Work from Home Alternatives for Remote Developers

The global pandemic forced many of us to retreat to our home bases. We abandoned our dream retreats in Bali or Chiang Mai. We had to give up on delivering amazing code or brainstorming world-changing ideas from our favorite cafés and coworking spaces. We all had to adapt in new ways.

This situation won’t last forever, though. When Covid-19 finally says sayonara, the doors to the world’s most remarkable destinations will reopen, and this is when millions of digital nomads will begin looking for more unconventional spots to get their work done. 

And not only them. Some managers will realize that forcing their employees to come to the office every day doesn’t necessarily result in higher productivity. As a result, more devs will expand their search for creative working locations in and around their cities.

What makes a place ideal for working? It should be peaceful enough to allow for the deep focus you desperately need. It should be free of distractions – be it family members, social media notifications, or just bored colleagues. And of course, it should offer a stable network, comfortable seating and, ideally, be within 2 days’ walk from the nearest supermarket.

Looking for a change from your usual 10-second bed to desk commute? I’ve handpicked some unique, quirky places that may be just the right fit for you. I gave each location a COVID-19 Security Grade – a quick assessment of how safe each place is in these uncertain times. 

Grandma’s village house

Our very own Growth Manager Andriy in his typical working environment. Seeking an opportunity to cooperate with Mailtrap? Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Do you have a relative, even a very distant one, living in some remote village or town? Maybe you haven’t paid them a visit in a while? It could be the right time to kill two birds with one stone.

Living and working in a small village has several benefits. There are usually very few distractions around, and you’re unlikely to be up late drinking (unless you prefer doing that alone, but I can’t help much with that). As a matter of fact, it will be probably boring as hell, which may be the best feature about such a setup.

You can even customize your workspace with professional-looking yard signs so no one will disturb you (or the chickens) while you’re working. It’s a clever, portable way to reinforce respect for your on-the-job hours as a remote worker.

Grandma (or whomever you stay with) is probably a really good cook, and you’ll get to eat some fabulous organic products delivered straight to your plate. It also won’t hurt to help out a bit around the house, which could be a nice way to take your mind off that complex problem you’re trying to crack.

Things to keep in mind:

  • If you’re a very social person, this might be a tough environment for long-term work, unless you’re returning to your hometown – then this can be a great opportunity for some fabulous reunions.
  • Before traveling, investigate the internet connection quality to avoid unpleasant surprises.
  • If traveling by car, consider taking your super-ergonomic chair along. You’re unlikely to find a proper equivalent when you arrive (unless you build it yourself).

COVID-19 Security Grade: Very safe

Bar

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Bars may seem like the complete opposite of the quiet place you’re looking for. But as probably their off-peak hours coincide with your regular working hours, you may find it to be a perfect spot for a few hours of intense coding.

At that time of day, the heavy drinkers are still recovering after last night’s adventures. In their absence, bars are often filled with creative people looking for solitude and focus. They won’t disturb you, and you can expect the same in return.

Bars often have great Wi-Fi. If you choose well, there will also be excellent food and a wide selection of beverages offered (though you should probably avoid their alcoholic menu). You can commute there easily, and will have an easier job convincing your colleagues to come along. Plus, you can always stay a bit longer after your working hours.

Things to keep in mind:

  • It may not be as quiet as some other places on the list
  • Bringing your 49’’ ultrawide monitor inside may not be viewed favorably by the bar manager
  • If you really need someone to talk to, a bartender will always be there (even if they wish they weren’t).

COVID-19 Security Grade: Potentially risky

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Camper van

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Another great way of escaping from civilization is with a camper van. Buying or renting one gives you the freedom to travel and stay nearly anywhere you can think of. You can visit a national park, head up to the mountains, or just park at a campsite on the outskirts of your town. The choice is yours.

You can set up a workstation inside, including all your screens, launch Slack or Microsoft Teams and enjoy the comforts of your home office away from home. If you get bored, simply pack up your gear and move on to the next destination on your list.

Things to keep in mind:

  • You probably need to bring a mobile router (though many parks and campsites may offer complimentary Wi-Fi).
  • Working from a camper can be a great way of exploring the country and meeting like-minded folks.
  • The sanitary conditions may differ a bit from what you’re accustomed to. Unless, of course, you rent one of the world’s coolest RVs (or buy one, if you have a 6-digit sum of cash to spare).

COVID-19 Security Grade: Very safe

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Cabin in the woods

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If you enjoy the solitude of working from home but find it way too distracting, a retreat in the woods may be just the right thing for you. It’s not as scary as it may seem.

Most of us don’t have the luxury of owning our own cabin in the middle of a forest. Airbnb and other booking sites, however, have many wonderful, serene spots available just a few clicks away; these often have decent standards and a solid Wi-Fi connection included.

Rather than search for the sounds of the forest on Spotify, take a laptop to the porch and enjoy your time. You start tackling your tasks to the real sounds of nature without any distractions.

No annoying neighbors drilling at 11 am, and no small talk or useless meetings that you shouldn’t be part of. Just you, nature, and pure harmony. And if the woods somehow don’t appeal to you, a hut in the mountains is always a good idea.

Things to keep in mind:

  • You’ll probably need to stock up on food, and may need to return to the civilization every now and then to refill supplies.
  • UberEats may not be able to deliver to your location, so brush up on your cooking skills!
  • To prevent any connectivity issues, take a mobile router with you, and check your provider’s coverage map.
  • This may not be a perfect setup if you do a lot of pair programming, or need to be in constant touch with your colleagues (unless you take them with you, of course, which is also not such a bad idea).
  • Don’t forget about an insect repellent. Mosquitos are not a joke 🙂

COVID-19 Security Grade: Very safe

Hotel room in the most boring town you can think of

Source (Shanghai ain’t boring at all but does have nice hotel rooms)

If you wish to get away from all the distractions but a hut in the woods doesn’t quite appeal to you, then here’s another idea. Think of a town within a few hours’ drive or a short flight away from home, and book a hotel room there. You know, a place with zero reasons to travel to unless you work there, a relative lives there, or you picked up a hot Tinder date somewhere in that town.

I found such a place in an industrial city called Batman in southern Turkey (it was way safer than Gotham, too). Not many attractions, virtually zero tourists. Just the friendly locals and the nearby oilfields to keep you company. 

While it’s not the most exciting of all options, it’s also free of almost all distractions. So if you’ve got a tight deadline and need to really focus on the task at hand, this may just work for you. 

Things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t expect to meet any other digital nomads in such a location, but you can always socialize with the locals.
  • The internet connection will probably be great.
  • Unless you really fall in love with the place, you’ll likely dream of coming home in a few days.

COVID-19 Security Grade: Rather safe (as long as you don’t socialize much)

Long flights and airports

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This might be a controversial choice and for most of you, it probably seems like a recipe for failure; but there are folks who find flying to be an excellent way to focus. After all, the only thing that can potentially distract you is a worn-out tablet with a bunch of movies you have already seen (or wish you haven’t).

When you need to analyze a complex problem during a flight, use this opportunity to dive deeply into the topic. Although in-flight internet connectivity is now more frequently available, it’s definitely not recommended to perform deep research or onboard a major client while 10km (6.2mi) above the ground.

Before takeoff, some airports can make an excellent base camp for a few hours of productive work. This does not apply to all airports (and definitely not to most low-cost hubs), but there are some real jewels as well. 

For example, I had a great session some months ago in a secluded area of Singapore’s Changi Airport (considered to be the world’s best for several consecutive years). With excellent Wi-Fi, dim lighting, no loud announcements, and comfy armchairs, no wonder some treat this airport itself as a tourist attraction. I wouldn’t fly all the way to Singapore just to sit in the airport, but if you happen to be in the area, why not give it a try?

Things to keep in mind:

  • You might miss a daily standup while in flight.
  • Be warned that economy seats are what they are, economy; there’s very little room to work.
  • Long train rides can also provide a similar working experience to flights. 
  • There’s a bunch of other great airports worth working from.
  • Food and drinks can be expensive in airports, so stock up beforehand (or get a lounge pass, like a boss).

COVID-19 Security Grade: Potentially risky

Chapel

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Want a story to tell your grandkids one day? You can now rent a chapel in the heart of London and turn it into a fabulous workplace (for a short while, at least).

The London Jesus Centre is now renting out meeting rooms in their chapel to anyone willing to pay 450 pounds a day. Free Wi-Fi, excellent public transport connections, coffee, and tea are included. 

While I can imagine that sitting and working alone in such a place may be a one-of-a-kind experience, this environment is more suitable for teams. If you and your colleagues want to run an intense brainstorming session for a day or more, this might be just the place you are looking for.

Things to keep in mind:

  • To my understanding, wine is not included. As a matter of fact, no alcohol is allowed, for obvious reasons.
  • It’s certainly not the cheapest place on the list, but possibly the most memorable one.
  • If you’re far from London, do not despair. More of these kinds of places may be available worldwide.

COVID-19 Security Grade: Low risk (but not as safe as that cabin earlier in the list).

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Botanical garden

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If you’re stuck on a difficult problem and need a change of scenery, a botanical garden in your area may just be the right choice. It’s a great way to calm down, get some fresh air into your lungs, and slowly figure out the right approach.

True, it won’t work as a long-term solution. It won’t be effective if you have a schedule filled with meetings, or you need to sit straight for eight (or more) hours. But this can be a great solution every now and then to give the focus you so desperately need. If a botanical park isn’t an option, a cozy local park will also do the job.

Things to keep in mind:

  • You’ll probably need to rely on mobile internet, as Wi-Fi in these places tends to be insufficient for work.
  • A botanical garden may be a great place for team brainstorming. Just keep the voices low, or the meeting won’t last long.
  • Pack some food with you, or check if there are any on-site dining facilities; these sites often have them.

COVID-19 Security Grade: Rather safe

Wrapping up

Full disclaimer – I and my remote team haven’t tried all of these methods yet, but we’re getting there. Andriy, our growth guru, is generating many ideas every day from the countryside. Our writers and product teams can sometimes be found in parks, writing their drafts or planning complex projects. 

Some of our devs like to work from bars or cafés, and you can also find them collaborating from airport lounges every so often. I also wrote a pretty good article (at least I like to think that) while stuck in a Boeing 777 on a transatlantic flight. Remote work is great, and it will only get better in the post-crisis world.

Oh, the shameless promo. We’ve developed a pretty useful tool for pre-production email testing called Mailtrap. Over half a million devs and QAs use it on a regular basis to safely capture and inspect their test emails.

It’s also great for remote teams or when you need to share your dashboard with a client or a manager. Instead of distributing credentials every time you need to show them something, you can add them to your projects. You can also join your teammates’ inboxes and work together, whether you’re sitting side-by-side in a bar or you opted for some alone time in that chapel after all.

We would love for you to try Mailtrap and see if it works for you. Get a free account today.

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