Why I will never work out of an office again06 Dec 2013
I heard that the 37Signals guys wrote another book, this time about working remotely. While I didn’t read the book (nor do I intend to) I am definitely glad it’s out there, and if more people would work remotely following this book I’d be very happy.
You can say that this book was the trigger to this post :)
1. Providing more value to my employer
When I am working remotely, I am more valuable. PERIOD. That is a fact b.t.w, and I will explain it as we go further down this post.
Since I am a consultant, I insist of providing the highest value possible for my clients, working out of their office during their working hours means I am less effective, so I just don’t do it.
I work to provide value, not working hours
2. Setting my own hours
Working remotely gives me the ability to work my own hours, and I only work when I am the most effective and the most productive. Now I realize that most people say that about remote work, but I said I will back it up with facts, so here are a few working days from the last week or so.
As you can see from this day, I worked after midnight the day before, then I did not even touch my computer until around 11am the following day.
I worked really productive until around 8pm where I just stopped working and started using my computer for personal things like Facebook etc…
Not your typical day working out of an office right. Well you could say that you have the possibility to arrive late and leave late. I would agree so lets look at a few more days.
Again, finishing the day before after midnight, worked for 25 minutes around 10am and then pretty much worked for 6 hours straight.
Stopped touching my computer around 3pm and then went back to work around 9pm working like crazy for 3 hours, being productive for 59 minutes each hour. That is GOLD.
This is a pretty typical day for me, I zone out around the early afternoon and then get back to work after putting the kids to sleep and though their night time routine.
This is quite a long day for me, usually I do this after the day before I didn’t work for long (because I got stuck with a problem or something).
As you can see I worked from 9am to 9pm pretty straight, fairly productive for such a long day.
The other side of the story
I would be biased if I didn’t show you a typical day working out of an office for me.
As you can see, the day is significantly shorted, even though theoretically you work for 9 hours, you have lunch in the middle, then you have a couple of meetings, then around 4-5pm you just crash from fatigue struggling you keep your focus.
This is pretty consistent for me working out of an office, the day starts too early and you don’t have time to recover so you work when you are fried most of the time.
Getting to the office at 9am leaves me with no time for myself or my family as well.
3. Only working when I am productive.
Taking out bugs or crashes, I don’t work when I am not productive, if I feel that I am zoning out too much, or that I write code that is not 100% up to my standards, I just don’t work.
I go out, I get some fresh air, I basically do anything that is not work, and usually completely off the computer, I try not to sink into Facebook or other sites, because then my brain doesn’t refresh as it should.
4. Peace and quiet
Office environment is a very loud very disruptive environment, you don’t really get to spends 3-4 hours of quiet time, alone with yourself, just coding, without anyone hovering over you with questions or problems.
Now, questions and problems are part of my day, and I really love them, but those should be async notifications, you should not be zoned out from your code or the problem you are working on.
Your focus is fragile, if you lose it, you might not get it back for another 20-30 minutes (just enough time for someone to ask another question).
That’s why, usually in offices, this is a common view:
Engineers are putting on HUGE headphones, just to try and zone out for a few minutes.
5. Your own daily routine
Since I can set my own hours here are the things I do that most engineers don’t
- I exercise
- I watch my diet very carefully
- I pick up my kids from kindergarten (1pm and 2pm) every day
- I eat lunch with my kids and my wife
- I spend time with my kids during the week
The base idea is that my life are not set by my work, it’s the other way around, I don’t do the family’s grocery shopping after work, when I am tired from a day’s work, it’s a clear recipe to buying crap you don’t need.
That’s only one example, but you can really imagine what this sort of flexibility gives you.
I want to focus a bit more about exercise, as you can imagine I have this data as well :)
As you can see from my training schedule, I have been pretty consistent with my training, doing around ~24 hours per month until Sep where I peaked around 36.
Then, November through me off, mainly because I worked 2 weeks out of an office.
The hours killed me, since you can’t go out cycling when it’s dark you are limited on your training time, so it was really hard to find the time to train before work, and after work was already dark.
The importence of cycling (exercising) to me is huge, exercising puts my day in focus, those 2 hours I spend a day outside in the fresh air (even though I am suffering) really help me through the day.
I am more focused, less tired, less edgy, everything is better when you exercise.
Most people I know around me don’t do it, and I feel sorry about that, it’s such a great thing to do for people that sit around most days. (switch to a standing desk if you do)
Go outside, exercise, thank me later :)
What does it require
The one quality which sets one man apart from another- the key which lifts one to every aspiration while others are caught up in the mire of mediocrity- is not talent, formal education, nor intellectual brightness - it is self-discipline.
With self-discipline all things are possible. Without it, even the simplest goal can seem like the impossible dream. - Theodore Roosevelt
Self discipline is crucial to working remotely.
As you can see, I don’t work 3 hours a day, I don’t work in my PJ’s and I don’t slack off.
I get up, I have a routine and I focus on providing value.
I absolutely love what I do every day, this keeps me motivated to keep providing value.
Communicating clearly when you work remote can be challenging, it requires you to be descriptive, take the time to explain yourself and be clear about your intentions.
I communicate through chat and email most of the day, but when this isn’t sufficient, I am always a Skype or hangout away.
I tried not to get into what it takes to make it work too much, I am going to write a post about it in the near future so I though i’d leave this open, at least partially for now.
You can see that I’ve been doing it for a long time, not once did I have a problem BECAUSE I was working remotely, with any company I worked for, not even once.
I believe that working remotely for me is the most effective way, if that wasn’t true, I wouldn’t be able to do it for so long.
Feel free to speak up in comments, I would love to know what you think.