I have been a software developer for many years now, and for the last 5 years, I’ve been working remotely 100% of the time. What does this mean? It means I’ve been working primarily from home, but it doesn’t mean I’m always home; instead I try to balance my time between multiple places inside my house AND more importantly, I go out and about when I can and when the weather permits it.
Working from a place other than your home is essential in my opinion, having a different environment, a different view, and a different location to code is stimulating, and if I might say it, empowering and motivating too. Many times I will walk outside my home and just pick a random direction, but I’m lucky to live in Seattle (just moved here recently) where I know I’ll find a coffee shop (and a good one that is) in almost every block.
What happens if you don’t live in the city you might ask, well, the majority of my time as a remote software engineer I lived in the suburbs of Austin, TX. Of course, my options were much limited than now, but none the less, I was always able to get in my car and drive to a coffee shop or any other place with a good WiFi and simple food and beverages at reasonable prices, like Panera Bread for example.
OK, so enough about my own experiences and on with the tips. Below is a list of things that will help you be more successful when working outside of your home, at a coffee shop, at the airport, at a restaurant, etc.
Here’s what you are looking for
- Portable power
- This is by far the most essential item to have, never assume that your laptop or tablet will have enough power to last as long as you need. Invest in a portable battery that can charge both your laptop and other devices such as your phone or tablet. Personally, I use an Anker portable battery, and it is enough to fully charge my laptop once + my phone.
- Good headphones (ideally noise canceling + mic)
- Why? Well, as a programmer I need to focus on my code, and public places tend to be full of noise. While I don’t use them all of the time, they are definitely a handy item to have when working outside of your home and in a noisy environment. Also, if you collaborate with other people, make sure to get headphones that include a mic so you can have a conversation with your team when needed. I use the Bose QuietComfort headphones, and while they aren’t cheap, they were a good investment for me.
- A good cell phone plan (with unlimited data preferably)
- I cannot say this enough, you need to make sure you can provide yourself with a good, fast AND secure internet connection to your laptop or tablet when working outside of your home. Yes, nowadays coffee shops and most public spaces do offer free WiFi, but most of the times the speed and the security of these WiFi connections is questionable. If the free WiFi at your local coffee shop is enough for you then fine, but for me, it is not. I recently switched from Verizon to T-Mobile which has an unlimited data plan (and it even works internationally!). It costs me less per month, and it works much better for my family and me. I often turn on my Personal Hotspot to share my data connection with my laptop, it has saved me from poor free WiFi connections many times.
- A newer laptop/tablet
- While it isn’t required of course, with a more modern device you’ll benefit from the longer battery life, and while you’ll want to carry a portable battery, it is still a good idea to have a laptop or tablet that has a great battery life, if possible. I recently got a Microsoft Surface Book 2 from work and the battery life is pretty good. Tablets in general also enjoy a great battery life as many other light laptops do such as the MacBook Air, etc.
- A great backpack
- This is important, while any backpack will do to carry your laptop, portable battery, multiple charges, and other cables, headphones, etc. I do recommend getting something that can help you organize these items quickly and also comfortably. I have been using this backpack for a few years, and while small, it can carry all of my devices, a 15″ laptop, an iPad Pro, a mirrorless camera and a Kindle along with my cables, portable battery, and a few other things. The backpack is compact and very comfortable, and this is the reason I like it. I can walk for miles with it, and it doesn’t bother me, and at the same time, it’s small enough to place it by my feet anywhere I land. It also fits perfectly under airplane seats.
This is all folks, these are the most important things I can think of that has helped me be very productive while working remotely and outside of my home. If you have other tips, please share them below in the comments.