6 Tips How to Work from Home More Effectively

Some people can easily work from home, others find it impossible. Is it a matter of personality traits or maybe self discipline? In our history we’ve cooperated with some teammates that were not able to work remotely. We’ve mentioned how we fixed problems with productivity in our previous post Cooperation with a Remote Team: Recipe for Success?. But today we’ve asked our colleagues from different Polish cities for some tips. Here are their great techniques how to stay effective while working from home!

1. Establish your working hours.

Are you an early bird or a night owl? Think about it now and organize your working hours around your sleeping patterns. Choose when you are most productive and stick to it. Some companies can give you full autonomy on your working hours – then your personal preferences matter. At Sunscrapers we have a flexible, but reasonable working hours policy, so most of our working hours should fall between 9AM and 5PM. Using a time tracker might be helpful in establishing your working hours. Krzysiek, our team member from Poznań, reminds you to clearly separate your work time from your free time. If you don’t do this, you can be trapped in working all day long!

2. Divide and conquer.

What do you have to do today? Think about it at the beginning of your work. Michał, our colleague from Poznań shares his advice with you: divide and conquer. Take your big, hairy task and divide it into many smaller tasks. Attack each one of them until you see you’re done! And if you have a small task to do and you can finish it in two minutes – just do it, don’t plan it for later. Simple, right? What is more important – those rules are useful not only for those who work from home, but for all of us!

3. Dress up for work!

Many people praise the possibility to stay in pyjamas all day when working from home. Bartek, our team member from Szczecin, doesn’t think it is a good idea. He had found that taking shower in the morning and dressing up a little bit, help him work more effectively. You don’t have to wear your best suit though! Just leave your pyjamas in bed and you will find more energy to work.

4. Create a space to work.

We know that working from comfortable bed or couch is simply awesome. But it usually doesn’t help you to be productive, not to mention it’s not good for your spine. Szymon, who is working from Poznań, told us that the best way to stay effective is to have a separate place for work only. When he sits at his home office desk, it’s easier for him to focus. Think about arranging a working space in your style.

5. Build everyday habits.

We’ve already talked about everyday habits of famous artists in our post How to Plan your Day Like a Genius. Michał says that daily rituals are one of the most important things in his work routine. It can be a morning coffee made at the same hour every day. It can be a push up series to warm up. The goal is simple – as soon as you develop a new habit, your brain will automatically know it’s time to work!

6. Do your chores!

When you work from home, it’s easy to get trapped in typical household chores. You may think that it’s a perfect time to do the laundry, make some dishes or cook a lunch. You couldn’t be more wrong. Bartek, from Szczecin, reveals that he prefers to do all his house chores before or after work. Otherwise he wastes too much time for context switching. Try to do all your housework in advance if you get distracted quickly!

 

Those tips should help everyone struggling with home distractions. We hope you find them helpful! If you would like to know about productivity, don’t forget to check out our tips in one of previous posts 6 Tips to be More Productive Every Day. Maybe you have your own ways to work from home and stay effective? Let us know!

Cooperation with a Remote Team: Recipe for Success?

Cooperation with a remote team from the other side of the world might seem hard. But everything is possible with some preparation around a work routine. Why we believe it’s achievable? Because we’ve been working successfully with many companies from USA or UK for years. Some our clients shared their reviews in Clutch, mentioning our extraordinary skills in remote cooperation. Would you like to know our recipe for success?

Timezones

Our clients are based in different countries – USA, UK, Netherlands… This means coping with timezones. One hour time difference between Poland and UK is not an issue at all. What can be tricky is the difference between Central European Time and Pacific Time. 8-9 hours might seem like an insurmountable obstacle! At Sunscrapers we’ve successfully managed all difficulties. We have a semi-flexible working hours policy and our team members have an autonomy on their work hours. This means that catching up with a client from the West Coast is easy as a pie. 9AM in Pacific Time means 6PM in Poland. Someone from Poland can sleep a little bit longer and start their work later, which is an excellent solution for night owls!

Process

Proper planning is the most important thing at the beginning of cooperation. We determine a procedure that fits both us and client. Usually, every two weeks we have a sprint planning meeting, where highest priority features are discussed and further plans are made. In most cases, we incorporate daily scrums in our routine, especially if close cooperation is needed. Daily scrums are everyday meetings, where each team member tells more about yesterday’s tasks and tasks for that day. They are particularly important in a dedicated team model, which we discuss more in our previous post: Working Models in Software Development.

What makes our regular meetings better are… videoconferences. During a videoconference we can see our facial expressions and body language. It leads to easier, faster and more productive cooperation. Not to mention that all team members feel more connected to the project and each other.

Sometimes we meet face-to-face with our clients – in our or client’s offices. It’s not essential for project’s success, but it’s definitely a nice addition that can improve our cooperation.

Tools

Beside regular meetings and videoconferences, adequate tools are also really important in a cooperation with a remote team. Project management tools give us the possibility to be up to date with a current work status. Trello, Pivotal Tracker and Jira are examples of project management tools. At Sunscrapers, we always make sure to update our work status as soon as possible. Thanks to that everything is transparent and our communication with a client is easier and simpler.

Other useful tools for fast information exchange are instant messengers. We chose to use Slack for in-house communication and remote cooperation. Slack is a really helpful app, which allows us to answer all urgent questions immediately. We always create a channel dedicated for the the whole project team (including our clients). That’s why, regardless of distance, all members are able to participate in an instant communication if there is a need to.

Emails are complementing project management tools and instant messengers. They are usually used to send longer reports, meetings summaries or research information.

All those tools are relevant to build efficient and productive communication without barriers. We are trying our best to react as quickly as possible. It’s important especially in the beginning, when we are building trust based cooperation with our client.

Discipline & Personal Development

Some developers, despite their dedication to work, can’t maintain a discipline. Our established processes and tools are not enough for them to work productively with a remote team. That’s why we took some lessons from our past experience.

We pay bigger attention to recruitment processes. We check if our candidates have any previous experience with remote cooperation. Motivation for remote work preference and communication skills have big influence on our decisions. Not to mention that proficient knowledge of English is a must.

What is also a good indicator of employee’s attitude is the trial period. We look closely at our cooperation with new developers to see if they are able to work remotely. This is the reason why we prefer our junior developers to work from our Warsaw office until they are promoted to regular positions. They can also get help from more experienced colleagues.

At Sunscrapers we emphasize the importance of personal development. Our team members have many possibilities of improving their communication skills. They can take part in trainings and presentations, where we share our experience in remote cooperation. Everyone can learn how to effectively communicate, which makes work easier.

 

This is our simple recipe for a remote cooperation. Distance is not an obstacle, especially when we take all possible measures to minimise potential drawbacks. We are successfully handling all our projects, even though we are not working in client’s offices. If you would like to see some examples, check out our case studies or contact us!

Working Time: Our Simple Philosophy

Working time and productivity are widely disputed subjects. What’s more important – the amount of time spent on something or visible work results? We’ve tried to answer those questions at Sunscrapers. That’s why we’ve created a work system that functions perfectly in our company.

Semi-flexible working hours policy

Flexible working hours come with some advantages and disadvantages. We know that they increase employee’s morale and productivity, but measuring employee’s performance might be difficult. That’s why we gave our team some autonomy on their timesheets. Most of their working hours should fall in a 9AM – 5PM local time slot. Flexible working hours make our lives easier now. For example, catching up with clients from different timezones is easy as pie. We are simply choosing an hour throughout the day that suits both sides. Also, handling personal matters during the day is not an issue anymore – they are simply not included in the working time.

We strongly believe in a team spirit, but we also respect individual preferences in working hours. Some teammates are early-birds and they are working from 7-8 AM! Others prefer to start and finish their work routine later. It depends on a person, but everyone tries to find out what schedule works best for their productivity. We’ve mentioned how famous people planned their days in our previous post ‘How to Plan Your Day Like a Genius’.

Time tracking software

We use Harvest – the timer to keep track of our work in the real time. It’s a small but incredibly helpful tool, not an authoritarian breath of the supervisor. Our clients know how much time was spent on their projects, so it’s easier to keep track of all billings. For us it’s easier to manage flexible working hours and remote work. What’s also really important is that everyone can analyze their working time to improve their productivity.

Remote work

Few people from our team are not in our office on a daily basis – they work remotely from different Polish cities. Some companies struggle with remote employees, but we are skillful in managing our remote cooperation! Not only our colleagues from Poznań, Szczecin or Kraków are “remotes” but also Warsaw based teammates from time to time. Thanks to the remote solution we can for example work from home if we have a minor flu. Our productivity is still high in such case and we’re not risking getting more ill or infecting our colleagues. While working remotely, Harvest is particularly useful for tracking working hours. Also Slack – the instant messenger, can do wonders! Real time messaging certainly bridges the distance between colleagues and clients.

 

We’re really excited to share our work routine with you. Transparency and simplicity of those guidelines makes our work easier. We manage our time in a more deliberate way, so we are simply better versions of ourselves. Tada!

 

Basic Guide: Choosing the Best Software Shop for Your Project

Choosing the best software shop from a variety of available companies is a headache. What factors should you look into while searching for a perfect one?

Quality

Many software shops say that they are striving for technical excellence, but how can you really verify it? The best way to check the quality of delivery is to dig a little bit in company’s previous work. Every respectable web development shop should have a portfolio or case studies published on their website. It’s also a good idea to check their experience with relevant types of projects, like marketplace, e-commerce or SaaS applications. Another reliable indicator of software’s shop quality are code samples – most preferably open source libraries. And when you’re happy with everything, just talk to the CTO or software developers working in the firm; such conversation should give you the final reassurance.

Communication

Everyone knows that communication is a significant aspect when it comes to every collaboration. Keeping in touch with a remote software shop is particularly essential, because you want to be up to date with your project and be sure that the communication is hassle-free. Your first impressions might be an important factor while choosing the best web development shop for your business. How is the company presented on the internet? Look at their website, blog and online presentations. When your first reaction is favorable, try to contact the software house and check their response speed and style. They don’t bode well if they respond to your e-mail after two weeks – cooperation can be even worse in the future. If you’re impressed maybe it’s worth to schedule a call or a meeting and find out how the software shop will handle communication while working on a project. A face-to-face contact gives you a wider perspective.

The frequency of contact and methods of communication tell a lot about the development shop’s soft skills. Do they prefer to write e-mails or rather make calls? Do they use any tools to make cooperation easier, like instant messengers (for example Slack) or project management apps (Trello, Jira)? Maybe they go for video conferences? Regardless of their preferences, make sure that the web development shop is able to communicate in a way that suits you.

Contract

Usually at this stage you should have a list of companies you would like to work with. We don’t have to tell you that formal requirements play a huge role in the process of choosing the best one. First thing is the project management methodology, which defines the way you pay for services – you can choose between agile and waterfall (here you find our blog post about it – Agile vs. waterfall: what’s better for my business?) Next thing is the budget – you probably know it already, so now you have to reveal a dev shop’s fee. Finally – the agreement. Is it easy to understand? Or maybe it arouses some suspicions about the future cooperation? It’s important to dispel doubts and discuss every part of the contract if something is vague for you. Not only to protect yourself from fraud, but also to explain uncertainties before the partnership starts. Contract is usually a formality, but those small things might have huge impact on your decision.

 

Now you know what things you should consider while choosing the best software shop for your project. Maybe there are other important elements that are crucial, feel free to let us know about them! Also, remember to contact us if you need software engineers (Python developers or JavaScript developers) to handle your project – Sunscrapers’ team is waiting for you!

Looking for developers? These are your best options!

There is a moment in a company life where existing team of developers is great and successful but there are not enough hands to work on a product. At this point, in-house recruitment starts to be a nightmare and extra support is needed – favourably as soon as possible. What can you do if you find yourself in this position? There are few options available and we will shortly describe you their pros and cons.

Recruitment agency

First option is the recruitment agency that can be the additional support for in-house recruitment. Although the process of hiring can still take more than a month, it’s probably, still, the fastest option of getting help. The additional advantage is knowing all the associated costs upfront (agencies are transparent with their pricing) which can help in predicting the necessary budget. What’s more, many recruitment agencies work in a “success fee” mode which means that you only pay for the staffed position – that decreases the risk of spending money without hiring anyone.

On the other hand, the remuneration of the agency can be quite high. It depends on a country, but usually a commision that varies around 10-20% of candidate’s annual salary is a standard. You also need to remember that the agency is helpful when it comes to preliminary selection of candidates but after that their job is over. Conducting technical interviews and final responsibility for making the best choice is left to you.

Why cooperate with the recruitment agency?

HR recruitment agency might be the best option when you’re in a desperate need of increasing your recruitment pipeline fast and your budget is quite big. Also, when you’re looking for someone that can join you directly in your office.

Freelancer

Another option is hiring a freelancer that can join your team for a short period of time. There are many ways to find a perfect contractor – you can try networking or searching portals such as toptal.com or upwork.com that are collecting experienced freelancers.
The recruitment process of a contractor can be faster than with the in-house recruitment. Also, existing databases of candidates, make checking their backgrounds easier. With in-house recruitment it’s more difficult – every time you have to ask for references from past employers. What is more, freelancers usually have lots of experience and different sets of skills because they change projects quite often.

There are some major cons of hiring freelancers though. Their availability is a big issue – they may work on few projects at the same time or even disappear when they find a full-time job elsewhere. It is also your responsibility to manage such person and do check-ups. You need to be sure that a freelancer is in constant connection with the team and knows what to do. Also, costs of hiring a local contractor are quite high. And yes, remote contractor can be cheaper but disadvantages we’ve mentioned above can grow to really serious issues. Last, but not least – a freelancer’s loyalty is rather low. When the project comes to an end a freelancer disappears from the team together with all meticulously gathered knowledge and know-how. With the next contractor you have to start the onboarding and training again.

So when it’s good to hire a freelancer?

Hiring a freelancer might be a good option when you need support for a short period of time – few weeks up to few months. It’s also easier when your project’s tasks are fully described and new developers don’t need a long training before they become productive.

Local software shop

Cooperation with a local software shop is a great option because of the stability of such partnership. Those companies hire many employees and that lets them be elastic with regards to developers assigned to your project. Usually the quality of their work is high because of their competences and track record. Also, some firms are like one stop shops – they have extra competences, so you can carry out your project only with them. Strategic planning? Market research? Design and UX? They can help you with almost anything you need.

But the biggest and usually the most disqualifying issue with the local software shop is the price of the cooperation. It’s the most expensive option from all mentioned above – agencies in the big US cities can charge even $200 per hour!

OK, when it’s a good option?

If you have a standalone project that can be developed in parallel to your current work (such as systems maintenance, bugs repairs, customer service requests), local software shop might be the way to go. It’s also a good option if you would like to work with a partner with broad competences, not only software development. Finally, this option will also work if you have an IT department within your company (because you don’t need it!) and you can implement a project through external partners.

Remote software shop

Might be the best option if you are looking for a reliable, solid and experienced partner but your budget is not limitless. In addition to the advantages listed in a previous paragraph, you have the access to truly talented people from different parts of the world. There is a huge competition for the best talents on a local market, that’s why extending your search area may help. With a remote dev shop, you have a great opportunity to build a long term cooperation – lower costs allow to set up a sustainable arrangement without the need to worry about optimizing costs in future. At Sunscrapers, for example, we can set up dedicated teams for our clients which, at the end of a day, is very similar to opening up an actual remote office.

The disadvantage of this solution might be the lengthy process of singling out the best software shop from many available options. It’s really important to conduct the process carefully and comprehensively, because there are many companies of questionable quality that are better to be avoided. That’s why you have to be 100% sure that communication with the chosen partner and his workflow will not cause problems. Also, you need to remember that distance might make things more difficult – with remote work everyone has to put in a little bit more effort.

When to cooperate with the remote software shop?

It’s simple – if you’re looking for a long term solution while keeping your budget on a reasonable level. And when you are not afraid of trying out a remote partnership.

You know that you need help with extending your team of developers and you know what options you have. Now, you should think about your true needs. Do you need support in the short or long term? Does your project require close cooperation or is it standalone? What’s most important to you – time, budget, same location? Answer those questions and if you would like to know more about us and our experience, check out our website www.sunscrapers.com or contact us!