Tips for Staying Sane while Working from Home - phptek 2016 session

Jeff Geerling - Standing at desk in home office in his basement

I delivered a session on Tips for successfully working remote/working from home—both for employees and employers—at php[tek] 2016 in St. Louis today. This session was a bit shorter than yesterday's session on a HA Raspberry Pi cluster, but I had a lot of content I've been putting together for many months.

I've been working on (and will someday publish) a much more comprehensive blog post on the topic of remote work... but this presentation is a nice, short summary of the main things that have helped me stay positive, productive, and motivated as a remote employee, and remain connected with my remote co-workers and the home office. There's a video and slides from the presentation attached, but here's a quick bullet-point summary, categorized by the three main themes that build on each other for successful remote work:

  • Environment
    • Have a completely separate office environment
    • Use a dedicated work computer (and leave it in your office)
    • Since it's your own personal environment, spend time making sure you have good lighting, healthy air (test for radon if you're in a basement!), and a noise-free environment (as much as possible)
    • Set strict boundaries with family and leisure activities (e.g. no TV or gaming console in your workspace, and make sure SO and kids know you are working and shouldn't be disturbed normally.
  • Communication
    • Add a conference call/video meeting to every meeting, no exceptions (don't exclude remotes!)
    • Be present and actively listen during meetings (don't be forced to say "I'm sorry, I didn't hear that, could you repeat your question")
    • Use video if at all possible; helps keep you honest, also provides deeper/emotional context for communication
    • Work with your employer to establish concrete goals, and ways to measure your success—and monitor your progress
    • Be reachable/available during work hours
  • Discipline
    • Establish routines and rituals (e.g. start work at same time each day, do housekeeping at same time each week, etc.)
    • Eat healthy food (it helps if you work with a SO or housemate on this, for accountability)
    • Set boundaries (family, leisure activities—these things shouldn't interfere with work)
    • Meet people in person—at meetups, conferences, coffee shops—don't become a recluse
    • Maintain at least a minimum modicum of being well-groomed
    • Work with boss/other employees on including remotes in awards, recognition, and company-wide events

Here are a few links to things mentioned in the presentation:

Here's a video of the presentation:

And here are the slides:

As I said earlier, I'll post a much more comprehensive entry in the future—I just wanted to make sure to share this presentation, since it's a nice, concise summary of what it takes to be a successful remote employee!


Hi, Jeff!
I deeply enjoyed your piece and all the details that you give. I feel like people imagine that working from home means you're always in your PJs and you get things done between two TV reruns and a walk in the park. I should have print-outs of your article ready for all my friends who want to turn to freelancing and work from home :)

you're always in your PJs and you get things done between two TV reruns and a walk in the park.

Well, not always :)