In the blink of an eye, one year working remotely has passed.
Since the first week of November 2015, I’ve been working remotely for Worth Internet Systems. When I suggested myself for this type of position I didn’t really know what to expect. I was both confident and nervous. Probably more nervous than confident.
The fact that I was going to be the only guy working remotely became a factor of pressure for myself. Not from Worth’s side but from my own. I guess I didn’t feel comfortable with this special situation when compared to my colleagues.
So when I started, and for quite some time, I felt vulnerable. I felt bad that my team had to make the effort of preparing a video call (get speakers and some silence) to make the standup possible for me. Also, the idea that they had to get up and either cycle, get a bus or a train to get to work while I was in my comfortable place.
The following is my retrospective on the bad and good bits of being remotely.
Having nothing to show at the end of the day
A truly terrible position to be at. No one has seen you working, no one as seen you struggling and the last way left to prove it… doesn’t exist. Truly crappy. I shared this few times with my team lead and what they said was right: It’s a matter of trust. And I was always privileged to count with their trust. Apart from the trust, a practical way to deal with this is by keeping a close report to yourself of what you went through during the day. This will bring peace to your own mind and it’s something concrete that you can present to your team instead of just nothing.
It is also complicated when the internet connection happened to have problems in the sprint planning day. Sometimes I could hear perfectly but when I would talk my team would get a robotized voice impossible to understand. Really not cool. You can’t get much involved and enrich the ongoing discussions. In such situations, I find the best to do is to reset the router and see if it solves it. If it doesn’t, just follow the meeting, take notes of the discussions, appreciate your team for being comprehensive about your poor connection and let them know during or after the call what you have to add by chat.
No separation home - work
I am not a morning guy but I do enjoy the feeling of leaving home in the morning. Waking up to stay home feels a bit weird, at least when that’s the routine. The same at the end of the day. I enjoy when I am in the office at The Hague and I go home… that ride bike is a moment of separation, where I get time to free my mind from work and change environment (place and people). Working at home misses these two moments. And I found it to be mentally heavy.
Lack of dynamic
Being alone 8 hours a week, 5 days a week, means that you lack the simplest human interaction that enriches us as beings. You can’t have a simple pair-programming session or exchange ideas during lunch.
After the hard work, stress and demanding hours of work, or even after a deadline was met, everyone goes for a beer and relax together. And you stay… home. This also means that the only relationships you build are professional. The way I found better to compensate this is by checking, time by time, how your teammates are on a personal level and to say yes to every event when you are in the office.
The Good Bits
Yeah, not everything is bad by working remotely!
Silence is gold
One of the nicest things is silence. For 18 years, I lived in a quiet village, with a long field as backyard and with a beautiful landscape composed by green fields and hills. It is silent, peaceful and pure. When I moved to Lisbon to go to university, oh boy, it was hard. It was noisy all the time, which caused me some degree of stress. So, I get easily stressed with noise and an office easily becomes noisy with all the standups, discussions and random conversations between people.
By working at home, in principle, you don’t have this problem. It is silent, which makes it easier to be focused and also is less tiring.
Are you feeling really tired right now? You can just take a five minutes break on the sofa.
You don’t need to worry about those packages being delivered at home anymore, you just need to open the door when the deliverer rings your bell.
Having to wait few minutes for something to start up, for someone to respond you to something you are blocked with? You can just dry or wash the dishes from lunch in the mean time.
At lunch, I usually would either warm up some food or prepare something quickly and I would play an online Fifa match or watch a series episode, which would be nice to refresh my mind. This mean to have 30 refreshing minutes that will help you go through the second half of the day in a more creative state.
Also, if you need to work an extra hour or two one day you don’t have to still face a travel later.
So you want to work remotely?
Besides the tips I gave already, one of the best ones is to have a morning routine.
When I started working remotely, there was one day that I overslept and I woke up fifteen minutes before the standup. I just got quickly ready to be ready for the standup. I then had to attend a meeting and in the end, I felt pretty messed up.
The lesson I took was that I urged to take my morning routine before starting to work. A nice shower to wake up and a rich breakfast will make a significant difference in the way you will face the day.
Being sure that you are always reachable is important. Make everyone feel comfortable to call you when they need, like they would if you were at your desk in the office. Tell your team when you go for lunch and when you are back is also helpful to make yourself more present and transparent.
Make sure you have a good microphone and some earphones. It’s very annoying when people can’t even hear you and when they hear themselves while talking to you.
Take care of your working environment and conditions. Get yourself a proper chair, a proper desk and further material you need. Being home doesn’t mean being minimal.
Also, make the effort of keeping in touch with everyone around the company. It’s important to make you feel part not just of your team but of the bigger team as well. Making regular visits to the office will be a great help and opportunity to do this.
At last, but not least: be trustworthy. You have people and a business trusting you. That is a privilege and must be embraced with gratitude and honest work.
I have two months left working remotely, and I am excited for the change that is to come!
I had amazing teammates that made it all easier for me and that were always cooperative to make it work.
Thanks for all the trust and friendship to everyone at Worth!