I have been fortunate enough to work remotely full time for going on 5 months now and I have a few thoughts on it. Most of my thoughts mirror what Jason Fried and DHH said in Remote. It’s a really short read that gets to the point much like their other books. I recommend it for not only the person that wants to work remotely, but also for those people that manage remote workers. Management of remote workers plays a big part in the success or failure of it.
Another book I would recommend is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Although I don’t have any statistics, I think that introverts lean more towards enjoying and thriving in a remote environment. This book is good (and probably better) for the extrovert that doesn’t understand us hermits. I learned a lot about what drives extroverts from reading it.
Remote work is not for every type of person or every type of business, but given the right combination of those two and it can be a satisfying and productive work environment.
Remote work means that an hour is not spent in my metal coffin (bonus points if you identify the movie reference Johnny) every day. My math shows 1 hour x 5 days x ~46 weeks x ~40 years = over a calendar year in your car. I would rather use that time getting my 10,000 steps and saving the tremendous amount of money that is sunk into transportation costs. The reduced stress from the lack of a white knuckle drive in a typical Iowa winter is a bonus too. 90% of drivers believe that they are a better than average driver.
Family and Time Management
Working remotely means being able to help get my kids ready for school. It means being able to take them to school when my wife is sick. It means helping my 5 yr old with a puzzle for a few minutes at 10am.
The time I actually do work stays the same, I just get to choose how to slice up my day now. I’m not stuck with 8-12, 1-5 with 2 15 minute smoke breaks.
Health and Nutrition
Remote means giving a shit about what foods I put into my body and not settling for the usual lunchtime crap. Yes, I’m aware that I can pack a lunch, I’ve tried it…a lot. I’m also aware that it’s a heck of a lot easier to just go upstairs and make something at lunchtime instead of guessing what I’ll want 6 - 18 hours ahead of time. Save money, eat healthier, stay away from people making food for you for the vast majority of your meals.
For all the things that remote work means to me, it does not mean working in my jammies while watching The Price is Right. I do actually get up at the same time every morning, shower and put on big boy clothes usually beginning around 5:30am. That said, all bets are off at 4pm when Dr. Oz comes on.
There is a stigma that is attached to remote workers that we work less. The thing is we know this so that tends to make us work more than we normally would at the office. 40 hours is an important number that shouldn’t be exceeded. Watch out for overwork, it’s as bad or worse than underworking. RescueTime is a good way to keep track of where you spend your time. Give people the tools they need, stimulating things to work on and sit back and watch the human nature to want to do great things work.
Carving Out Your Space
It also does not mean lounging on the couch with my laptop. I have a dedicated space where I stand roughly 90% of my working day.
This is important and it’s one of the reasons remote work failed for me when I tried it over a year ago. I would work from coffee shops or at the kitchen counter or on the couch. Once I setup the space where I work it’s like a switch is flipped in my brain that says ‘I do work stuff here’. I rarely do any personal stuff in my work space which keeps the work/home boundaries more defined.
Transparency is key to a successful remote working environment and more important if you are the minority in your company as a remote worker. Everyone should know what everyone else is working on. I am still working on this piece, but things like hipchat and face to face communication on a regular basis should be incorporated. (Yes, I do get out of the house. How else would I get crickets for the bearded dragon and my Trader Joe’s coconut oil?)
Working remotely has a long way to go to become mainstream (if it ever does) especially in the era that we’re in now where the top of the ladder still believes in the factory worker model. It is changing though and it’s a way of working that I’ve found to be the most sustainable and satisfying for me. All I am saying is give remote a chance.
There is a whole other topic that I intentionally skirted. How do Agile practices fit into all of this? I ignored it for now because I haven’t come to a conclusion yet. It may need a rethinking.