Jul 9, 2019 - Jarka Košanová et al  

How to live your best remote life

GitLab team members offer their best advice on working from home (and it might surprise you).

If there’s one thing GitLab team members ought to be experts at by now it’s how to work from home.

That’s why we asked for your single best work-from-home tip. The answers – involving cars, snacks, clothing, exercise, and the importance of a closed door – just might surprise you.

The definition of done

This well-known software development concept applies equally to working at home. Jarka Košanová, backend engineer, stresses the importance of flexibility when it comes to deciding when to end the work day. “Many people who start working remotely have a problem recognizing they should stop working for the day. It is easy to advise setting a time when you finish your work in the same way as if you were in an office. But then you kind of lose the flexibility working from home is about. What helped me was my husband returning home from his work. If I had a day without any big break I knew it was time to finish my work as well. If I had a day with a break, I knew, on the other hand, I still could work a bit more and it would be ok.”

Start your engines

If you’ve been used to a commute as the first part of your day, this tip senior content editor Valerie Silverthorne borrowed from a friend is for you. “A work-at-home friend starts his day off by jumping in his car and driving around his neighborhood. When he pulls back in to his driveway, his ‘commute’ is complete and he’s ready to start his day.”

Others at GitLab have their own, perhaps more carbon-friendly, versions of this ritual. Daniel Gruesso, Configure product manager, has a good plan that involves a different kind of locomotion. “Getting out of the house before I start my day is very important for me. Either walking the dog or going for a swim to clear my head and get the blood flowing.”

Literally dressing for success

No PJs

Clothes make the person, even, apparently, in a work-from-home culture. No PJs for Secure frontend engineer Sam Beckham, at least. His top tip: “Getting dressed. It might be tempting to work in your pyjamas all day (and I occasionally still do) but getting dressed and presenting yourself as if you were to be going to an office job can go a long way towards getting you into a working mindset.”

Dress comfy

Of course, there’s dressed, and then there’s dressed up, which is a significant difference according to Heather Simpson, senior external communications analyst, Security. “(I) agree, getting dressed is crucial for me… although I appreciate the attire I feel comfortable with wearing here at GitLab vs at my old company (where I worked remotely for 10 years). I now feel completely comfortable in a hoodie.”

Have a uniform

Content marketing associate Suri Patel takes a different tack with her clothing. She’s assembled a work uniform that draws a distinct line between time on and time off. “I have a hard time not thinking about work after I close my computer, so I have 10 black shirts (they were on sale), specific sweaters, and trousers that I only wear while working. The last thing I want to do is pair my favorite dress with a stressful project and be reminded of that while at the beach.”

A routine routine

We know we like boring solutions and a lot of us really like/need/want a routine, particularly when it comes to working from home. Carol Wainana, service support agent, likes a routine. “Having a fixed routine that is time to wake up, time to start working, time for lunch and time to log off has been really beneficial for me.” And Heather agrees. “For me, a routine is helpful too – I start my day with coffee and checking out Twitter for interesting articles to read and/or share. This eases me into the day but still helps me stay informed and able to share thoughtful articles, etc., on the regular (mostly).”

But a routine doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, as Tanya Pazitny, interim quality engineering manager, Secure & Enablement, points out. “I think you need to throw the concept of “nine to five” out the window and actively experiment to find what schedule lets you make the most of your time. I often find the midday slump to be so real, so if i'm feeling this way I step away for a while and then come back for a few hours in the evening when I generally feel supercharged.”

The magic of a door

For some of us work at home productivity starts with a closed door. That’s definitely true for Create senior backend engineer Nick Thomas. “(There need to be) clear signals to other inhabitants about whether you can be disturbed or not. When I'm in the spare room, the rule is simple – if the door is closed, do not come in.”

His other tip involves walking through the door and to somewhere else. “Also, I find it really helpful to work from ‘not home’ every now and again. A change is as good as a rest.”

The snack struggle is real

Tanya and Mario de la Ossa both think remote work peril lies in the cupboard. “Keep junk food out of your house or you'll graze all day,” Tanya warns. Mario, backend engineer, Plan, agrees: “If I know there are snacks I WILL eat them, so I keep none in the house.”

The takeaway

Perhaps Brad Downey, strategic account leader, southern California, sums it up best: “Get dressed, have a proper work area (not the couch), and don’t eat lunch at your desk.”

Have a great idea we didn’t mention? Leave it below and we’ll add it, and these, to the handbook.

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