The Top Four Books for Remote Developers

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Distributed software development is here to stay and it is growing rapidly. Companies of all shapes and sizes are embracing new ways of working in order to attract the best talent. Historically there has been a lack of great resources available to help companies get started. However, that appears to be changing. In 2014 the Lean Startup team held the inaugural conference for distributed teams called Office Optional. Lullabot has begun hosting an annual invitation-only conference for fully distributed companies called Yonder. Additionally there are some prominent blogs that consistently publish great content for remote developers such as Remotive, Buffer, and Zapier. And there is a growing list of job boards that are focused exclusively on remote positions.

But what about books? With every great movement there seems to be a book that helps to be the catalyst to pave the way. I don’t know if such a book has been written yet, but I would say the closest one would be the first book in my list below.

Remote by Jason Fried and DHH of Basecamp
Remote was released in the Fall of 2013 after being announced earlier in the year. I was anticipating the book for months. Remote makes a great case for rethinking the traditional office centric model. It is a very quick and easy read, which makes it a great resource to pass along to leaders and key team members who are still on the fence. From my experience, the leadership team must be completely committed to building a great distributed culture in order to make it work.

The Year Without Pants by Scott Berkun
Scott spent a year working for Automattic as a Team Lead building new features for Automattic has played a crucial role in demonstrating how to build a fully distributed company. A Year Without Pants is a light-hearted but insightful read that reveals the inner workings of Automattic, a rapidly growing and fully distributed company.

The Ultimate Guide to Remote Work by Wade Foster and the Zapier team
This ebook began as a compilation of blog posts by the team at Zapier. Zapier has been a fully distributed company since they launched in 2011. This is a very practical and helpful guide written by a team that has experimented with a lot of techniques and tools. If you are looking for advice on building a great culture, hiring, running effective meetings, organizing company retreats or other very practical topics, then you will find this little book to be very helpful. You can also download it for free on your Kindle here.

The Remote Worker’s Guide to Excellence by Eryck Dzotsi
The first two books essentially make the case for remote working, which is crucial. What I love about this book is it provides some practical guidance for the remote worker to become excellent at working remotely. Let’s face it, this really is a new paradigm, and it is worth the investment to take some time upfront to set yourself up for success. There certainly are some traps that must be avoided if you hope to be able to enjoy the benefits of working from home.

I hope these recommendations have been helpful. I would love to hear from you. What books have you read that you would recommend to someone considering remote work?

4 Productivity Tips for Working from Home

Companies are quickly embracing a distributed work environment. Telecommuting has grown by 103% over the past 10 years and continues to increase annually. At HomeCoders, we are big advocates for remote work, and the numerous benefits that come from it both for the employee and the employer. Many great software developers thrive in an environment where they can get into the zone and really focus on solving the problem they are working on. That’s one of the reasons why many developers are so productive after 10pm because they finally don’t have any distractions to deal with. Working in an office environment can be a lot of fun, but it can also be tremendously distracting. If set up properly, working from a home office has the potential to be an environment of supreme productivity. Here are four great tips from long-time remote workers.

1. Establish a Routine

Whether we like it or not, we are creatures of habit. The right habits can be tremendously beneficial because once they are established, they can help us set the tone for the day without consuming energy or our limited decision making resources for trivial decisions. The most productive remote workers almost unanimously agree that establishing a morning routine is critical to their success. It can be as simple as taking a shower and making a cup of coffee. Or it can involve things like morning exercise, prayer and reading. But what is clear is that it is important to help yourself prepare to get into work mode. Rolling out of bed and firing up your MacBook in your pajamas isn’t a recipe for success. Find a routine that replaces the commute as your method of preparation for the day. Commutes can be brutal, so what a blessing to be able to replace a stress-filled activity with something that you truly enjoy!

2. Create a Productive Workspace

Having a dedicated work area is crucial to being productive. One of the great benefits of working remotely is it gives you the liberty to create a work environment that is optimized for you. It is worth the time, effort and investment to get it right. And take an agile approach to it; keep tweaking and making adjustments as needed. If you aren’t feeling productive, figure out what is holding you back and fix it.

In most cases it is ideal to have a home office where you can close the door. Even if no one else is home, it can help you to focus by closing the door. In my case, my wife and children are home during the day because we homeschool (which is awesome by the way). I not only have my door closed, but I also need white noise to drown out any ambient sounds. I previously used a fan, but I decided to switch to an air purifier, which has worked great. Another option for white noise or other background noise such as a coffee shop are apps such as or Noisli.

3. Set Expectations

One of the most significant blessings of working from home is the increased opportunity to interact with loved ones. Life is short and spending more time with those that you love is invaluable. However, it is extremely important to set the appropriate boundaries and expectations when transitioning to working from home. I highly recommend creating a schedule for your work day so your family will know when they shouldn’t disturb you. For instance, I have lunch scheduled for 12:30pm, so my wife knows that I will be available from 12:30pm until 1:00pm to eat lunch with the family. Sticking to this type of schedule also helps your co-workers know when you are available.

I also recommend establishing a protocol for interruptions with your family. Your family will be really excited to have you at home and they might feel like they have unlimited access to you, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. Interruptions at home are potentially even more distracting than interruptions in the office, so you need to come up with a plan and stick to it. I am on the phone a lot during the day, so my wife knows that if she needs to communicate something urgent with me, she can send me a text. As things come to her mind, she is tempted to talk to me about them immediately, but she understands that if it’s not an emergency, she can wait until lunch time or the end of the work day to talk to me about them.

4. Commitment to Communication

Working from home is an absolute pleasure in many ways, however, there is a very important burden that can’t be underestimated. That is the burden to over-communicate. Anyone who is truly successful as a remote worker takes this responsibility very seriously and makes their presence known by communicating frequently and clearly. One of the biggest challenges of working remotely is establishing presence. As the old saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind”. There are some great tools that have been developed for establishing presence for remote teams such as Slack, Speak, Sococo and others, but no matter what tools you use, you still need to take the extra effort to make sure your team members know you are there. This also means that you will probably need to be more verbose in your code reviews, chat tools, project management tools and email. But thousands of remote workers would all agree, it is well worth the extra effort to enjoy the freedom and flexibility of working remotely!