Another entry in what one might think was a planned series of posts on working remotely. Previously, I've discussed how to land contracts and some remote pairing tools. Today are some general tips on what to do once you've got the contract. As with the rest of this blog, these points have helped me retain some small shred of sanity. If they help you out too, that's not my fault.
I'll start off with some regurgitation of two points you've likely read elsewhere but I won't dwell on them too much. Firstly, set up a proper office space separate from everything else and treat it as such. Helps the disconnect 'twixt work and home. Secondly, get ready for work as if you were actually going. That generally means taking a shower in the morning at the very least. It's surprising how big a difference this makes for your frame of mind. Makes you feel like you are actually working and not just still awake from playing World of Warcraft all night.
If you remember one thing about this post, it's this: Cook 'em with the skin still on. But almost as important: Be productive. And when you can't be productive, be *very* productive. In the post on landing contracts, I touched on this a little. Many places will be apprehensive about the idea of a contractor working offsite...in a tropical paradise....with a beach so close....and such...nice weather....could just....step out....just for a second.
Whoa Hillbilly! Focus, you big hunk of Appalachian American!
The point is that there may be the expectation that you aren't working to full capacity. There are lots of distractions at home and no one watching you and they know it. And while it's no different than zoning out at work and ego surfing, it will look worse if you do it. So you will need to shatter their expectations in terms of your madd skillz simply to justify your expense. If you consider that unfair, you could always commute.
Follow-up point, if you have to leave your home for *any* reason, mark it in your calendar and send an e-mail to some key team members. Nothing shatters confidence like someone calling you in the middle of the workday and getting your answering machine.
Next up is your work schedule. I am two time zones from my mother ship. The core hours are 8:30 to 4:00 which translate to 10:30 to 6:00 my time. And I'm a morning person.
You will need to show some flexibility here but you don't need to go overboard. Here's where being productive can work to your advantage. At my present gig, no one has overtly questioned me stopping work at 3:00 local time but at the same time, I don't decline meetings that run until 6:00 my time either. Your goal is to make your remoteness as seamless as possible and not to be an impediment logistically if you can help it. Besides, they are always nice enough to ask if it's okay to schedule a meeting that late and typically, I don't need to be at my computer for it.
Related to this: you may need to adjust when you take your lunch to more closely match the lunch hour of your employer. Assuming you are two time zones away or less. Any more than that, I think it's probably impractical.
Where I am now, we practice agile in some form (although sometimes, we are accused of merely being spry). Our scrum wall is the "master catalogue" of our current issues and bugs. Which isn't the most efficient way of tracking for me. Of course, we also have a technology solution (Team Foundation Server. Oh stop it, it's not that bad.) that wasn't quite as up-to-date as the wall. But it is now. Because it *is* my scrum wall. If your team also makes use of lo-tech for its process, you will need to use, and enforce the use of, the underlying technology to keep yourself up-to-date.
Finally, if you do work onsite at the beginning, test your remote access before you fly home. Sorry, I don't have any horror stories to demonstrate why this is a good idea because I've always done it. But if you like, I could make one up that involves being on the phone with the help desk for two hours, shipping a laptop internationally, and having it arrive damaged.
Still one more post to go on "attending" meetings remotely (who knew it was big enough for its own entry?).
** UPDATE **
As the hillbilly recovers from a night of debauchery and questionable antics, he is reminded the he failed to mention some of the more obvious benefits of working from home in a time zone two hours later from his home base
Kyle the Recoverable