In July I wrote about my experience of working from home after one month. Six months later, I’m still working from home, but more the wiser. I had a lot of fears, and uncertainty one month in, and despite the silver lining, I wondered how some of the long term attrition would affect me. Happy to say, six months later I’m alive and kicking, hoping to never set foot in an office again! Here are some thoughts looking back.
Isolation It was a fear that never manifested itself. A coworker of mine warned me that after several months of working from home, he was like a lost puppy when someone would walk through his front door. Hell, I’m a bit strange after staring at the computer screen for a few hours, let alone months of working from home. I attribute this mitigation to my wife and my daughter, and keeping an active social life. I always eat lunch with someone, and keep my weekends full to break up the weeks.
Work is a great place to meet new people, but its not the only place. I still meet friends through friends, and have family, etc. I find that not having a soul-sucking commute and eight hours a day at a desk has made me more social (or at least more energetic). At the end of the day, I want to go out and do things and hang out instead of come home and crash on the couch with some greasy snack food named “regret”. My biggest connection is now user groups in the area. Its educational, and fun.
Reduced Visibility Since you aren’t there, are you going to be passed over when it comes to opportunities, praise, feedback, inclusion in discussions, etc? The answer is YES. The bigger question is if you really want to be in all those silly meetings anyway. I’m guessing you wouldn’t choose to work remotely to place work more in the forefront of your life. After hearing the glorious silence, I find all of the managerial office discussions distracting and just want to know what the outcome is. Less is more.
While I have upheld my end of the remote work bargain, there is still a trust issue. it can be frustrating for your boss when you don’t immediately respond to communications because the fear is “Oh man, we cut this guy loose, and we will never hear from him again!”. We started a new project and I had to (and still at times) push back on the amount of micromanagement. I think there is still a failure to understand that if the agreement is to let me work remotely, then the implied statement is that I am disciplined enough to get my work done.
I think I will prefer ROWE. An employee should be able to work when they want, and how they want without conforming to office hours. The bottom line for a business is that I deliver, not that I put in exactly 40 hours. More on this in a moment.
Getting into a Rut It happens to everyone from time to time. Maybe even more so in the winter. Its cold outside, and the daylight hours are short. When you are working from home, the days start to blend together, and it becomes harder to remain motivated. Caffeine will only carry you so far…
The best thing I did for myself was joining a gym right up the street. I try to visit a few times a week. Its amazing how much stress, tension, and anger you can eliminate just from jogging in place for 30 minutes. I come back refreshed, focused, and energized. When I have several visits in a week, I begin to look forward to the next visit, an this helps me get through the day.
For God’s sake whatever you do, don’t setup for work within arms reach of the junk food in your kitchen!
Another drain is being constantly focused. When you need to be, this is a good thing, but the human mind can only concentrate for so long before fatigue becomes a factor. I read an interesting article called the 10x Developer in You where the author describes the Pomodore Technique. He suggests 25 minutes of concentration, and a 5 minute break. I have opted instead for 45 minutes of concentration, and a 15 minute break, since I often get into problems that extend beyond the 25 minute mark. I have found my productivity (and attention) back to where it was when I first started remote work.
ROWE focuses on results, and not hours. Remote work is half of the dream realized, but you still have to conform to office hours. What is the point in working from home if you still have to act like you are sitting in an office? I think the ideal job would allow remote work and practice ROWE.
For those of you that aren’t parents, a one year old’s sleep schedule is quite erratic, and my shifts don’t always line up with her awake times. I resent having to work while she is awake, only to get off five minutes after she has gone down for a long nap. My daughter goes to sleep around 7pm, and I would prefer work after she is asleep so I can spend more time with her during the day. ROWE accommodates this, whereas a traditional schedule does not.
Charlie Maffitt has some great advice on breaking old habits and adopting a ROWE work style: http://blog.bignerdranch.com/1183-old-habits-die-hard-adapting-to-rowe/
You might be sick of hearing those lucky bastards say it, but this is a game changer. Light traffic is irritating to me now, and I don’t know how people deal with it both directions, 5 days a week. I have a lot more time for reading, playing, and relaxing.
My wife and I have plans for long term travel just around the corner. We underestimated the costs of moving, and the overhead of renting a place for an entire month on top of your current rent. Nevertheless, its still on the books, and later is better than never.
We are also looking to move further out of the city. Without worrying about the commute, you can move further out and maximize your purchasing power.
I think this is the next revolution for workers. This wasn’t possible before for the most part because the technology wasn’t ther, but many jobs today can be done as easily from home as from an office. The entire notion of putting on a silly suit, sitting in traffic an hour, and sitting in a stuffy cubical away from your family most of your life just strikes me as bizarre. The workers will start to demand it, and the employers will have to stop being so controlling about monitoring their staff. This is how you fix rush hour – not by adding mass transit and more lanes. This is how you lower gas prices – not with more fuel efficient vehicles. This is how you fix the depressed American worker – not with medication.
Food for thought!