May 25, 2020

Working remotely during and after a pandemic

Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

At, travel is in our blood. We’re happy on the move, and even happier when we’re helping others move too. This means we’re excited when new opportunities for movement arise.

It’s true that it physically pains some of us to be stuck at home during the current coronavirus pandemic. But we’re also pleased to see our plans for being able to work from anywhere start to come to life. Companies are being forced to recognize that a lot of the work that “had” to be done in the office can actually be done remotely.

Gallup data from April found that the number of people working from home had doubled in only three weeks. And most people who were working remotely wanted to continue doing so after the end of the crisis. They got a taste of the benefits of remote work and want more.

Working remotely can be right for lots of people. Digital nomads living in a van and exploring the world, serious professionals who wear suits to video conferences, and busy parents stealing time from their commutes to spend with their kids.

We had some frustrations adjusting to the sudden shift of our offices closing, but we learned some things from the experience. Despite the difficulties around us, we remain hopeful for the future after the worst of it is over.

If you’ve had trouble adjusting to the new circumstances or are interested in how to make this more permanent, see what has worked for us.

Set boundaries

Photo by David Clarke on Unsplash

If you weren’t used to working away from the office, you might have found work slipping into everything you do. Or the rest of your life taking over your work.

Setting clear boundaries can help you get things done while preserving your sanity.

Start by setting up a workspace separate from the rest of your life. This can be a separate office or even just a curtained off area in the living room. You need a place where you can focus without (too much) interruption. Aim for your setup to be as ergonomic as possible.

Next, remember to get dressed every day. Even if you don’t have any video calls scheduled, it’s still an important way for you to separate your private life from your work. Putting on clothes reminds you that this time is different from the rest of the time, even if you’re forced to work in the same place you slept. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy — comfortable is fine.

Plan when you’ll be working in advance and communicate that plan to anyone you’re living with. If you don’t have a clear plan, you might find yourself working late into the night. If everyone else knows when you’ll be done, they’ll be happier to wait for your complete attention.

If you’ve set up a clear work area and time for yourself, you’re well on your way to being productive.

Be social (from afar)

Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

Even the most introverted among us are social creatures. We need to feel connections to find the meaning in what we’re doing. When working remotely, we have to find ways to fill in the gaps of the natural interactions that happen at the office.

Start by having regular check-ins with your team. It can be synchronous video calls, asynchronous voice messaging, or anything else. Make sure you all know you’re alive and what you’re working on. (This is also important in making sure your work isn’t overlooked and you get recognized for what you achieve.)

In addition to work-based check-ins, it’s important to have more informal channels for communication. Maybe you’ll have daily or weekly virtual happy hours, where you sit around and chat about … whatever. Maybe you’ll just hit up the #off-topic channels more often in your chat software. Whatever it is, it should be voluntary and open to anything.

At, we have regular and irregular video meetings (sometimes involving many Snap Camera filters). These help us remember there are humans on the other side of the computer.

We also have special channels in Slack where we share tips and tricks for staying sane while working remotely. There are exercise programs, gaming tournaments, and ideas for entertaining and educating your kids stuck beside you. People can share whatever interests them and connect with others who feel the same.

If you’re interested in more about creating a supportive remote culture, check out this guide on creating a remote culture using Slack.

Create structure

Photo by Curtis MacNewton on Unsplash

You might have found the days spent at home starting to blend together (there’s a reason “What day is it today?” is a common question these days). As your life starts to blend together it’s important to establish a routine that reminds you that a day of work has begun. Make sure it’s different from your weekend structure.

Working out of the office means added flexibility, but you have to keep it within reason. Even if you start your day at noon, start it off right. Shower, brush your teeth and get ready to interact with other people.

Set a specific time for lunch and eat your lunch away from your desk. Not only does this help break up your day, it also keeps your computer from getting spills and splatters all over it.

Once you’ve given up your commute, in addition to losing a clear structure, you also will have more time in your day. Fill that time with useful activity. Exercise. Get the blood flowing. Either on a run or bike ride or at home watching workout videos. Your body will thank you with endorphins to cheer you up and get you ready to take on any task.

Take breaks

Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash

When we were at the office, we didn’t act like machines, working nonstop from the time we arrived till we left. It’s natural to chat with colleagues while getting a coffee, when something funny comes up on someone’s computer, and when you meet in the halls on the way to and from meetings.

These are reasonable ways to clear your mind for a while so it can get more done. So it’s OK to do something similar at home.

Focus entirely on a task for a while and then take a break. If you’d like to set formal rules, you can read up on the Pomodoro Technique (and like everything else these days, there are apps for that). Or set your own rules. Find something that works for you and stick to it.

You’ll want to change up the breaks, too. Sometimes it’s good to spend five minutes watching that YouTube video. Other times you’ll want to get out of your chair and move around.

The important thing is to remember that you’re human and you need to focus on different things from time to time.

You can do it

Photo by Etienne Jong on Unsplash

If you’re just getting started with remote work, cut yourself some slack. You’ll screw up sometimes (maybe turn on your camera without changing out of your pajamas first). We’ve all screwed up, but with a supportive team culture, you can get through it.

Remember that your colleagues are going through similar challenges right now and you’re all aiming for the same goals. is working to cover all kinds of travel to support the future of work.

If you’d like some more inspiration, check out the GitLab playbook for working remotely. Give remote working a real try and you might find yourself growing to love it.

Maybe next year you’ll be working on a trip through a far off country. Or your corner coffee shop. Once you get the right habits in place, you can do your work from anywhere.

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