Remote Asynchronous Workflow

Youssef Garas - 22 June 2019

You are lucky. Most probably. You can work from anywhere and anytime. You do not have to waste hours stuck in traffic or commuting to your place of work. Technology has evolved enough that you no longer need to be in the same place or even time with someone else to get work done. You have your own home office that you tailored to your own comfort, connect to the internet and voila, you can start being productive. You use the time saved from commuting to go the gym or do other useful things in life. I enjoy working remotely and appreciate the extra time I get by skipping traffic. I have been working remotely for almost twelve years now and there are few things I learned.

Need for Self Discipline

Flexibility is good, but it can easily turn into chaos. Without a good routine of when you wake up, start working, having breaks and be available to support other team members, things can fall apart. It can be easier to drift into news or Facebook if you are in your home office and find an entire day going by with nothing accomplished. One has to be monitoring his acts all the time and be aware if the lunch break is taking more than it should. Looking at what you have completed today and yesterday and keeping an eye on how you have spent your time is essential in working from home. If you think you don’t have this level of self discipline, you may be better off working from an office.

The Art of Communication

Not being in an office means you will have less facetime with other team members, which can make communicating ideas across harder. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. In an office, you will get interrupted more frequently, lose your focus more frequently and communicate verbally more. When working from home, most communication is in a written form, but once it is written, other people can consume it again, go back to it again and even iterate on improving it. It is important to classify which communication channel would be the best for what you are trying to communicate. If you are explaining how to use a piece of code, it may be better to create a document for it, update the readme file or check why the code itself is not self-explanatory. If you are exploring possible designs, it may be faster to jump on a call to discuss ideas. If it is just a quick question, that you cannot find the answer to yourself, then messaging the team may be the right choice.

Video, Screen Sharing and Voice

Building a team spirit and the feeling that you are not alone and that there is a team working with you towards the same goal is very important whether you are in an office or working from home. When you see someone next to you sitting in an office and working, it gives you an extra push and an enthusiasm to work as well. In a remote setting, I find it more important to have daily scrum meetings, weekly 1-1 meetings and ad hoc meetings as needed. Video calls communicate the team spirit way better than voice calls. You do not want to overdo these calls though to the point that they are distracting.

Get Out Every Day

You have more time in your day now that you skipped the hours being stuck in traffic. The worst thing you can do is to have these extra hours go towards more TV time. Or just staying at home. You will quickly find your energy levels dropping, mood worsen and productivity going down. Leave the house everyday, and make sure you do any kind of sport. I find that the number one reason for someone’s productivity decline when working from home is staying at home too much and not doing any kind of sport.

Working from home may not be for everybody. It requires certain skills to make sure it improves your work-life balance. If you try it for a while and you find that it is not working, there is no shame in admitting that. People are different and there is no one size that fits all.