Oct 2, 2022

My journey into the remote workplace

Dambi Stuart

For three years, I worked as an on-site Software Engineer, experiencing various commuter challenges including several motorbike accidents; “boda-boda” as we call them in Kampala, Uganda, which has a very high rate of accidents due to the increased traffic and reckless driving.

Of the 4,159 road accident fatalities countrywide, 1,390 were motorcyclists while 528 were passengers on motorcycles, according to the 2021 Annual Crime and Traffic/Road Safety report in Uganda

With that sort of commuter experience, each time you leave your home and return safely is a success, no matter what else you experience. The moment you sit on the motorcycle, you begin praying non-stop to remain safe until you get off!

But, things (thankfully) quickly changed when - in early 2023 - Andela successfully matched me to a new employer, resulting in me switching from on-site work to a remote job.

Filled with excitement, curiosity, and relief that I was no longer going to have endure a dangerous journey to and from work every single day, I was also nervous; this was going to be my first time working entirely remotely.

My daily work routine started at 9:00 am GMT-4, which is 5:00 pm my local time.

The job required me to overlap with my team, and to ensure I was available to attend team meetings, with some of them taking place past midnight in my timezone.

This was a very big change in my way of working and for my life overall, but on the brighter side, at least I wasn’t going to fall off the chair as I would on a “boda-boda”!

With this requirement, I had to set up a work routine that could let me stay awake during the late hours and be productive with my work tasks.

My routine

My day starts at 11 am EAT, and I begin by completing some simple exercises to keep my body and mind in good shape. I have my breakfast and for the next 3 hours, I conduct a lot of personal research and reading to become a better programmer, and therefore better at my job.

I always take a nap from 3:00 pm EAT to 4:30 pm. I use thirty minutes to refresh myself, take a bath and prepare my computer for the official working hours to commence.

At 5:00 pm EAT, I attend our team’s standup meeting, where we share updates on the tasks we completed the previous day and projects we plan to work on that day. At this point all my work materials have been already organized, so completing tasks takes little time. I'm mostly waiting to attend meetings or respond to any queries from my Delivery Manager or teammates.

Settling into the remote workplace

I struggled to get used to the new routine for the first couple of weeks, but later my body got acclimatised to my new reality. I faced a number of challenges during this time, and the major issue was that I cut myself off from the outside world, as I had to stay home all day and make sure I only did things that would not affect my ability to stay awake during the overlap hours at work.

My girlfriend had an onsite job, and she would leave at 7:00 am in the morning, while I was sleeping – because I had slept late the previous night due to the overlap at work. She would then return home in the evening when my working day had just started. At first, we had no time for a conversation until the weekend.

Occasionally, I would forget to take breaks and keep working as long as I still had tasks on my board. I had to plan around this, to ensure I had time to grab refreshments.

I sometimes felt disjointed, as I didn't talk to anyone except people at work who were , and never felt like I could have a real conversation with people.

I always looked forward to the weekend, where I would be able to have some actual conversations in-person, with friends and family, and that kept me moving through the week.

You probably wondering now, would I prefer working on-site or remote? Well… in my opinion, the benefits of remote work outweigh the challenges!

The pro’s of remote work

Since landing my first ever remote working job, I’ve been able to earn competetive salary, that helps to sustain my family and our quality of life, and thanks to the flexibility of my role I managed to marry the love of my life on May 15! The function took place during day, and this didn’t interrupt my night working duties!

By working remotely, I find that I face less distractions at home compared to onsite jobs where colleagues would start up conversations that would distract me and prevent me from getting work done.

I now make time for myself, ensuring I take breaks and have conversations with the people I love.

Working remotely means that you don’t lose precious hours of the day time travelling to and from work. As soon as I wake up I can jump to my working space and begin.

Last but not the least, my communication skills have greatly improved because virtual calls are now my mode of conveying information to my team (updates on the progress of my work and challenges to my delivery managers) and my method of collaboration.

With these new freedoms and greater choice, I am able to perform my job better than ever before.

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