More and more tech companies are asking workers not to come into the office. We asked five embedded systems developers that regularly (and successfully) work remotely to share their advice on how best to survive working from home and ameliorate the disruptions.
- Avoid getting too comfortable. While it might be tempting to roll out of bed, grab a cup of coffee, and schlep to your desk in your jammies, engineers who work at home think it’s important to maintain some semblance of “going in” to the office. In other words, while it’s okay to dress down, just don’t get too carried away. Customer meetings will still happen—often over video—and for the impromptu meeting or skyping with your boss, you probably don’t want to come across as insouciant.
- Establish your personal workspace. Having a routine is key, particularly if there are other family members who will also be at home during the day. That will require staking out a distraction-free, quiet area in your home to work, and setting expectations and boundaries with kids, contractors, even delivery people who must accommodate your schedule. Inquisitive, noisy, and needy feline and canine co-workers should also be discouraged from entering your workspace.
- Invest in technology that will make working at home easier for you. For design work, engineers say that two displays are sufficient for most embedded developers. That being said, one developer’s specific setup includes two 3840 X 2160 displays connected to a main desktop computer, and a 1080 display connected to a number of other computers that vary over time, including a laptop and two Intel NUCs. A good camera is a must if you do a lot of video. Good network and phone connections go without saying.
- Leverage collaboration tools. One of the biggest challenges of working remotely is collaborating effectively, especially for engineering teams used to getting together, brainstorming, and drawing on a whiteboard. The top tools engineers say they use are E-mail, Slack, Teams, Skype, Basecamp, and GitHub—although they caution that none precisely replicate the in-person experience. The important thing is to adapt to the communication preferences of the managers and team you work with.
- Stay relevant. One of the biggest drawbacks to working remotely is the potential to fall out of touch with co-workers and managers. To stay relevant, become proficient at communications and be proactive. As one engineer put it, “Your need to flex your communication skills differently.” That means being efficient and choosing the right tool for the purpose—one two-minute phone call will be much more expeditious than 20 back-and-forth emails.