Of the many skills remote developers need to thrive, the six skills that Andreea Zorz writes about in this post rank high on the list.
There are six skills remote developers need to thrive: personal organization, communication skills, independence, workflow familiarity, time management and personal development.
Andreea Zorz is a digital marketer at DistantJob, which is a remote recruitment agency and we consider ourselves to be remote work experts after a decade of working remotely.
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People had been talking about remote work for a long time, even before 2020. As many as 90% of employees wanted to work from home, the benefits of remote teams were being proven time and time again, but even so, the uptake was limited. This year, people all around the world who could work from home were told to do so – and now the majority of CEOs are looking at making that change permanent.
And while work is work, wherever you do it, there are some skills and techniques you can use to make working from home more effective; to not only do your job as a remote developer but to do it so well that you stand out.
Here are some things to consider, to help you thrive as you work from home.
Skill #1: Personal organization
Self-discipline and personal organization are vital when you’re working from home. Whether your employer has fully embraced flexible working and you can put in your hours when you want, or you’re still doing a regular office day, you’ll need to make sure that you don’t have any distractions while you’re working.
As tempting as it might be to work in pyjamas, you’ll actually do your best work if you get up and dressed like normal. Do your hair or makeup if you wear it; all these things are cues to your brain that you’re about to start work.
If you’ve got the space, set up a dedicated working area in your home. That might be a desk in the spare bedroom or dining room, or a garden office. If you work better around others then a coworking space is worth investigating.
If you have to pack your work stuff away at the end of the day, then try and have an ‘office in a box’ that you can unpack as part of a daily ritual to get back into a working frame of mind.
Make a coffee, unpack your box, and it’s time to work.
If your company has a task management solution, then use that to give your day some shape. Decide what you’re going to work on that day – set yourself ambitious goals so that you have an incentive to stay on target.
If your employer doesn’t offer a solution, then using something like Todoist, Trello or Asana to manage your own to-do list might help. If you prefer analog solutions, Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journalling system has become very popular as a productivity hack.
If you find yourself constantly tempted to CTRL-TAB to Facebook, Reddit, or some other time-suck website then you might want to consider a website blocking tool like Cold Turkey, which will let you define which sites and apps you can access during your working hours. If it’s Netflix, then consider blocking access to the site during work hours via your router.
Skill #2: Communication Skills
The third skill remote developers need to thrive is communication.
Or more specifically, written communication skills. Although there’s some debate about the precise percentage, we all know that body language plays a big part in communication. Without it, it’s hard to read tone and that can lead to misunderstanding and tension.
It pays to write, read, and re-read before you post. If it’s something important, then step away and return after a break to get a fresh perspective. And never, ever, rage post when it comes to working.
If you don’t already have it installed, then a tool like Grammarly can be helpful in making sure you’re saying what you mean to. Not only will it make suggestions on spelling and grammar, but it will also give you some indication of the tone you’re using which will give you an idea of how your message will be received.
Of course, communication is a two-way street, so give your colleagues the benefit of the doubt if they say something that seems insensitive or downright stupid. Use Hanlon’s Razor; assume that someone is ill informed rather than being deliberately hurtful.
Skill #3: Independence
Hopefully, you will have colleagues that you can get in touch with via a Slack channel or your task management tools, but if you work in a different time zone then you may have to wait for responses from others. If that’s the case for you, then you’ll need to strategize to make sure that you don’t end up with anything to do.
This is another reason why you should add plenty to your to do list, so if you do end up roadblocked on one of your projects, you can just find something else to do. If all else fails, try and find something useful to do with your time; don’t just log off for the day and disappear, you still need to deliver value for your employer.
Skill #4: Workflow familiarity
Hopefully, when you were taken on, your line manager explained to you how the workflow goes, and what you need to do to move things along. If they haven’t, then you need to get this information as soon as you can.
You need to know where you pick up tasks, where the code is, what version control software is being used, and what the systems are for getting your changes tested and live. If this document doesn’t exist, create it – share it with your colleagues and impress the boss.
Skill #5: Time management
Time management is another important skill remote developers need to thrive.
In addition to being responsible for your own time, you’ll also need to consider how to manage meetings, etc. when you have staff in different timezones. You can use a tool like timeanddate.com to see when your colleagues are likely to be working; that means you won’t call them at 2am or pop up on Zoom in the middle of their evening meal.
Particularly in the current climate, it’s better to assume that someone isn’t available than that they are; message first before you send a meeting request just in case they’re having to deal with a toddler tantrum or defer to their partners working arrangements.
Skill #6: Personal Development
A good remote team manager will make sure that you have plenty of personal development opportunities, whether that’s learning from books/blogs etc. or more formal training courses. With many of these delivered online, you can access training no matter where in the world you are.
It’s also possible to shadow other team members, learn new skills, or teach your own. Most video chat solutions come with a screen sharing option that will let you and colleagues talk while you see what they’re doing.
If your boss isn’t being proactive with your training, then put together a plan for yourself and set up some time to talk about it. Being overlooked is a concern for many remote workers, so take the bull by the horns and don’t let that happen to you.
Final thoughts on the skills remote developers need to thrive
You’ll be pleased to know that study after study has found that remote workers are more productive than their office-based colleagues, so you’re already at an advantage. Without the commute to sap your energy and impact your health, you’ll be ready and raring to go each day.