Handy guide for mastering your virtual autonomy and nailing remote working (during and after containment)

Handy guide for mastering your virtual autonomy and nailing remote working (during and after containment)

Published on 07 April 2020

Reading time 6 minutes

Our European Regional Director, Katie Olsen, shares her experience with you. With her team being spread across the EU, remote working is her daily routine. It also happens that virtual autonomy is one of our prime areas of focus at Wild Code School, so we absolutely wanted to share this handy guide to surviving and mastering the ways of the mysterious remote world!


The first couple weeks of “forced” remote-living

The first week was a breeze--I welcomed the invitation to sleep-in, wear sweatpants, ditch my meal prep, and go for refreshing walks in-between meetings. I work remotely most of the time anyways...maybe this will be productive? I can spend more time with my team and their students. I’ll workout and cook with the energy saved from commuting. I can handle a month in confinement…

Week two settled in here at Wild Code School. Students and instructors started to get frustrated. Dropped calls, broken connections, and miscommunications began to interrupt the normal flow of learning. Students struggled to manage their kids at home or share internet bandwidth with their 5 roommates, all while trying to ‘stay motivated’ and ‘positive’ during this uncertain time. 

Many of us aren’t used to remote working, yet. So, in the current world-wide lockdown, we are all condemned to learn how. Fortunately, working remotely can be learned like any other skill. With a little guidance, time, and practice, anyone can do it. Web developers, in particular, have many best practices to share...


Let's take inspiration from web developers 

As most of us have discovered recently, working from home requires a whole new set of skills than what we’re used to. As I was mentioning before, there’s a lot we can learn from developers. Developers are seasoned at working in a range of settings--in companies, for agencies, or for themselves (freelance)--and more often than not,  need to work online with colleagues across countries, time zones and even continents. Being adaptable, autonomous and flexible is critical. 

Now more than ever, having both digital and soft skills -- online and offline--is essential for developers. Nearly half of all developers work remotely in some capacity, now our students, learning to code remotely, are prepared to join their ranks. 


A handy guide to mastering remote-learning and working

Remote work requires:

Effective communication 

Verbal and written. Without the human-to-human contact that we’re used to, we must rely on emails, slack messages, phone calls and live video meetings to disseminate information, make decisions, and stay connected. 

How to improve your communication skills ? 

  • Redundancy is appreciated--be extra clear and specific in all written communications and don’t shy away from repeating important information (ie. ‘looking forward to our meeting Sunday the 12th at 4pm CEST’).
  • For meetings, take collective meeting notes or send meeting summaries to ensure everyone is aligned. Practice and improve your writing techniques, leverage tools (like grammarly) and always ASSUME good intent (tone can be lost over text!
  • If things ever escalate, get on a call! 

Autonomy

To work remotely, you must be incredibly organized and disciplined. Without a commute to rush you out the door in the morning, colleagues to break for lunch with, or other office rituals to keep you on track, you are now in charge of how you go about your day. You now have to manage everything from when you start working, when to quit for the day, and everything in between. 

How to improve your virtual autonomy?

  • Learn to know yourself. You might thrive working in the kitchen surrounded by roommates OR you might require calm and silence to focus.
  • Figure out how you work best and set a ‘work-place’ at home to differentiate working hours from free time. 
  • Also, plan your day--all of it. Before you start your day, set your priorities, write a to-do list and structure “unstructured” time (ie. coffee breaks, eating lunch, calling friends/family, stretching, etc.), otherwise you may get distracted easily and lose track of time. 

Adaptability and proactivity

In the real world of tech--remote or otherwise--things change quickly. Managers leave, teams reorganize, or projects get shortened/extended/canceled. As a result, developers often need to take over other people’s code, collaborate with new team members, or reevaluate objectives in order to proceed effectively. Developers must be proactive by asking questions and learning quickly so they can adapt effectively to ever-changing working conditions. 

How to be more adaptable and proactive

  • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
  • Leverage structure and routine in the parts of your life you can control so you can be more flexible in the parts that you cannot.
  • When you are new, lost, or unsure of something--ask for help, or think creatively to find your own solutions. When in doubt, ask for clarity and collaborate. Changing is hard enough -- don’t do it alone! We’re all in this (remote) crisis together. 

Trust & transparency

When we don’t have the luxury of checking up on each other like we can at the office, we must rely on trust and transparency to ensure everyone is getting their work done AND doing okay. We need to be transparent with our colleagues, instructors, and students to establish trust and ensure everyone is aligned on common values and goals. More in times of crisis than ever, we must be transparent and aware not only of what’s happening at work, but outside of it. People all over the world, including on our teams, are dealing with incredibly difficult times. Someone you work with closely may be struggling to manage a newborn at home. It’s everyone’s responsibility to meet their objectives autonomously, but be transparent when faced with difficulties and ask for help. Otherwise, motivation will want, trust will disappear, and work will suffer as a result. 

How to be more transparent?

  • Be clear on values, be honest, and invest in maintaining human connections remotely  (call, text, voice note…). 
  • Take a few minutes at the beginning of meetings to check in with everyone. Ask if there is any news we should be aware of--this will help everyone understand where the group is at. 
  • Support your colleagues and maintain connection outside of structured work hours--even a single lunch a week (devoted to anything BUT COVID-19 and work)--can go a long way. Don’t forget to share your (remote) Wild side! 


I’ve learned a lot about how to work remotely both from experience and from working with developers throughout my career. Now, although I enjoy and even thrive in a remote setting, I’m still a work in progress :) I hope that by sharing what I know about these new, yet widespread, working methods, I can help some of you find a better rhythm in your work/learning while adapting to this new global reality. Adaptability, proactivity, and communication are not only essential skills for the tech industry, but also for discovering opportunities in challenging situations. As we continue to learn, grow, and adapt to the current crisis, we’re becoming better versions of ourselves, and thus better at our jobs. I know our students will be ready to add “remote working skills” to their resumes, and I believe  most of us will be able to as well. 

Good luck everyone finding what is best for you personally!