things I can think of that has helped me be very productive while working remotely and outside of my home. If you have other tips, please share them below in the comments.

Working as a remote employee for almost a year, I have been observing some common behaviors that can make the communication between remote employees and their peers either great or very challenging. Here are some tips based on my own experience, and while the bonus tip at the bottom of the post sounds a bit unimportant, believe me, it happens more often than you can imagine so I provided some screen-shots and solutions to the question “How to unmute myself?

Here are some tips for both remote employees and their peers.

Be considerate

  • If a meeting changes, or you cannot make it, cancel or decline at least 24 hours in advance. When you are a remote worker, planning and being ready for a meeting sometimes might take a little more than just attending. Be considerate and make sure you communicate well in advance of any changes to any scheduled meetings.
  • Have a goal for the meeting and be clear as to what your expectations for the meeting are. Attending a meeting without a clear vision about the meeting’s goal or what your contribution to it is, can be very frustrating. This sometimes causes people to feel frustrated and be lost during the meeting.
  • Start on time. Whoever is organizing or hosting the meeting should setup the conference call or video conference before the meeting starts. Everyone else should show up on time.
  • Be aware of time zones. This is one item that we must not forget when working with a remote team, try to setup meetings during mutually workable hours.

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Working remotely has become a common way of working for a lot of professionals, and while it is a lot easier to do this than years ago, working remotely still has some challenges. The one thing we can all agree with is that not having to worry about a busy and/or long commute is awesome (see photo above). The ability to stay connected to your peers and be able to collaborate seamlessly is necessary for remote teams to be successful. All companies use email and most use some sort of instant messaging tool, but this isn’t enough.

In recent years, many software companies have created multiple tools to make remote collaboration and communication easier and less intrusive, below are some of the tools I consider the most useful and enjoyable for the remote employee and remote teams. (more…)

The definition for deskbound from different sources:

  • restricted to working in an office, rather than in an active, physical capacity.
  • engaged in or involving sedentary work, as at an office desk
  • restricted to work at a desk
  • unfamiliar with actualities or practical matters outside one’s own job:  deskbound executives who can’t grasp production problems.

You get the idea, being deskbound is not really for the active or adventurous types but chances are that you spent countless hours at your desk, even if you don’t like it. However, if you have the privilege of working in a position where you can work remotely then there are some things you can do to minimize being deskbound.

Work from home

Many people today have the privilege of being able to work from home, at least a few times a week. Working from home is not for everyone as many people need to be around other people to do their job well. If you are able to work from home and you like it, let me show you some things you can do to avoid being deskbound to the same place at home. You can change your scenery, at least a bit. For example, while you work from home try alternating between your table kitchen, dinning room, home office or even from your back yard. Just by making these small changes to your scenery you’ll find yourself refreshed and ready to get some work done. Give it a try.

Work from a coffee shop

This is nothing new, today many professionals around the world go to coffee shops to do their job, even if they have an office at home or at an office building. Now, if you make small changes such as splitting your days between different coffee shops, you might find yourself re-energized and motivated like you probably did the first time you worked from a coffee shop. There is also no doubt that working from a coffee shop has many other benefits such as the potential of meeting new people, unlimited amounts of great coffee, fewer distractions and the potential of increasing both productivity and creativity.

Just remember to consume more than just a cup of coffee while you are there, don’t become a laptop hobo. Lately, there has been many complaints from coffee shops about laptop hobos who seat down for hours, using the wi-fi and power outlets while consuming just a cup of coffee or nothing at all.

Work from a co-working space

Just like working from a coffee shop, having the ability to do your job from a co-working space offers great opportunities to meet like-minded people, a sense of community and sometimes good coffee as well. If you are in Austin I suggest you visit any of these places, most of them offer working space on demand. Also, most co-working spaces are designed to increase creativity and innovation and this is of course always a good thing! While you are there try rotating desks a few times a day or at least try seating at different areas within the co-working space every time you visit, this will help you meet new people and also change your scenery.

Next time you have a chance to work from home, from a coffee shop or anywhere remotely, consider picking different spots and places, this will help you change the routine and avoid being deskbound, at lease from the office desk.

If you are a freelancer, I hope some of the tips above help you a bit and if you are interested in working in handpicked projects that pay well and on time checkout our new marketplace and request an invite today.