Working Remotely15 Sep 2015
You may or may not know that I work remotely for Loup. Honestly, I never thought I was cut from the stock of “remote-capable” worker, but I’m finding that it’s actually not that bad. There are a couple things to keep in mind when you’re tasked with working remotely.
This is extremely important. Note that I’m not saying communicate often; effective communication and frequent communication can be opposing forces.
See? Okay, that’s pretty contrived but frankly pretty true. I don’t know what 6 means in “Efficacy of Communication” but I’m too lazy to re-generate this graph without the Y-axis. Find the sweet spot communicating with your peers and superiors (if you have superiors). I found that a conversation in the morning and a conversation in the evening pretty much covers it. Any other conversations should be directly and contextually relevant to getting your work done.
Separate Your Workspace
Live somewhere with a separate room that is seriously only for working. Call it an office, call it a study, call it a rumpus-workzone, whatever gets you through the day. It needs a door. It needs a desk. That desk needs a nice, big monitor, and a lamp. Speaking of light, lots of natural light would be nice, too. Ideally, a comfortable lounging chair for when you need to be reading things, or need a change of viewpoint on the world midway through the day. If you live with people (family, friends, strangers) I would recommend some kind of system where you have signs you can put on the outside of your door to indicate yes, you can bother me, or no, for God’s sake, I’m on a call. That or just make sure they know that door closed == leave me the f*ck alone.
It’s easy to fall into the ideology of: “oh, I’ll finish that after dinner” and “that’ll be a nice thing to do while I have my coffee in the morning.” Let’s be honest, though: you’re not going to do that. Think about how much you get done in a day, how much you actually get done in a day. It’s not as much as you think. Your rock-star, in-the-zone, montage-style days aren’t every day. You’ll be lucky if you get one of those a week, maybe even one a month.
And that’s okay.
Just be realistic. If you set good expectations, then you’ll have no problem looking like a B.A.M.F. when it comes to reaching your goals. Which brings me to…
Working from home is not the same as working in an office. You’re not going to get as much done, because somehow flourescent lighting and all the free food and drink you can consume does increase your productivity an amount. Well, it might be that you’re locked (figuratively, usually) in a building with no expectation or responsibility other than getting your work done, and there’s not much else to do there. That’s just a fact.
Now, if you’re closed-minded, you might say to yourself, “well then, why would I want to work from home?”
Maybe because you like staying sane.
Seriously. Working from home has saved my sanity more times than I can count. Working in an office, I tend to take on the mindset of, well, there’s this little thing left, so let me stay another hour and figure it out. Then, I’m there for two hours because reality-check, of course this doesn’t take just one hour, and then I spend anotherh our commuting home. When I’m working from home, I can more easily make peace with the sentiment of time to hang it up. I’ll be able to come back fresh to this tomorrow. Then, I walk into the next room and get a beer and start cooking dinner.
In essence: understand that you’ll probably be about 80% as productive from home. If you need 115%, you can make a trip to the office and spend a week with no other concern or responsibility but work, and spend sixteen hours a day marathoning. I find that’s actually a good way to do things. I work in momentum swings. They’re not violent, but they are consistent. I’ll have a good few weeks, then a slower few weeks, then a week at HQ where I’m kicking ass, then a good few weeks, etc.
Makes sprint planning difficult but it feels more natural to me.
You work remotely. If you need a change of scenery, go somewhere else. So long as there’s Internet, you’re capable of being productive. If you’re working on top-secret stuff, find a corner and put your back against it. If it’s double-secret-probation-secret, then maybe stay home or get some kind of encrypted VPN tunnel set up.
Have a Beer (just one!)
2PM. Brick Wall. What do you do? Walk to your fridge and get a beer! Seriously, mental blocks fear beer like the plague. It’s great.
There’s a lot more wisdom to working from home, but a big part of it is to understand that it is inherently different than working in an office with other people around. If you keep that in mind, and set appropriate expectations and boundaries, you’ll do great. I believe in you.