I started working for Chronicle Games last December 13, 2013. All of us three members are working remotely from each other and in my case, I do my tasks at home. This is a new setup for me, and so far I’m enjoying it, not to mention that my work is also output-based, so as long as I get my daily tasks completed, I’m done for the day. However, the shift of environment and work setup gave me some difficulties or challenges that I have to address beforehand.With this, I would like to share to you my personal tips on how to handle these things and utilize the advantages of having a home-based job.
Time Management for Task Completion
Though it’s not always the case, home-based jobs give you more freedom on running your own daily schedule. It gives less pressure for you to take breaks whenever you want to or have your own start and end time for work. Sounds fun? It is! However, with freedom comes with responsibility. If you don’t keep a defined schedule in hand, you may end up accomplishing less by the end of the day and at worst, leave you in a crunch time because of the piled unaccomplished tasks.
Before making a schedule, the first thing to do is define the target tasks for the day. To-do list may sound like a cliche, but for a home-based setup, it will be more important than your usual 8-hour job. In my case, my task list is usually updated twice a week. I receive my tasks in the morning through email as a response to my report from the previous day, and another one through Skype call with my boss. After listing your tasks, it’s time to organize your schedule. I prefer to start my work early in the morning so that I can go to any planned or impromptu meetups with my friends which usually happens after their work. Furthermore, my brain is more active during daytime so setting this time frame will give me maximum productivity. Depending on your ideal number of working hours, you have to track the duration of your actual work. This is really useful to give you the indicator of when to stop especially if your task is too big to fit in one day (in which case you subdivide it into smaller tasks and make it clear which ones will be accomplished for the day). I use the pomodoro technique to keep my tasks time-boxed. Basically, it’s a time management method which divides your tasks into a fixed-time subtasks called a pomodoro ( the reason is that the inventor used a pomodoro-shaped clock to time each tasks and break). Each pomodoro comes with a specific duration of short break and after accomplishing a certain number of pomodoros, you get a longer break. After that, you go through the cycle again until the job is done. One rule of pomodoro is that during the time that you are performing your tasks, you are not allowed to have distractions like facebook, youtube, and the like. Strictly follow your timer as to when to start and when to stop. It may be tempting not to stop your work when you’re in the zone but I suggest to stick with the duration as much as possible. This way, your body will get more accustomed with the duration of the task and get the proper amount of rest it needs. I tried to modify the parameters until I found one that suits my working pattern like the length of one pomodoro, frequency of long breaks, etc. In the end, I can observe which tasks are taking more time to accomplish and compare my progress to the planned project schedule. Moreover, regardless if I feel like working or not, the timer triggers my body to just “get up and work”! If you need a timer, there are available mobile apps for Android and iOS. I use Clockwork Tomato.
Internet Connection for Remote Discussion and Information Sharing
Working remotely from each other, one necessity would be to have a strong internet connection. I don’t in your country, but here in the Philippines, it’s quite hard to find one. If you have the same case, then the least you can do is get a prepaid backup connection. I prefer prepaid since it’s just your backup and you’ll use it occasionally for just a limited amount of time, so you will pay for the duration that you’re connected. It’s better to make it mobile too so that if you feel like you’ve been caged in your room for quite a while, then you can go out and bring your mobile internet connection with you and continue working. You can use a separate Wi-Fi dongle or if your mobile phone is capable of tethering, then you can activate it as a Wi-Fi hotspot. Just make sure it’s fully charged since it can drain your phone’s battery.
Possibly, there are SOP’s for your setup with regards on the schedule of meetings, report requirements, file sharing, etc., but in case there are none, I can suggest the following tools and routine:
- Setup Google Docs for MS Office / Open Office documents
- Setup Dropbox accounts for other file sharing needs
- Use Skype accounts for voice calls but Jabber or other IM specialized software for private messages. Skype’s IM is sometimes defective, creating delays between instant messages.
- Use Asana or Redmine for task management. A task management software can save minutes or hours of unproductive meetings, plus you can track the progress of each task without the need of any verbal discussion. Just make sure that you update your tickets regularly.
- Use BitBucket or GitHub for source sharing. This provides a free repository server usually applicable to software development projects which makes practical use of source control tools such as Git or Mercurial.
- Give daily reports of your accomplished tasks, encountered issues, notes, and other valuable information you can think of. This will save time for your succeeding meeting.
- Backup revisions online or in the source control repository if applicable
- Notify any related parties for any file updates that you’ve done
Payment Systems for Salary
Unless there are local office counterparts for the company that you’re working on, you will need a payment service in order to receive your salary. Here in the Philippines the most reliable options that I’ve seen so far would be Western Union and Paypal. If you have no bank accounts or you don’t want to you use any of your bank accounts for any reason, then Western Union is for you since it’s a direct remittance from one of their international branches. The transfer fee is calculated for every specific amount of money to be transferred so your employer might be hesitant with this approach. Paypal is more convenient since the transaction is done online. The money is automatically converted to the currency appropriate for the country that you have registered. It’s also a widely-used payment system for online purchases, so you can buy stuff online without using a credit card. You can still withdraw your money and transfer it to any local banks. Most if not all banks here in the Philippines have support for Paypal. Supposedly, all withdraw transactions that cost 7000 pesos or more are free. Otherwise, an additional cost 50 pesos will be charged in your account. However, banks here in the Philippines charge an additional 250 pesos regardless of the amount that you transferred. I suggest that you use Union Bank’s EON card so that there will be no additional charge for the paypal transactions but will charge you with 10 pesos per ATM withdraw. If used wisely, you can save a considerable amount of money compared to other local banks.
Social Life for Sanity
Lastly, I recommend that you go out of your home, at least once a week to socialize or just see other human beings. Working at home is more comfortable at times and save you from the inconvenience and stress of commuting, but being stuck inside your home for a long time can drive you crazy, especially the extroverts like me. Leave me caged in my home for four days or so and I’ll be able to see the social bunny. Even if you’re an introvert, you still need some work-life balance and meeting with friends or other people in general would be a great approach to achieve it. It also cuts down the monotony of your week preventing any possibility of getting bored with your work in the long run. Yes, there are hobbies which can do the same thing, but even that can get old if you do it for a long while. At least leave some time to catch up with your circles. Who knows, maybe you can set some time with some of them who have similar jobs to meet up and work in the same place, just to break the usual pattern. 😀
I hope my tips can help you utilize your home-based work. It’s really fun and convenient once you get used to the new setup. If you ask me if “work-from-home” is something that should be done for all applicable jobs? I still don’t think so. Not everyone is built for this type of procedure. If you are someone who can manage and discipline yourself to accomplish the task, then this setup is for you, but if you’re the one who needs more supervision or can’t work alone, then this is not suitable for you. In the end, it’s all about finding what you really want to do and figuring out the ideal setup that works for you. From there, find a company which offers such opportunity, hone your craft to excel, and progress further in your career. Good luck! May you find your ideal job. (~^_^)~