Remote work life. My journey so far.

18th March, 2020

Since mid 2019, I've been meaning to document my journey so far into the remote work life, when I started working from home, part-time, some 6 months prior. With the rise of remote working evidently catching on and with the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more employees are being asked to work from home, now feels like a relative time to share my insight into how the journey so far has been. Note: this is not another guide.

My current home setup

It's important to mention that, firstly, I've had prior remote work experience, both employed and freelance. Secondly, choosing to work remotely didn't come overnight. It took years to realise if it was for me. Obviously it's much different to working in the office. A complete change in mind set and to some, alters their overall balance in life — so you owe it to yourself (and who you maybe working for) to give it some lengthly thought. Thirdly, I don't work full time remotely. My current arrangement with where I work is that I spend mornings in the office, then work from home in the afternoon. My employer aren't a remote first business. Though the arrangement doesn't fulfil what I requested (full time remote) - I am still very grateful to be in this fortunate position and It's a step in the right direction of where I want to be.

Why did I choose to work remotely?

Aside from the many benefits it provides, to put quite simply and like almost every other remotee, for a better work - life balance. I've worked in offices my entire 20 year or so Career. Not by choice. If it were, I wouldn't. For a "place of work" I consider them to actually be most unproductive - at least for what I do and especially when they're open plan offices.

Jason Fried, Founder of very successful Basecamp touches on this quite well, in this excerpt from his book Remote - office not required.

"If you ask people where they go when they really need to get work done, very few will respond "the office". If they do say the office, they'll include a qualifier such as "super early in the morning before anyone get's in" or "I stay late at night after everyone's left' or "I sneak in on the weekend". What they're trying to tell you is that they can't get work done at work. The office during the day has become the last place people want to be when they really want to get work done. That's because offices have become interruption factories. A busy office is like a food processor — it chops your day into tiny bits. Fifteen minutes here, ten minutes there, twenty here, five there. Each segment is filled with a conference call, a meeting, another meeting, or some other institutionalised unnecessary interruption.
It's incredibly hard to get meaningful work done when your work day has been shredded into work moments.
Meaningful work, creative work, thoughtful work, important work — this type of effort takes stretches of uninterrupted time to get into the zone. But in the modern office, such long stretches just can't be found. Instead, it's just one interruption after another.
The ability to be alone with your thoughts is, in fact, one of the key advantages of working remotely."

On top of this, the old 9-5 and on location regime seriously requires revising to meet with todays modern day living.

I know I'm fortunate in that what I do in my field of work allows such freedom and that now we finally have the digital communication tools available - this now allows people like me to be entirely location independent.
This is where I want to be in my career. Not to be dictated by others of where/how/when I choose to work.

So how's it going so far?

In that first single month of working from home in the afternoons, my productivity levels for the % of time I wasn't in the office, quadrupled and my colleagues were impressed with the quality of work achieved. The quality of work had never been so high and this continues to be the case.
I won't deny that there was an element of nerves as to whether I had made the right decision or not, in those first few weeks but I didn't let that small thought get in the way of how much more I was enjoying the work I was doing. I was prepared from the start of what was required in order to stay productive. To avoid the common pitfalls/distractions and pitfalls (link) that often creeps in when being away from the office.
A common problem amongst remotees, is the social aspect and loneliness. There's no denying the severity this can cause, especially to ones mental health. In my opinion, It come's largely down to the individual as to whether they need that element allot, a little or even at all in their life. Either way, this should all be considered before going remote. For me, I live in a family of 4 and so a great deal of my social time is spent with them. This fulfils my socials needs anything else is a bonus. My family are aware and respect my working situation and know when my focus hours are and they do a wonderful of allowing me to get on with my work.

I set up a slightly varied routine of how my time working from home should be around work tasks:

  • Arrive home and have lunch
  • Do a bit of shopping if needed
  • See to pets needs
  • Brief tidy in the house / chores where needed
  • Play some Guitar
  • Do some brief exercises - and repeat every hour
  • Catch up on my social feeds before returning to my desk
  • Late in the afternoon, go for a brief 5-10min walk to the seafront (I live real close by)
  • After work, go for a run.
  • If school holidays, mix with the family during lunch and walk breaks

My pattern is generally similar If I'm instead, at home working all day. With the addition that I'll have a walk or two extra during the day.

As the working days go on, I'm now finding the clear distinction between where my work properly get's done and where it doesn't. The office time is now for things like meetings, quick catchups / extra social time and helpers needed to get what I need done.
Having said all that, what my experience shows so far, is that there hasn't been a single task, that's required me to be physically present in the office, that can't be done remotely.

I am much happier now that I'm in an environment where I feel I can achieve and customise to my liking.

I thrive on productivity and that's the underlying motivation for me to self motivate — which is an invaluable tool to have in an out of office situation.

All in all, I couldn't have expected this part my journey to go any better than it has. I was confident going into this that It was right for me and this is proving so. It's also shown, as I thought, that remote working is the truly right way to achieve and have the work/life balance that we, as individuals, deserve and need in order to have a healthy lifestyle.

Healthier and happier employees are more loyal which leads to greater quality and overal productive work.

If you've ever considered working remotely, I recommend you trial it for a month or two and see if it's right for you. Let me know @danielvanc your thoughts on remote working.