These years of remote work


I have been doing remote development work for the past few years. One reason is that my wife is studying abroad. Half of my wife's study abroad speaks French and half of Dutch, and basically doesn't speak English. So I can't find a job in English, so I can only go to study with me. I also want to try this new way of working. After all, novelty is always attractive to me. Of course, there are hardships in remote working, and there are also moments of comfort. In short, I will try to summarize and share all of these.

Another thing to note is that I do remote development work in a studio-like manner, so there will be some colleagues to some extent, occasionally collaborating on a project. But more is to communicate with the PM, the customer, and other development team members hired by the customer.

Colleagues, clients and me under the mask

Working remotely means that all I can contact with are only the nicknames and avatars of each other. Generally speaking, we do not see each other, and the working environment is also a mystery. At least I attended a few morning meetings under the covers. At most, it is just some voice communication, even pure text, not real-time communication, but on the story card of the agile panel. This is not bad, but they are relatively unfamiliar to each other, even if it affects teamwork and trust. But to make matters worse, maybe the other party will change someday.

When joining a project, you generally need to add a series of accounts. This process is very cumbersome. Registration or invitation, adding permissions, and unfamiliar IDs need to introduce their roles and functions to existing members. For example, every project has Github or other hosting services. Although you can directly join the Github account to the team, frequent changes can sometimes lead to mistrust of customers, but you have to adjust the staff assignments for some new projects or urgent tasks. Therefore, we generally use the Github account shared by the team to work with a unified name and team logo.

One day I found out that the QA employed by the client was the same. His account used a person’s name, but when he mentioned this name, he used someone else’s tone. Later, I guessed that the name should be the first QA of their team. People. For a while, I couldn't tell whether the person who worked with me in the front was not the one he is now, or the previous person has changed several times. No wonder he often feels a little forgetful. I said yes yesterday and forgot today. It turned out to be a change of person, and I was a bit scared of thinking carefully.

There is another project, which was developed by an Indian programmer and two other people hired by the client. In the past, I always felt that this person was very rigid, mechanized, and did not have the slightest sense of humanity in his speech. Until there was a voice conference, he suddenly asked about my city with interest. It might be that I saw my login ip address on Sentry, so I was curious to ask. I feel very happy that the team has more communication. As a result, the same account the next day told me that they were not allowed to chat at work. I don't know if he told me himself, and then he didn't dare to chat anymore, or if he had already been fired. This feeling is very bad, forcedly, you can't treat him as a person.

Even the customers of some small companies will do the same. The successor may directly use the previous account, name and avatar due to resignation or the like. In short, we all wear masks in the remote work scene. Sometimes as the first developer to start a project, you may be able to have an account with your own name, but it feels very uncomfortable to think that someone else will replace you in the future.

Alibi fear

When I first started working remotely, I would always unconsciously worry about clients or colleagues looking for me. Because, once there is no reply in the first time, you will feel that you can't prove that you have worked hard in front of the computer. It may be the inertial thinking of working in the company. Once you really have a lot of time to go to work, you will feel a little guilty and unconfident.

I was really tired for a while, mainly because of my heart. Always maximize my work time, as if an invisible hand pressed me to work on the keyboard. Worried about going to the toilet for too long, and running downstairs to take the courier, I can’t rest comfortably at noon. I even sit in front of the computer watching something for dinner. I realized that this would not work, so I began to think about why such feelings occurred.

Maybe we already have this mentality, but it's not obvious in the company. This is a cognitive ability to sense the boundary between work and life. Even when working in a company, many people will encounter the situation of finding their WeChat boss after get off work. Some people may ignore it decisively, or someone immediately agreed, but the heart must have been swayed. I think the same is true when working remotely, and it tests my heart all the time. I understand that I must define work and life more clearly, because I can't distinguish between them by environment or other things. Whether I work or take a break, I am at home, can use a computer, and even write code.

Later, I will do something ceremonial to distinguish work and life. For example, I will change the status of the instant messaging software to leave, let others know that I am leaving, and then do other things. There is also the use of f.lux to make the screen simulate sunlight and remind yourself when to leave work. Use two sets of Google accounts and Chrome. With these straightforward switching, I feel more focused on work and rest, which may be a bit like the principle of the Pomodoro.

In short, the mentality has improved, and every day is easier. At the same time, the work is done well and the customers are more trusted. Whether I am present or not, this is a virtuous circle.

Forced to implement horizontal evaluation of tool software

Since there are many small projects, it is impossible to fill up 40 hours per week with one project, so it is necessary to repeatedly jump across many projects, which leads to working for multiple clients in the same period. They don't happen to use the same tool. Competitive products of the same kind are emerging one after another, and their characteristics are also different. I can only install them one by one, and I am forced to use all kinds of applications such as instant messaging, video conferencing, agile signage, and task management.

Skype and Slack are commonly used for instant messaging, but sometimes Google Chat is also used, as well as Discord and Microsoft Teams. And the often attached video function is not easy to use, and you have to use an App to hold video conferences and share screens. I used Zoom a lot before. Later, Huddle, which comes with the Slack paid version, was very easy to use and convenient. I also used GotoMeeting, Teamviewer and the like. Most of these mentioned are still on my computer, except for some niche ones, they can be uninstalled safely after the customer turns their faces.

There are more agile panels. After all, the situation of each project team is different, and there are many differences in scale and business requirements. The most common ones are Trello and JIRA. Although they are now owned by Atlassian, they are still the difference between Gaofushuai and Diaosi. Also, Asana is often used by customers. It is colorful. Recently, the saturation and brightness of the entire color block have been reduced, which feels a bit boring. Probably to distinguish it from Monday, where even the logo is colored. The most frightening thing is that some customers will use Google Doc to list a few tasks, which feels like a one-shot deal, ready to run away at any time.


At first I didn't realize that jet lag was a problem, because as long as I remembered the difference of a few hours, I could keep in sync. It's like the difference between the easternmost and westernmost in the country by 3 or 4 hours, but using the same clock is not a big problem. Later, I can only say that I was still too naive.

When I want to come, the customers are all in North America, so it's just a time zone. No, the United States is divided into 3 time zones. Some customers are in Los Angeles, Pacific Time Zone (West), some are in Chicago, Central Time Zone, and New York is in Atlantic Time Zone (East). And I am in the East District 1, and my colleague in the East District 8. Sometimes customers will look for the Indian team at the same time. As a result, India’s time zone is +5:30. This half an hour is very fascinating.

I will endure this. The result is not over yet. There are things like winter time and summer time, that is, it gets dark early in winter, and you have to move the time forward by one hour. Later, I checked why there was no division in China, and found that it did exist in the past. It was implemented for a few years from 1986 to 1992, but for various reasons, it is also because some southern regions have very low dimensions, and there is little difference between winter and summer. So it was not necessary, so it was cancelled. But there are still in Europe and America, but! Europe is the first week of March, and the Americas is the second week of March. In this week, the time was misplaced by another hour, which was maddening.

I finally know what the world clock does in the desktop application. Now I have to put 4 or 5 clocks there. Otherwise, it would be funny to wake up the customer in the middle of the night. Often make appointments for the next meeting, and you have to bring your own pronouns such as "your morning", "my noon" and so on. Otherwise, I don't know what time it is talking about. It was even more embarrassing during that misplaced week, and I had to remind each other from time to time, fearing that the other party would make a mistake. Or if you find that the other party didn't expect this directly, you can adjust the time silently.

Busy headhunters

When I left and started working remotely, I updated the information on LinkedIn according to the facts and changed the location to where I live overseas. It may be that when I found out that I had resigned, overseas headhunters would come to contact me. Even if I set the off state, it was useless and very enthusiastic, but I said that I did not have a work permit, so I was silent. Occasionally there may be someone who is willing to provide a work permit. I said that I can’t speak French or Dutch? I don't want to learn, and then there is no more.

I came down like this several times and felt a little embarrassed. I changed the location back to China. As a result, domestic headhunters asked again. I had to say that I can only remotely and people are not in China. I feel that their reply always reveals a kind of "haha." , You are teasing Laozi (mother)" feeling. After thinking about it, I still have to return to China in the future. It's not easy to make these headhunters think I will play with them again, or point to the foreigner's pit. I changed the location back to a foreign country again, and let them crack my throat, and I ignored it. Add an automatic filter, the LinkedIn mail will be put into the trash can, and it's done. Later, there was even a kind headhunter chasing after him. At the beginning, he said "I hope you are all well", and at the end, I added the sentence "This opportunity is 100% remote." It felt like he was lying down after suspecting that I was recruited. After all, there has been a recent outbreak in Europe.

Feasibility analysis of flatbread

Say something happy. Often we see the remote job recruitment map, which is a comfortable job holding a laptop on a beach. Taking a vacation while working has become a pie for every freelancer. So I practiced it a little bit. Although I didn't go to the beach, I basically covered the Alps in one trip.

In general, my strategy is like this. Traveling on weekends and traveling all the way. On Sunday night, I booked a short-term rental in a small town. You can live for 5 days at a very low price. Then you can work on weekdays. You can travel around the town at noon. You can make up your working hours in the evening. Anyway, no matter what the store is closed after 6 o'clock. At the weekend, all kinds of transportation will continue to shift, but most of the railways will suffice.

In this way, without asking for leave or delaying work, I added some weird clocks, fixing bugs in Prague Square, morning meetings next to the Neuschwanstein Castle, writing code on the top of the snowy mountain, and participating in a JSConf EU.

It sounds cool, but it's really tired. I have been traveling outside for a month, and I don't want to go out at all after I come back. Fortunately speaking, in the fall of 2019, I always felt that I didn't want to continue the crazy travel, so I wanted to stay at home. Later, I even found online merchants to deliver my daily shopping. Everyone knows what happened next. At that time, foreign countries may have begun to become popular, but no one realized it, including me. There is no hunch, but just don’t want to travel anymore. The remote work method allows me to easily choose to hide at home. In the two years before returning to China, apart from going to the city hall to renew my identity and get vaccinations, I almost never went out of the door of the apartment, and only went downstairs to get food delivery once a week.

No excuses for leave

As I said before, it is difficult to distinguish between work and life remotely. I can travel when I can work. Correspondingly, I can still work no matter what I do. Therefore, many of the excuses that can be used for leave at the company do not seem to be used here in remote.

I have a cold, I’m fine, I can work under the covers;
It's rainstorm, it's okay, no need to go out, work at home;
The internet is off, it’s okay, and the mobile phone data is reimbursed;
The power is out, it's okay, come out and find a cafe to continue;
If you have to go out to do errands, no problem, you can move your working hours later;
Take care of the children, no problem, take care of them while working, without delay;

In short, it is difficult to find a reason to persuade oneself to take a full day's rest, at most it will only change from 8 hours to 4 hours. Even now I’m in a quarantine hotel, I’m still working hard, because I didn’t give myself an excuse for a holiday. Sometimes working hours are free like vacations, which means that vacations can also keep working, all within a single thought.

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