‘n’ honest truths about working remote [Community Edition]

It was my first year of college, when I actually understood what remote working is, this was 2016. It hit me like a zap, and I was instantly hooked on the idea of this fast, upcoming culture of folks working together virtually, intertwining on Slack Threads, connecting through Google Calendars and working in sync just like an actual office, but way more efficient. Being an ardent fan of the popular American sitcom The Office, remote work was a fresh take, a real chance for me to break the wheel and imagine a life out of the 9 to 5 death cycle.

From then onwards, I always thought of myself working remotely. Every gig I got, or project I led were and have been remote. Well, nothing big until Google Summer of Code came along and I got some real taste of hardship in my Candy Crush like-life.

Google Summer of Code with Sugar Labs in 2018, my first actual impactful open-source contribution remotely of course gave me a taste of the remote life. Both of my mentors also worked remotely, one in Turkey and the other in Philippines. Who guided me diligently through the milestone, tasks and helped me in my problems to successfully complete SugarPort. It was a great summer, but I realised I haven’t gotten out of my comfort zone yet, the hours I put in behind the task wasn’t monitored, or the work done wasn’t supervised week-by-week. Hence, I could be doing tons of work in one week, elsewhere I would be producing absolutely nothing.

Being observant and introspective enough I peeked into myself and was glad that I saw where I was going wrong, and that brings me up to writing about the n honest truths that I learned working remotely for Sugar Labs, and now, for ScrapingHub in GSoC 2019, I am really glad that I finally got around with it,

[1.] Strict time management is a fool’s errand

Take care of the minutes, and the hours will take care of themselves.

A quote from my school diary.

Now, the above quote might seem great, but I am here to tell you that it’s not practical for developers to divide time strictly. One can’t just give a issue/bug/feature/docs designated amount of times and be sure to follow them through on a minute by minute basis. It’s not mentally possible for developers to switch contexts immediately as when the time for that activity runs out.

Some issues take less time, some take more. Some bugs can have you scratching your head till half past three, while after a nap they seem like so easy that the kid next door could have probably solve it. One has to take into account several other factors. And I would like to come in and suggest to you straight that a strict time management schedule is not worth the time you put in the first place for making it.

We are developers for crying out loud, we make our own rules. But, where does the framework comes in when defining the rules. The framework here that I like to say, is an essential building block of a fulfilling remote life. It goes by the name Discipline.

[2] Yes, Discipline. You might have heard of it, I bet you have.

Discipline in remote work is paramount, and I am no different to say that. When it’s time to work, then it has to be the time when it’s just you and your work in the room. Make sure to have no distractions, no notifications, and be disciplined enough to not see your phone every 10 seconds in hopes of a message or pop-up. And there’s an addiction for that.

Honestly, my phone stays on silent for days on end, and I have no notifications or social media apps in my phone. Following a friend’s advice, I keep my phone on reading mode constantly. Extremely helpful when you want to get rid of it faster. Discipline is also about other things, coming towards something we passively ignore is Health.

[3] Health is not a thing to gamble with, unlike life. Which we do on a day-to-day basis

I need some advice myself, here. Tweet something @vipulgupta2048

[4] Keep personal and professional lives separate, balance is key.

Milkshakes only taste good till the point they have been blended with the right flavors of ice-cream and chilled milk with a touch of Sugar. Same goes for people working remotely. Professional life is as important as personal life and in the middle of working one has to commit equally to both of the sides of the coin.

Maybe you have a great work environment, own office, no distractions, you love working remotely, the hours are your own, but your social life is big negative and falling apart fast. You feel interacting with someone else other than the ones on the screen as a huge effort, and the phone stops ringing except for Slack notifications from your workplace. Then you know that this is the balance you that would help you. Lucky for you, the next point helps in this regard.

[5] Get that guitar out, put on that apron, start reading that book. Hobbies will help you!

Maybe you are not a extrovert, maybe you love to be alone and that’s why remote was your top option when it came to line of work. But, the human mind craves routine or atleast mine does. And if you take the routine away from a person, then that’s the point when people starts slipping and forgetting about things that makes you human.

Solution, take up a hobby. Don’t delay, don’t postpone, don’t fight it. Don’t let work become the comfort zone, rather take its help to become the best version of yourself. Travel, explore and in some cases if possible meet strangers. It helps to open up, I know.

[6] Remote is tough, let no one tell you is easy. LHS is definitely not equal to RHS here.

The people working remotely for years will always have my respect. Make no mistake that I love working remotely no less than they do. It’s just that my admiration comes from the professionals who I work with currently, who have been carrying on and doing quite great and from whom I learnt and realized a lot of these things that I have written above. As someone truly said, “That the grass always look greener on the other side.”

Same is true for remote, I guess. To be effective, you have to be disciplined, in great shape, and always being able to participate!

What more would you like to see? Tweet out to @vipulgupta2048 to see your tips posted here on Mixster.

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