How to effectively work from home if you have to self-quarantine for coronavirus

COVID-19 is here. How to deal with working from home.

Let’s get real, COVID-19 looks like it can potentially be a Jira ticket. If it was a Jira ticket and you’ve never worked remotely before, it can feel like a big shift.

However, it’s not that bad.

I’ve been working remotely full time since 2018. It’s safe to say that the commute time after breakfast to my desk is not that bad.

Digital nomads and remote offshore teams have been doing this kind of stuff for a while now, even before it was cool or the advent of the coronavirus. A lot of our work as developers and code engineers already requires an internet connection of some sort and if you do you work on a laptop, you’re already 90% there with your digital workspace. 

However, there are some things no one really tells you when you have the option to go to work in your pajamas. You might be tempted to sit in front of the computer with bedhead or meander into your temporary ‘home office’ space at midday because you can.

With great perks comes great responsibilities.

Here are a few things I learned first hand, pre-coronavirus, when I started working remotely and found myself in isolation from civilization.

Time management

When you’re at home, along with everyone else that lives with you, it’s tempting to get sidetracked with distractions and doing other things that are not a priority. 

It’s easy to find your time slipping away in strange little pockets like social media, a YouTube video here and there, and even maybe an episode of something. 

Working remotely is just another rebrand from the old ‘work from home’ scenario. You’re still expected to do some work. This means you need to set boundaries around your time — the same way you physically mark out your work hours by being in the office with everyone else.

When we work from home, we can slip into a logical fallacy, thinking that you have time to do things — which you do due to lack of commute — but falling into this belief can end up with inefficient usage of your extra time.

The trick is to clearly create blocks of time for work and track it.

The thing is, when you’re in the office, your time is physical. You are physically somewhere else for the hours you work. When you’re at home, that time ca leech into your non-work hours. It’s easy to start at noon and find yourself completing code and features way into the night. 

Next time you know, you’ll start feeling like you’ve been working all day because your working clock is out of tilt. You start to take time out from the next day, creating a false sense of shortage because you started later.

The cycle continues until you spiral out of control and lose track of what time is owed where.

Borrowing time is like technical debt — it builds up and compounds on your mental health over time. It’ll wear you down if you’re not careful, leaving you more exhausted from the exercise than whatever excitement you might have felt at the beginning of the quarantine.

Tracking your time can bring awareness and clearly create boundaries between work hours and personal hours.

Setting up remote communication channels

Communication is how remote teams are able to work effectively and progress with continuous delivery. 

Most of the time, when teams transition from office-based to remote, nothing much changes. The only major change is that you don’t have instant access to your teammates who might just be sitting next to or behind you. 

Meetings can still be scheduled and run over video conferencing services like Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts. The quality of the team’s workflow still depends on the project manager and your team leader’s ability to keep on top of the requests, feature requirements and delivery cycles.

Most of our time as developers, in theory, is supposed to be spent on the process of creating code.

However, the act of communication can also take up a significant amount of time if it gets scattered throughout your day.

That’s why you should batch checking your emails only once or twice a day, only at a particular time, to maximize your productivity. If everyone on your team checks their emails and communication channels with limited frequency, it can also reduce communication fluff and increase the quality of each correspondence. 

Staying healthy

The point of quarantine, self-isolation and going remote with your work is to prevent you from getting sick. This also means doing what we can to also remain healthy.

We all know what we should be doing but more often than not we don’t. We consume the things we shouldn’t be eating and drinking in large quantities and hardly move. Now that we’re in the comfort of our own homes, this issue can become more pronounced.

The walk to your desk is now significantly shorter. The food is always available with no one to judge if you take an extra snack break here and there. 

Incorporating things like the 7-minute workout into your day can help reinvigorate your muscles. Keep strict with your meal times and what kind of meals you eat can also help.

Go easy on the packaged, processed and sugary snacks. Sometimes it’s easier to just go without than force yourself to eat carrot sticks (especially if they’re not your kind of thing). 

Final thoughts

Protecting your time and keeping track of where it goes is most likely the biggest thing for when you start working remotely. 

And that’s where a lot of developers who transition out into remote work struggle with. It’s not the environment setups and whatever else that you might need to get your work done, rather it’s the time it takes to do something and deliver your tickets, features, and requests at the same velocity without it feeling like it’s taking over your life.

Keeping your life structured one of the most important things when it comes to working remotely — because if you don’t, your life quickly becomes one big gloop.

This reason is probably why some developers still prefer to work at an office than at home. It gives a clear physical boundary between professional and private life.

But when you’re sitting in your living room on your couch coding, this can give off a very different vibe. It is also why you should sit properly, dress up in the morning as you’d usually do for work and clock in during the usual hours.

It’ll ensure that you’re operating under the same structure as you were in the office — but just at home.

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