Decreasing Distractions During the Remote Workday
Engineering Manager at Atlassian
The Remote Working Downfall
Many engineers enjoy writing code and performing their job. The industry is lucky to have dedicated and passionate engineers about their work, as many professionals started out as hobbyists. It was really easy to zone into code when remote working began, often overlooking day-to-day life. As remote working continues, boundaries between work and life diminish, and it’s easy for engineers to find themselves working 12 hour days.
"Many engineers enjoy writing code and performing their job."
Introducing Boundaries Between Work and Life
In a typical setting, employees move from their home to the office on a workday, using transportation as a transition to the workplace. Engineers could shift from home mode to work mode rather quickly and simply by moving their physical location. Since the office was miles away, engineers could leave their work-life at the office and come home without carrying a burden.
As soon as laptops became available for everyday workers, The difficulty of separating work and life increased. When engineers brought their laptops home from work, they were allowing themselves to open an avenue of communication to their home life.
In my living space, I have the availability to work in a car-port off of my house. The walk from my house into the car-port is the transitional space that I need to prepare for the workday and wind down at the end of the day. For those without the same space, I recommend taking a walk outside right before and after the workday, using a walk as a transitional period.
Reducing Distractions from Home:
No matter the home space one lives in, the temptation to ‘check-in’ on work-related activities, especially communications, is always there. To reduce my own temptations, I leave my laptop in the car-port, my workspace. By leaving my laptop in my dedicated workspace, I am almost able to create that boundary between work and home. When work-related items are less present in the non-work life, it is easier not to be distracted by work.
Whether they be good or bad, creating habits go hand in hand with reducing workplace temptation. Once an individual begins to give in to distractions, it becomes much easier and much more frequent. Workdays suddenly become longer and less productive with more temptation, as distraction can take form in many habits. The most popular are: checking non-work-related notifications during work and checking work-related notifications during non-work time. Embrace your calendar, and add in blocks of time where you do your “at home” tasks and be open about it - working remotely gives a lot of flexibility but if you start to hide your habits and routines this leads to people losing their ability to communicate with you effectively.
Essential Skills for Remote Workers
The new soft-skill for remote workers is writing. When face-to-face communication is difficult while remote, being able to convey ideas through words becomes essential. With many companies working asynchronously, not everyone is able to attend meetings. By providing documentation, you are enabling others to take ownership of your ideas and provide their own comments.
While not always categorized as a skill, I think being able to take a break is key to a successful workday. Either taking a week off or taking short daily breaks allows you to detox after long projects or tasks. Holidays aren’t quite what they used to be but the key thing is that when you’re on holiday you don’t work - and this is the thing we should be making sure we continue to do. Remote working can get intense so do all you can to reduce that pressure on ourselves.
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