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Developer Procrastination when Working Remotely - Is it beneficial?

One comment that is often leveled against remote developers is that they struggle to stay on task. The idea is that the "working" part in "working from home" can often get forgotten. When faced with the temptations of Netflix, gym sessions or the joys of household chores, telecommuters always give in.

This idea overlooks one thing - developers working in an office setting get distracted too. Long lunch breaks, time spent surfing the net to research purchases, or just chatting to colleagues, it all eats away at the working day, but that's usually considered the 'cost of doing business' rather than problem behavior.

The reality: this is about control, or rather a perceived lack of it. Managers can become insecure when they can't see their staffer sat at the desk with their nose to the grindstone (or sneakily playing minefield). That lack of trust can manifest as objections to working from home. But if you don't trust your staff, you might consider your employees. There is always the chance that you maybe made some poor hiring decisions and you should consider recruiting a remote developer that you can be proud of. This guide is quite useful if you’re looking to hire the right remote developer.

Some people say that remote workers should avoid procrastination, while others say it can have some real benefits. So, if your remote programmer takes some time out to water the plants rather than cracking on, they might be doing you a favor. Here are some of the reasons that procrastination can be a real benefit.

1. The Adrenalin Surge

We've all had that looming sensation of a deadline approaching. When you know something has to be done for a specific date and time, and that moment is getting closer. You start to wonder if what's being asked of you is even possible. Then, from somewhere, you get a boost of energy, and you're able to work at double speed. New ideas come to mind, and you finish with seconds to spare and a feeling of immense satisfaction.

Putting yourself into a stressful situation produces adrenalin. That triggers the fight or flight response, and if you don't run away screaming from your workload, it equips you to deal with it. With an increased blood supply and a boost of glucose for energy, the impossible becomes possible. While for some workers this isn't the way to live, others positively thrive by leaving things to the last minute.

2. The Focus Increases

When you're weeks out from a deadline, there are plenty of things competing for your time. Once you're a little bit closer, the need to focus becomes more apparent. By the time your team member has procrastinated to the very last minute, there is nothing else for them to do but get down to the task at hand with a laser focus.

And being focused brings with it a host of other benefits, including improved problem solving and greater clarity. Nothing sharpens the mind like a challenge, and when the clock is ticking that added focus can help generate some great ideas and workarounds.

3. Better Use of Time

It is incredible what some people will do to put off something else. While keeping soooo busy they can't make progress on one job, your staff will catch up with all those other jobs you can't usually persuade them to do. Coding, debugging, implementing, testing - all the tasks that generally fall by the wayside.

There is an argument that if you're not in the mood to work on something, you're better off spending your time elsewhere. I think we should consider applying it form time to time; you gotta be in the right frame of mind to write code. When that hits, you should respect the desire. Do other things instead and wait for the time to be right to work on some killer code.

4. Realistic projects by prioritizing

Often, we can make projects needlessly complicated. We create work for ourselves or others, by setting unrealistic expectations. We want things to be perfect.

But once you get to crunch time, you soon get a good idea of what is essential in a project, and what is 'nice to have.' This more realistic way of looking at things ensures that the core of the project gets completed but without any additional bells and whistles. The heat of the moment can also be a time for seeing how to do things differently.

5. Coding brainstorming

Procrastination also gives you the benefit of more time spent thinking about a project, than actually working on it. This generates extra time to identify any problems, meaning that when the time comes to get started that the solutions have already been considered.

The additional think-time can be a real bonus in creative roles, but the same also holds for any area where problems are solved. Would you prefer your developers to create a quick but mundane solution, or to come up with an alternative that really answers the question and transforms the way you all work? Procrastination is more likely to bring you the latter.

When is Procrastination a Problem?

Of course, this isn't to say that procrastination isn't a problem. It's just that some workers get a benefit from leaving things until the last minute; others don't. While some developers produce great work under pressure, others achieve quality through consistency. Rather than one method of working fitting all, it's better to support the style that works best for each team member.

Measure Developer’s Work by Results

What should count is the results. Whether your programmer thrives while working remotely on tight deadlines or prefers the slow and steady approach, as long as the work product is sufficient, and of a good standard, it doesn't matter when or how it happened. As long as you've been clear when you set your expectations, all should be well.

By allowing your staff to choose their work hours, and trusting them to deliver what is needed, on time, you free yourself up from the stress of micro-managing. Believe that you made the right hiring choice, and let your staff decide whether they get the job done now, or after they've hung up the laundry.

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