Remote Working Tips

A Good Chair

Workplaces recognise the importance of good ergonomics, they can justify the cost of desks and chairs to reduce the potential for injury and insurance claims. At home we often make do with what we’ve got, but this can lead to discomfort, aching muscles, long-term injury and less effective work.

When working remotely we may not be in a position to set-up a well designed desk, but we can at least ensure we have a good chair. Even if you’re stuck working at the dining table, replacing the chair with one designed for hours of use per day will make a huge difference; and if you’re like me and space is at a premium, you can use the ergonomic chair at meal times too.

# My Experience So Far

It’s been many years since I chose to replace my dining chair with an ergonomic one. These days I use a fully adjustable gaming chair, and I invested the time to get it set-up properly for me. I first replaced my chair because the gaming chairs looked cooler, but as I’ve got older and as I spend more time sitting at a desk at home I’ve found that I am able to maintain focus for longer periods, I sit with a much better posture, and I’ve reduced my risk of longer term injuries because of this.

Dedicated Space

During my career I’ve worked in a number of different environments. Personally I find working in an office is best for me as it creates a delineation between work and personal life. When working remotely, it is important to find ways to create this delineation and to prevent yourself from overworking.

One of the best ways I’ve found to separate work and personal life is to have a dedicated space just for work; I do not use it unless I’m actively working, and I try to restrict my work hours to something similar to normal office hours.

# My Experience So Far

I wasn’t expecting to be working remotely at this time, but with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and a new role, I find myself in this situation. My current living arrangements aren’t really suitable for a dedicated space (my partner is studying so she’s already taken over the dining table, and we live in a studio apartment), but I’ve managed to sort out some space anyway. Unfortunately, finding this space has come at a cost; I’ve had to give up my hobby desk.

In order to maintain the separation between work and personal life, I’m quietly neglecting a couple of my hobbies that I used my desk for. This means that I don’t need to pack up my office equipment every night, and I don’t sit at the desk and end up working instead of doing something else.

As part of facilitating the dedicated space I maintain all of my personal computer us on a separate laptop. When I’m using my personal laptop I don’t use it at the work desk. I also don’t have any work data or services available on my personal laptop.

So far this is working quite well for me. If I am needed for anything work related then I move to the work desk, otherwise I don’t sit there.


Although I’m listing this under remote work tips, I feel it is a peripheral everyone in an office should have and use. When conducting a video conference or call the headset plays two important roles. The first is the prevention of others around you from being subjected to your conversations. The second is it improves the audio by enabling full-duplex (multiple parties can speak at once) and generally improves audio quality.

# My Experience So Far

In terms of being nice to those around you, when working from home my partner and I are located in the same room (she’s currently studying). While I am on a video call for work she is often attending a lecture or involved in a workshop. By using headsets we are both able to continue our work without disturbing the other person.

The bigger benefit is the audio quality. In a number of video calls I’ve found that I have had situations where the other party is using a speaker and they either haven’t been able to hear me, or their audio has dropped when I speak. When talking to people using a headset this doesn’t occur.

We’ve come a long way with audio technology since the Internet became capable of supporting voice and video conversations but it still isn’t perfect, so grab a headset (a cheap one is better than nothing) and use it.

Maintain Connections

When we work remotely it’s easy to forget to maintain connections within the industry. We focus heavily on communication with coworkers to ensure we build the team, but events like those organised through Meetup require us to leave the comfort of our homes, so they’re easy to skip.

While working remotely, make time to get involved in industry events; attend meetups, go to conferences, be active on social media sites like LinkedIn. The benefits of this manifest in a number of ways; you have some great sources of new knowledge, you get out of the house from time to time, you improve your network of contacts, and you increase your profile in your chosen profession.

# My Experience So Far

For the past 18 months I’ve been getting significantly more active in terms of meetups and business social media sites. During the 3 week break I had between roles I continued to be active and also organised a number of coffee catch-ups with people from various parts of the industry.

Unfortunately, starting my new role coincided with many businesses rapidly adopting a fully remote policy due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many meetups moving to an online only model for the same reason. I’m still trying to adapt to online meetups, I find I do not get as much out of them as in-person ones, but I am actively working on this. I’ve kept active on social media, and I also ensure I have an easy way for people to contact me via a video link.

Overall I still have room to improve here, and the longer I am working remotely the more inclined I will be to make and maintain an effort.

Short Meetings

When we have back-to-back meetings in an office we get a short break as we move between meeting rooms. This is time that can be used for a quick toilet trip, grab a drink, or just stretch our muscles. In a remote work environment we miss out on this opportunity, moving between meetings rooms is just a couple of clicks of the mouse; often we don’t even stand up from our seat.

# How to Implement It

# Google Calendar

Google Calendar has an option to turn on “short meetings”. This will reduce the length of meetings under 1 hour by 5 minutes, and meetings of an hour or more by 10 minutes.

# Desktop

Open your calendar (, click on the gear icon (⚙) in the top right corner and select “Settings” from the dropdown menu. On the settings page select “Event settings” under the “General” heading on the menu. Check the “Speedy meetings” box in the main content area.

# Mobile

You will need to use a web browser on a computer to enable this setting.

# Microsoft Outlook

In Microsoft Outlook this option is called “End appointments and meetings early” and it is a little more configurable that the Google option.

# Microsoft Outlook (application)

Select “File”, “Options”, “Calendar”, “Calendar options” from the menu bar. Select the “End appointments and meetings early” and remember to set the meeting reduction times.

# Apple Calendar

Apple Calendar doesn’t have an option, but you can change the default meeting length, personally I’ve set mine to 50 minutes.

# MacOS

Open a Terminal window. Paste the following code, changing the number at the end to “25” if you prefer your default to be half hour meetings.

defaults write 'Default duration in minutes for new event' 50

# My Experience So Far

I proposed this idea at my new job a couple of days ago. So far a number of people have started using it and have adjusted existing meetings. We’ve had a few issues with people not knowing when to start the meeting (should it start on the hour or 10 minutes later), but we seem to be adjusting to starting them on the hour. I’ve found the time between meetings has given me time to stretch and prepare for my next meeting. I’m still working on making sure I grab a drink, but so far it’s working well and I’ve already noticed I’m not as tired at the end of the day.

Take a Break

Last Friday I promised to post a tip of the day on LinkedIn Monday and I didn’t do it. That’s the reason this tip exists.

As a remote worker it’s important to ensure you the breaks. Remote work provides some flexibility on the timing of breaks, maybe it’s starting work a bit later, maybe a break or two during the day, maybe giving yourself an early minute or two. But when working remotely it’s easy to get caught up with work and forget about your personal life.

In the office we will often have what I consider to be micro-breaks throughout the day. Many of us will get to the office and have a chat with coworkers about the weekend or the previous night; we’ll walk to the kitchen to get a drink, say hi to some people as we walk past them and then get a couple of minutes waiting for the kettle or coffee machine. When we’re working remotely we don’t get these opportunities. I’ve mentioned previously that we miss out on the break between meetings when remote working, but we also miss out on the micro-breaks we take while performing our job.

One of the benefits of working remotely is that we can take breaks when we need them and can work more effectively when we have the right mind-set, but it’s also possible to fall into the trap of working well beyond what is expected or reasonable.

# My Experience So Far

At this point in my life I am very career focussed; I spend “personal” time on LinkedIn and writing for my blog, I often take online courses and read books that are related to my work. Over time this takes its toll and sometimes I need to take a break. This is what happened on Monday, I felt too low on energy, so I took a break, on Tuesday I felt significantly refreshed and was able to focus on my work and then get back to my normal “personal” time last night.

I’ve found that when working from home I often rely on workload to dictate how often I take breaks. I know this is not sustainable, but so far I’ve been quite lucky in that my work has ebbed and flowed and allowed me to maintain a good balance. As I get older I am becoming more conscious of the need to ensure I have adequate recovery time, be that from a video call, or from the day’s work, I am finding it is more important to maintain the balance over a shorter period of time.

The Sprint Board Rules

When teams are co-located sprint boards are often kept offline, and as everyone is able to talk there is a general awareness of what people are working on. In a distributed team the only way for people to be updated is by a dedicated communication (maybe an instant message, maybe a video or phone call), or by keeping a digital sprint board up to date.

Many IT workers are used to using Jira, but in my experience most of them don’t actively keep the sprint board updated. In a distributed team it is important to ensure that tasks are assigned and moved to the appropriate column at all times. By ensuring it is up to date it prevents two people from working on the same task, helps to communicate with the rest of the team what progress you are making, and also ensures that those depending on a task know when it is ready to be progressed.

# My Experience So Far

As mentioned before, most teams I’ve worked in have not been good at keeping online sprint boards up to date. When an entire team is good at it, the board has been a very useful tool, not only for managers, but for everyone in the team.

Forming a habit of updating the sprint board took a few attempts for me. I had to remind myself to update it every time I started or finished a task. One of the ways I found to achieve this was to encourage the whole team to aim for smaller tasks; not only did this reduce the risk associated with each task, but it meant I had to update the board several times per day.

Video On

Some of the guides I’ve read about remote working mention always having your video camera on when in a meeting. I’ve never paid much attention to it until most of my role is spent on video calls.

If you talk to any agile coach who’s worked with a remote team, they will be able to confirm that having your camera turned on massively improves the comprehension in a conversation. It gives people the illusion of eye contact, you can tell when people are actively listening and when they may be zoning out, and the other person can also see your gestures and expressions.

By enabling the video camera you are also signalling to the other person that you have nothing to hide, and in cases where there are audio issues it’s possible to communicate with cue cards to help resolve any issues.

# My Experience So Far

I’ve found my ability to pay attention to a group conversation without video is significantly lower than one with video. I’ve also found I can better gauge the impact of what I say when others in the conversation have their video on, even if they are muted.

I’m about to add this item to the remote working Slack group we have for work, and I’m hoping it will improve everyone’s video conferencing experience.