I live in an ok-sized metropolitan area but there isn't much opportunity for PHP software engineers outside of marketing agencies and I wanted to write software, not websites.
I started looking for remote jobs so I could stay near friends and family but enjoy working on something I loved.
A friend of mine in town had been recruited by my now company, but he was uninterested. He knew I was looking and thought I'd be a good fit so he sent me the job posting. I applied, had an interview a few days later, and an offer a week after that.
Sometimes work finds you. It's good to stay connected in the community.
I work for a company called Help Scout. We make help desk software. I work on the Platform team. Our backend stack is mostly Java and PHP and I work with the team that manages our PHP backends.
Currently, we're adding some new features to our application that are powered by PHP micro-services.
I'm married and have a toddler. I wake up by 7am, feed the kid, hang out with her for a while, then shower. I usually start work anywhere between 8-8:30. Then I'll work from my dining room table for a while so my wife can get ready for the day in peace (my daughter will just watch Mickey).
I like to keep my mornings free for remote remote work. That is, my wife and daughter will go to the pool, the mall, downtown, shopping, or to do fun activities. Sometimes I'll join them as an early "lunch" break, or most of the time I'll just take them there and then work from my laptop while tethered on my phone.
Lunch and the afternoons are pretty routine and I save most of my productivity and meetings for that time as I know those schedules won't often change.
Being able to spend time with my family little bits here and there throughout the day is important, so I usually end up taking 2 hours during the day for lunch and other things.
I have a hard stop at 5pm. That's when I do dinner, chores, spend time with the family, run errands, etc... After I put my daughter to bed and spend time with my wife, I will generally hop back online and work for another hour or so (depending on how much fun I'm having with the work at that time).
I keep a pretty consistent schedule, with times built in to be flexible.
I have a home office that has a door. Originally it was just a loft at the top of the stairs, but when we had a kid I built a wall to give both sides of us some peace and quiet from each other.
My office is my office. My family is welcome to come hang out in there and say hi from time to time, but I'm the only one who does work in there on a regular basis. With that in mind, I have a "home office budget" where I can buy supplies that I need and decorate it how I want.
It's important to have a comfortable environment that you can be productive in.
If you're going to spend 8ish hours a day in it, you want it to be a place that you like the feel, the flow, and the aesthetics of it.
At Help Scout we are 100% remote. We have 2 offices, one in Boston and one in Boulder, that a few folks go in to from time to time, but we're 80 people spread across the world. So Slack is very important to stay in the know and on top of what you need to work on.
While Slack is a great communication tool, it can easily become a distraction. As someone who can't stand to leave notifications unchecked, I use a combination of muted channels and "do not disturb" time to make sure I spend time away from Slack.
We use Trello to track projects and tasks. It's an easy interface and flow to keep track of what you're working on.
Daily stand-ups to our platform standup channel also helps you see what your teammates are working on and if you can be of assistance (and vice versa).
I check email, it doesn't notify me. I turned off all email notifications on my computer and phone, so now it's something I have to think about opening to check.
I've recently started using the Mac app Tyme to track what I'm working on at work. Whether it be code reviews, programming, meetings, pair programming, anything, I track it. I have also set up categories to track lunch and "remote work travel" to ensure I don't get carried away in my "remote remote work".
All of those things mixed with a consistent schedule help.
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The flexibility. I can work from anywhere in the world and I can switch up my hours on the fly if I need to.
In my opinion, there's nothing like remote work. I don't think I could ever go back to an office.
"With great power comes great responsibility".
With the flexibility and freedom offered by remote work, that also means that you're accountable for that time. It can be easy to let it slip - start work a little later each day until now you're an hour or two late and have to make up the time. That's why I stick to my 8-5 schedule with some flexibility built in.
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Steven is a Software Engineer at Help Scout. He's been programming since 2005 when he first learned ActionScript 2.0, and full time with PHP since 2007. Steven is the founder/organizer of the UpstatePHP user group in Greenville, South Carolina. He tweets at @stevenwadejr, and sometimes blogs at stevenwadejr.com.
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