This article is about my adventure of adapting to working from home and lesson learnt after one year. I will focus on giving bullet points on ideas that may help your adaptation to work from home. I will also mention how being as dyslectic developer affects me as a result of working from home.
So, if you have a few minutes and need to read something while drinking a beverage of your choice, this article is for you :D.
This article will cover :
- My Story
- Set up a workspace
- Organise your day with an example
- Challenges with working from home and how to deal with them
- Adapt teamwork to remote team
- What things I consider as dyslectic to help me a work
I will not cover:
- Is working from home the best solution for all.
- Which model of work is best for your company office only, hybrid, semi-remote or fully remote.
Until 2020, I always work from the office and with a few exceptions when I work from home for a day. I was always interested in working from time to time, but I never knew how to do it. Usually, when I am in China on holiday, I catch up with reading about random topics. For example, for the last few years, I read a blog about remote working from Buffer (and in 2020, I also start read from a few other resources like Trello and Zapier).
In 2020, I flew to China a few days before the official outbreak of Covid happen, so when an outbreak happens while it makes staying in China unique, I didn’t expect it will change the way of working for me.
If you are interested in my experience in China, check this: https://dominiksymonowicz.com/2020/02/07/life-in-china-during-coronavirus-outbreak-from-foreginer-point-of-view/.
After back to the UK, it turns out that suddenly, I will work from home. It was chaos in the beginning because I need to re-shuffle my daily routine and schedule with my wife how to work and take care of our son at the same time. I was lucky, however, because the things I learned from reading about remote working and work from home were fundamental to speedy transitions. One of the first thing I did is to my lovely wife to set rules and resolve all issues to make sure everyone understands and respects rules.
I was aware of changes I needed to adapt in terms of mindset, workspace, organise your day, and interact with colleagues. Let me explain each aspect starting from mindset.
The most aspect of adaptation. The good news is that working from home and office while it is the same in terms of outcome, but it requires tweaks around separation between work and home in the same place.
When I am working, I am working, so it is home in the same place as non-work required to teach my brain how to distinguish it. I am using a few tricks to set my body into the right mindset is to wear a specific set of clothes that I am using for work. I bought 5 of the same t-shirts (and support the LTT Youtube channel simultaneously), and I start to wear them when starting work and take them off when I finish. However, when I work, I focus on getting the job done and not doing any personal tasks.
I started to adapt to an office room that allows me to be productive and deliver my work results. After work, I avoid using this place to help me disconnect mentally.
Communication changed completely. There are two things that I needed to adapt; team communication and random chats with random people in the office. While having a conversation, I didn’t have the luxury of body language. Videocall solves this problem partly, but my team is too shy to use the camera. The second part is socialising by chatting randomly with people you are bumping into the office. The company has coffee roulette where you can chat with a random person from the chat. I tried this, and it works quite well for me.
Another aspect of mindset is to focus on removing distractions. I had many of them that affected me in the beginning. I wrote a list of all of them and started from what distracts me the most. On Sunday, I write down all things that affect me and focus on removing them one by one.
Rest is another aspect I found challenging. I tried to find the enjoyable and doesn’t involve sitting in a front electronic device. I focus on challenging activities like walking 12020 steps per day, running and hiking, or spending quality time with my son and playing Lego :D.
It is effortless to write about, but it is hard to do. However, it very important to keep work and personal space separate. You have a bedroom zone for sleeping at home, a living zone for entertainment and relaxing, and an office for work and learning only.
I needed to create a zone where its only purpose is to work. It depends on your space available in your castle, but the best option is a dedicated room; if that is not possible, then a specific part of the room or portable foldable table is in the worst-case scenario. Keep in mind, If you cannot have a dedicated room, then whatever place you chose, try to stay as far as possible from noise and distractions like kids who are playing games, TV, complaining spouse, etc.
My main objective was to have a workspace that allows me to isolate myself from any distractions and interruptions.
For example, I have a way to indicate that I am busy and shouldn’t be disturbed. It can be a red led light or something like that. It is crucial if you have kids who are at home as this is the easiest way to let them know, and it works on my three years old son (usually).
I will skip my desk setup, but there are two items I suggest to not save money on.
- Chair. For me, MARKUS, an IKEA’s chair, is an excellent value for quality and money or splash money. I had it for many years, and it was great. Recently, I saved a lot of money and finally bought then second-hand high-quality office chair (legendary Herman Miller Aeron Chair), which can cost less than half price makes this just a little less way too expensive). The gaming chair is terrible at best or worse in general.
- Noise cancellation headphones BOSE or SONY are the best, and you should buy previous generations as they are much cheaper and quality still excellent.
ORGANISE YOUR DAY
- If you ever watch anything about productivity and life management in general, then organise your day, time management, and routine are usually the fundamental element, and that’s true. When I organise your day, I discovered that it is not only about work, but I needed to think about sleep, exercise, social and relaxing time.
- It was hard for me to set a daily routine on the first few attempts. On Sunday, I do a retrospective to evaluate my routine and look at obstacles that prevent me from follow the routine and make adjustments. I change my daily routine 20 times with minor adjustments to adapt to changes. It is important to stick.
- One of the things I discover during the retrospective was I over-engineered my daily routine. I fixed this problem by having some buffer time between tasks to catch up if things get delayed.
- I also discovered that not all part of the day could be timeboxed, so your daily to-do list to tackle other items on your agenda.
- I set a strict rule when I start and stop work. For me, it is from 8.00 to 16.00 with lunch between 12.00-13.00. When I close my work laptop, it sends a mental signal that it is the working day’s end. Don’t worry about work. Work will always be there for you tomorrow.
- It means after work, do not any check work’s “communication tools” as it is the easiest way to creep over time into the day.
- Your body has high and low energy time, and I schedule my rest time around low energy time to refuel my energy and go out for a walk in the garden and relax my eyes at the same time. When your energy is low, it is time to re-charge. You can go out and get fresh air and sunlight or get wet if you live in the UK.
An example of my daily routine looks as follow:
06:30 – WAKE UP
06:33 – Morning routine
06:59 – RUN/Walk 5km with focus on aims
- What makes today a great day?
- What do I want to learn today?
08:00-16:00 – Work (During work, I have scheduled break time around my low energy periods)
16.15 – Family time, relax and evening routine.
22:50 – PLAN NEXT DAY
- Plan tomorrow’s list to do.
- What did I learn and experienced today?
- Is everything on track? Do I eliminate things that make me unhappy? Did I make progress towards my current goals?
23.00 – Sleep
(I skipped details for routine and what I do during lunch and so on)
ADAPTING TO WORK AS REMOTE TEAM
There are quite a few changes when you suddenly work as a remote team.
- It has a higher risk of miscommunication and misunderstanding, so I needed to improve my listening and improve the way I involve the rest of the team when I have noticed the problem, something I did in the office, but it didn’t happen at home.
- Show empathy if this happens to other team members during a meeting, like a child invades the room during a meeting or needs to listen to some nursery rhythms during pairing.
- Focus on getting to know people in your team and the company. It is one of the hardest parts, but you can do “a pair coffee” with a random person. Inlove in the hobby channel, play games together and so on.
- Say thank you for publicity.
- Discourage your teammates from working long hours or at weekends.
- Designing new services and project requires a different approach, and at the time of writing, I didn’t figure out that one yet, but I am working on it.
CHALLENGES WHEN YOU WORK FROM HOME AND HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM.
I was fortunate because I read a lot about the challenges of working from home, so I was aware that there are a few important issues to tackle.
- It is the biggest problem for people. For me, as a lone-wolf, it wasn’t a big problem, but I took good care of it anyway. I speak to family, friends and co-workers. I am trying to keep a conversation using audio and avoid using text but in many cases, using text is the easiest way. If you like me and are terrible at keeping in touch, put it to your weekly task to do or even daily routine with a different person.
- There are a few ways to be social. You can also replicate what you do for lunch, for example, If you can go out with colleagues from work, organise virtual lunch or go out with your partner or find a group of people who work and live similarly in your area.
- Suppose you have a friend who you eat lunch at the office. Try to find a break-friend in your area or have a virtual friend (call your various real friends).
- Home-work separation
- I wrote about the above.
- Visibility of work done and collaboration
- It is an interesting problem, but as long as your team has daily caught up, one on 1 with the manager on your progress, celebrate success on deliveries. If you work in software development, use stands up, retro and showcase for it.
- Another useful way to feel visible in work gets done, and combat loneliness is a technique called pair programming. There are many ways to do it.
- I didn’t figure out how to do well, so it is a work in progress. I am thinking about organising better holiday s and staycation in the future.
OTHER TIPS AND TRICKS
- If you work from home one day per week, make it a non-meeting day and make this a focus day, and it will allow you most productive.
- If you work in software development, you will probably hear about retrospective and guess what, you retrospective to iterate over your daily schedule and apply changes. I repeat my daily routine and how I work from home around 20 times in 2020. Writing down what you learn and the knowledge you gain from it. Check what new ideas can help your productivity.
- I like to do some meetings only over the phone, and you can go for a walk while doing it.
- Please don’t use your room when you sleep for work as it will decrease the quality of sleep.
HOW WORKING FROM HOME AFFECTS ME AS DYSLECTIC?
Let’s start with that, they are many different types of dyslexia, and mine affects me in writing and mind-mapping memory and focus.
I am currently working on an article about being a dyslectic developer. Still, if you wonder about being a dyslectic developer, then it just means that I need to adjust to how I communicate, learn and share my thoughts and knowledge.
While in my case, it affects my communication (and another contributing factor is that I speak not in my native language at work) with people and learning speed. A good side effect of this, you may notice that dyslectic people quite often come with some unorthodox solution to the problem, which can come in handy on many occasion, especially in software development.
As it turns out, working from home is very beneficial. The office is a noisy and distrustful place, and if you, like me, struggle with focus, the office makes it much more challenging.
At home, I can focus on and isolate myself from distraction; therefore, I can communicate better when concentrating on tackling problems or learning new things.
I have more time to respond as people with not come to me and spam me in real-time.
In my case , working from home helps me with drawbacks caused by my dyslexia. I am aware that it depends on the person; if you are struggling, contact your manager (but only a person is helpful as some do not handle people with dyslexia) specialists, support groups online, or research how to do workarounds about the problem you are facing.
Working from home was something that I always wanted to try, and I am glad that the year 2020 gave me a finally this opportunity, even if circumstances were as many people like to describe as unprecedented. Working from home helps me to better focus on getting things done and learning. It took me many interactions to get routine in a workable state, and there is still room for improvements. I hope the tips I shared with you during my journey will help you improve working from home and allow you to enjoy it. Feel free to share your experience in the comments and what did you learn to make working from home a better experience.