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…)

I still remember when I first had the opportunity to work remotely, it took some convincing but my employer at the time understood and agreed to give it a try, it was 2002. Nowadays is very common to find professionals, especially developers and designers doing some of their work remotely. There are even some successful companies where not only some employees work remotely but almost their entire work force is remote, in these companies working remotely is just part of the culture.

Tips to have success as a remote workerBelow are some of my own experiences as a remote worker, and although I have never been a 100% remote worker, still think some of the following tips might help some of you, and if you have additional tips please feel free to share it with us in the comment’s section.

Have a schedule and let co-workers know about it

Unless you work remotely 100% of the time, you should let people know in advance about the days and hours you are working remotely, that way no in-person meetings are scheduled and no expectations of you being physically at the office are set. Your company and co-workers will appreciate this.

This also helps you plan for personal things such as running errands, doctor appointments, walking the dog, going to the gym, or whatever it is that you do when you are not attached to specific working hours during the day. The real benefit and very productive thing about working remotely is having the ability to work when you are the most productive, not necessarily from 9-5PM.

Work when you are the most productive, avoid the 9-5

Most people benefit from working remotely because if done correctly, it truly gives you a chance to balance your busy life with your work. Unfortunately many employers and professionals do not understand this and instead request that people working remotely work the same hours as if they were at the office, and while this might be seemed as a good idea it isn’t. Working the same hours while working remotely does not let you realize the full potential of working remotely, and it also brings the same problems you tried to avoid by working remotely such as constant distractions by coworkers pinging you, and the pressure of not being able to work when you are the most productive which in many cases is not from 9-5PM.

Make yourself unreachable

That is right, be unreachable. The whole point about working remotely is so you can be more productive and you can only achieve this by eliminating distractions. If you are in a position where you can work remotely, then you can certainly make yourself unreachable for a day or two. If you or your employer feel uncomfortable with this, then none of you are ready to work remotely or to have a remote workforce. Here are some tips to make yourself unreachable and to train people around you to understand that you are not openly available while working from home, a coffee shop or anywhere you decide to work from:

  • Only read and reply to very important emails that truly require your input.
  • Do not answer the phone if the caller is unknown.
  • Do not engage in online discussions in IM, Twitter, etc…
  • Avoid phone conferences while working remotely.
  • Disable email, IM and other automatic notifications.

Give yourself permission to decline interruptions, and set expectations with your team about this.

Use the right equipment

A good laptop, good internet connection and plenty of electrical power is absolutely needed to succeed as a remote worker. Having two computers such as one sitting at work and another one at home won’t cut it, trust me I tried and failed miserably. Also, remember that working remotely doesn’t mean working only from home, there are going to be days when you decide or need to work from another location such as a coffee shop, a hotel or a co-working space, and you’ll need to make sure that you have all of the above… laptop, fast internet connection and a source of power. Caffeine is in my list of must-have as well.

If possible, have an extra battery (charged) for your laptop, a cell phone and all of the cables you need to power up your devices, never leave home without them.

Use the right software

This advice really varies depending on what you do and who you work for. For example, if your company provides remote access to network shares, and other resources within the company’s network then make sure you have access to it as well as the security software and knowledge to connect to it. For example, most companies will require you to first connect to a virtual private network (VPN) before you can access your email, network folders, databases, etc… Another good idea is to know how to access your company’s email using a browser (webmail) since there are going to be times when your VPN connection might not work when you need to read or sent an important email message. It will happen, trust me on this one.

Here are some other applications that can prove to be very useful while working remotely:

In summary, make sure you test all of your software while at home and confirm that you have everything to do your job remotely.

The above list is what comes to mind based on my experience as the basics for successfully working remotely, and I am sure that depending on your company and the type of work you do there might be the need for other software or equipment to make this happen. If you have other tips or suggestions please add them in the comment’s section below.