My first remote gig was in 2005 – and since 2007, apart from some brief dalliances with on-site work, I’ve been fully remote.

This suits my (highly) introverted personality. I find working in groups exhausting – I’d much rather get on with ‘doing the work’ than trying to juggle chunks of small-talk with second-guessing where the next interruption will come from.

(That’s before the other part of my brain would kick in and make me self-conscious about ‘doing the work’ and not small-talking, third-guessing my own actions. Brains are complicated like that.)

That said, my first decade of being a developer was on-site in teams of various sizes, and the lessons learned during that time period, technically and with the ‘softer’ skills, I wouldn’t be without.

Be on-site, at least initially

To be an effective remote worker I believe you have to ‘do the time’ as an on-site worker to understand the machinations of work, the office politics, the petty bureaucracy.

Whilst you will be mostly sheltered from these as a remote worker, knowing their influence and origin will benefit you when it comes to understanding days where you are waiting for an invoice to be paid, having a contract pulled from under your feet, or simply seeing specifications change before your eyes.

I certainly wouldn’t advise, say a graduate, to have their first job be a remote job.

You need exposure to team processes, to version control, to deployment strategies – stuff that a University course, at least 25 years ago, didn’t teach. Do a few years *at least* in the ‘real’ world.

Set limits

I have a hard rule about working a maximum of six hours a day.

These are *remote hours* though, and in a classic ‘well, he would say that wouldn’t be’ belief, I honestly do think that one hour of remote working is equal to around 1.5 hours of non-remote work, given the intensity of effort when working on your own, coupled with the lack of interruptions (the daily sauntering of my cat across my keyboard notwithstanding).

Have a schedule

For the last ten years I’ve worked in 4x90min blocks per day with 30min breaks between.

I haven’t looked into the science, but a block of 90min is enough for me to get into ‘deep work‘ territory, without getting dragged too far under my own OCD for completing what’s in front of me.

Having set cut-off times is essential. Work ends when it ends. Of course, there will be the occasional emergency which requires fire-fighting out of hours, but these should be rare.

Leave the house

If you are remote working from home it’s so easy to get stuck in a rut of not leaving the house at all one day, which can turn into a streak, and before you know it you are a full card-carrying member of the UNIX beard club and the only people you speak to are delivery drivers who have the wrong house.

Do something outside at least once a day, a morning walk or run at least. Dogs are a remote worker’s best friend (except when you are doing conference calls…).


Would I recommend it? Yes! I’d certainly struggle to work any other way, but it’s definitely not the only way, and shouldn’t be your initial way.

On Remote Working

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