Telecommuting is becoming more of a common practice, and understandably so. A business can expand their talent pool quite a bit when searching beyond their physical location, and the investment in a remote worker can be less than that of an office worker¹. Remote employees also see a number of positives from not commuting, spending that time in other ways. Many teams even allow office employees to work-from-home 1–2 days a week.
This is particularly applicable in software engineering. Many employers require engineers that know specific languages, and that search is made easier with telecommuting employees. Thanks to powerful laptops and VPNs, software engineers can do most of their work in any location.
Despite the benefits, many telecommuting relationships do not work out well. Some employers find it too difficult to have proper oversight and communication with their remote team members, while employees may find the experience to be isolating. One bad experience can turn either an employer or employee off to the idea entirely.
I don’t claim to be an expert on the mater. Still, I have successfully telecommuted for a few years now, and I would like to offer the little insight that I have.
Quick To Call
Electronic communication is a great way to have quick conversations with a searchable history. However, once the conversation gets beyond a few quick messages, it can become a burden. Talking is simply a faster form of communication, and comes with the wonders of non-verbal communication. It is a good idea to call your peer(s) for longer conversations.
Show Your Face (And Screen)
Yes, it is tempting to turn off the camera and wear PJs to work. That comes at a high cost: non-verbal communication. This is invaluable to proper communication, and I’m sure many of your peers enjoy seeing you each day!
Sharing your screen is also a big advantage when talking with your peers. Whether you need to work through some code or hash out a bug, sharing what you’re doing allows others to provide faster input.
Document Important Conversations
Remote employees do not have the context from the day-to-day conversations that occur in the office. While that is an unfortunate downside of telecommuting, the impact is lessened if pertinent conversations are documented electronically in an accessible area.
We’ve all been there. You get out of bed and notice that the house could be picked up. The dishes in the dishwasher could be put away. There’s a mountain of laundry to do. The grocery list is a mile long. Your pets want attention.
Working remotely can offer a number of new distractions from your work life. It is impossible to eliminate them all, but it is certainly a good idea to limit them when possible. Designating specific times in the day for work and for home tasks is helpful. Some may be more productive outside of their house, such as in a coffee shop.
This is a problem with office employees as well, especially ones who work in open floor plans. Wherever your office is, be sure to take steps to limit distractions where possible.
Commit To Meetings
Putting away distractions (phone, computer) during meetings is a good habit. By doing so, you’re giving everyone else your full attention, which can yield very productive conversations. This is more difficult for remote employees. Often we are leveraging our computers to engage in the meeting, so it isn’t as easy as putting your computer away. Remote employees can ensure that they are committed by full-screening the conferencing software that they are using, and ignoring other notifications.
Overlap Schedules (where possible)
Much like services, teams become more difficult to manage when they are distributed. You may have some employees that work different shifts for different reasons, whether that be their physical location or general lifestyle. While this is a difficult challenge, coordinating between remote team members is made much easier when you have some parts of your schedule that overlap. Live in the midwest, but your team is based out of NYC? Consider starting your day earlier to match your team members. Have an overnight team? Try to consistently rendezvous with that team when you start/end your day.
When you are an office employee, you will likely leave work sometime in the evening. This typically acts as a delineator for work/home life as many will not bring work home with them. For remote employees, however, it is easy to continue working well beyond an ordinary work shift as you always have your work at home. Thus it is important to “turn off” from work.
Just think about it. How can you limit distractions during work if all you do is work? At some point, that chore list has to get done. Allowing yourself to turn-off work gives you the opportunity to schedule out that chore-list and spend time with your family. That way, when you come to work, you can focus on just that: work.
 Remote.Co (2018–12–16) 17 Stats About Remote Work in 2018 https://remote.co/10-stats-about-remote-work/