Since joining Modus Create, I’ve been working from home full time for almost 3 months. That’s 60 workdays, 12 workweeks. Seems a bit neurotic to count it that way, as if it is some sort of accident counter: “Accident free for…84…days”. But I assure you for a personality like mine, it seems like a backwards, never ending count down to human contact. I love my family; my wife, my daughter and my one legged Conure Kako, but I really do relish seeing friends and coworkers in person. I like being places other than my living room, and there are only so many times I can reorganize my home office for optimum productivity before I’m being stupid. Working in my house has been a difficult adjustment to say the least. I get ludicrously excited when I get to get out of the house to take my daughter to daycare, or just wander around Target for a while. Clearly, I need a better outlet.
Personality quirks aside, I have noticed some differences in interaction with coworkers. The last 60 workdays have had by far the highest rate of video chats I’ve ever had. Teleconferencing is a remote worker’s best friend, as quite a lot is lost in translation with tools like Slack, or even telephone. At a tech conference I spoke with the CEO of a 100% remote working tech firm, and he said he mandates that everyone has their own room, webcam and mic, and has video on 100% of the time. He also recommends always using the highest bandwidth form of communication possible, not just because that’s what everyone says to do, but because it “fucking works”. Most helpful about my experience with this is that I’m the new one to remote work here, and everyone else is well practiced at it. Anytime something gets complicated or technical, they send me a video chat link. Bam, things are solved.
Do Not Disturb
Most of my issue with the change in interaction is my own problem: I am hesitant to derail someone else’s workflow to serve my own needs. Having struggled previously to balance managerial and technical duties, being disturbed during coding times was my number one complaint, and I hate to be that bother to someone else. I’m still learning here, clearly. Somebody halp.
It hasn’t been all bad. In fact, the human contact portion of remote work has some benefits. Most days, I am home alone with nothing but squawking in the background. This is not as disturbing as you would think, and the lack of interruption allows me to plow through enormous workloads. It’s such a change from my previous role that I have had to start forcing myself to take breaks. Every 25 minutes or so I get up, stretch, let my eyes refocus to a long distance and stop grinding my teeth. Otherwise I can sit for hours at a time and forget that I am, in fact, not a robot and should do things like drink water, eat or walk around. The breaks do me some good, and have let me get into other better habits like walking around my neighborhood at least once a day, or brushing my teeth in the middle of the day. Now that’s something nobody tells you about remote work; it’s good for your teeth.
My car is lonely
The not commuting part? Love it. I had very little reason to hate commuting to begin with: I had a nice car and a pleasant drive along a 2 lane mostly rural road with minimal traffic, and it only lasted between 16 1⁄2 and 18 minutes (yep, I timed it that many times). But I get back those extra 33-36 minutes a day to do amazing things like, well, eat breakfast, or sleep, or revise my notes and tasks for the day ahead. It isn’t always exactly productive time, but more beneficial time that being locked in a rolling chunk of metal. Speaking of, this will save you miles, which may in turn save you money on gas or electricity, maintenance, loss in value, or your lease miles.
How do you freedom?
Being home gives me personal freedom to spend more time with my infant daughter, or take a break around 3 or 4 to start dinner. We have certainly eaten better since I’ve been home. But that extra freedom is a bit of a curse in disguise too. Have you ever been trying to get something clean in your living room, only to see everything else in the house that is a mess too? Yeah, having an infant daughter pretty much guarantees that the whole house will be a mess roughly 100% of the time. Practicing the self discipline to ignore that and write code is something I’m still pretty deficient at. Just ask my wife, I vacuumed every day during my first 2 weeks of remote work, simply because the vacuum cleaner was never put away. Could be worse.
I can’t really draw any conclusions as to my work location preference yet, as it is still very early in my remote career. I will say this life is not for everyone, but if you really want to be or need to be remote, I can recommend a few good practices to keep you sane and productive.
- Have a dedicated home office, or at least a room with a door that can be work only spot.
- Have a backup office: somewhere like a coffee shop that is comfortable and has good Wi-Fi in case of distractions at home.
- Fight the urge to do housework or tasks that you normally do after work.
- Make time for in person interaction outside of work. Otherwise, you might make a habit of talking to yourself.
- Always shower and put on clothes before starting work. Don’t be the awkward person on the conference call with bedhead, and a wrinkled tech conference tee on that is 3 sizes too big.
- Communicate with your team everyday. Don’t turn into the company hermit that nobody ever hears from.
- Don’t forget to eat, or spend the whole day eating just because you are home.
- Take breaks if you haven’t been interrupted by meetings or talking to coworkers. Nobody needs to be staring at a screen for 8 hours straight.