I work remotely and have been full time for over 6 months now and I wanted to take some time to talk about my experience with it. I quite often joke about this, for example the above image is from a post from my Instagram after my 2nd week working at WORK180, which was captioned 'What people think of when I say I work from home vs. what it's actually like'.
But this is actually something I take very seriously and I am constantly asked about it. When I tell people I work from home they often ask me a question like “How often do you have to go into the office?” or “Where is the WORK180 head office?”. At WORK180 we have no office, none at all. The entire company works remotely which is sometimes a strange concept for people.
When I first started working remotely there were a few things that I was worried about:
- Cabin fever
- Work-life balance
Again, this post is specifically about my experience with remote work and, as I have learned throughout this time, everyone is different and depending on personalities are affected in different ways when it comes to this sort of thing.
When I first started I thought the distractions would be a big problem for me (from past experience working from home in a non-full time way) so I set out to make sure I could minimise the distractions.
The main thing I did for this was to separate my home and work life both physically and mentally. I had a spare room at my place which I have converted into my home office that I use exclusively for working, I also have a dedicated work computer that I don’t use for anything else (ie. no games on it).
To separate my home and work life mentally I try to go for a walk every day when I finish work, this helps to break up the work day from the non-work day (it’s also good to get some exercise in).
This wasn’t something I had actually considered when I started since I am quite comfortable staying at home for long periods of time. However the problem came up often when I found myself being stuck in a problem that I couldn’t solve. I would start to get irritated very easily by my surroundings and not being able to solve the problem in front of me, so I would end up walking up and down the hallway for no reason. In this situation now I quite often turn to someone else in the team and jump on a quick call just to talk things out, or I leave the house and go for a walk to get some fresh air.
I often hear people talk about isolation being their biggest problem when it comes to working remotely but this hasn’t been a massive problem for me, probably due to living alone for the last 6 years. This is also helped by the virtual meetings we have which are all video calls and always start with a bit of a chat before getting into business.
A great example of this is our weekly whole company meetings, where we start by everyone having a chance to share something personal (maybe they did something exciting on the weekend or during the week) or they can share a learning from the previous week.
“Do you find yourself working more since it’s all just there?” or “Do you sometimes just go and watch tv instead of working?” are other questions I sometimes get asked.
Both are on opposite sides of the work-life balance, on one hand you have the potential to over work since it is so close and on the other you could do no work at all because you are not confined to an office. My answer to both of these questions is normally “Yes but…”, yes sometimes I do find myself working more and yes sometimes I do take a random break during the day if I’m feeling drained or stuck. It’s all about having the balance between the two. It is much easier when working from home to over work or to under work, but if you are motivated to do the work and have the discipline to keep working when you need to, then you won’t have a problem.
Motivation can be hard to find sometimes so it’s important to have work that you enjoy and are passionate about and to have a team that work well together. It is also important to remember that no job is awesome all the time and work will sometimes get you down, but you need to keep at it anyway and work on making it better where you can.
I have put a lot a lot of time, effort and investment into getting my home office setup and it’s at a point where I am more productive there, than in any office I have ever worked at.
- Desk: SKARSTA sit/stand desk from IKEA (120x70 cm)
- Chair: DX Racer Classic Series
- Laptop: Microsoft Surface Book 2 (13” i7, 16GB Ram, 512GB SSD) with Surface dock
- Monitor: Dell P2715Q 27” 4K
- Audio: Steelseries Arctis 3 Bluetooth headset & JBL Charge 2 Bluetooth speaker
- Keyboard: Steelseries Apex 350
- Mouse: Steelseries Rival 110
It is also super important to find the right tools and team processes in place, to be able to work remotely. The majority of our communication is text based and for that we mostly use Slack (some emails here and there when dealing with external parties). Sometimes it’s harder to communicate things over text, when this happens we tend to jump on a quick call using either a phone call, Slack call, or a Zoom video call. We currently run a 'scrum-like' development process at WORK180 which includes daily virtual standups, for this we use Zoom. We also use video calls for larger team meetings such as the weekly whole company or product team meetings, this makes discussions much easier and allows people to share screens if required.
There are also times when the team (or at least part of the team) will meet up in person, for example the Brisbane dev team try to get together once a month and spend the day working together, this is either at a co-working space or a shared space (such as a library). There are also times when all of the workers in Brisbane will get together for a team lunch, this greatly helps everyone get to know each other more and to feel more comfortable with each other.
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