What working remote means to me.


Introduction

I’ve been working as a software developer professionally for the last 15 years mostly as a web developer building everything from backend/mobile/frontend in a lot of different industries. I am currently working as a software developer for a startup company building a mentoring platform for businesses to help communicate and share knowledge in their organization (oh the irony). I’ve stepped up and have taken a more lead position where I constantly think about what my people need to be happy, what do we need to do to attract developers, what we can do to make our product better.

So now you know a little about me. 

In my experience as working as a software developer. I’ve always (except at Crammer Dev) had to battle traditional corporate culture. Management techniques that force your workers to have to be in their chair at 8am and are not allowed to leave till 5pm with permission for a 1 hours lunch break (that I should feel generous for)

I was discussing with the other developer in our 10x15 office about how managing the chairs wasn’t working. I’ve told him that I’ve spent probably 15 years in an office. 15 years of my life staring at a monitor in a office building that I commuted to every day for at least an hour.

Desk

Decorating my office makes it easier to make my box feel more like a creative place to work.

The work I’m doing requires me to be present in this chair but everything about my work is accessible from anywhere in the world. 

What benefits will I get from working remote?

I’ve started researching this topic from other people that work remote, books and other interesting articles I’ve found at places like Medium and other blogs.

The health benefits. 

I’m already not in the best shape. I’ve recently started road biking and playing basketball. I think this is where working remote is really going to help. Instead of using my car, I plan to use my bike. Giving myself every opportunity to exercise. Exercising has proven to help get your creative juices flowing. I know not all of you understand what it’s like to be alone riding past farm fields but it’s freedom.

Farm Field

I feel I’m going to let myself make better choices and removing temptations. Things like eating out won’t be as easy. I won’t be able pick up fast food on the way home or go buy that can of pop anymore. This is mostly because we don’t have very much in town.

The other major health benefit of working remote is losing some of the stress due to the commute. The commute takes me an hour during the summer months and anywhere from 1–3 hours during winter. The stress for me happens when I know exactly where everyone is going to slam on the brakes. I worry not about how I will handle it but by how everyone around me is going to react. Is the person that’s riding my bumper going to be expecting that at any moment we are going to be at a full stop? 

In the mornings I say goodbye to my wife and kids, wondering if today is the day that I’m going to be in that 3 car accident where one of the vehicles is flipped over and they are having to scrap a face off the asphalt. This is where the real stress for me comes from during the commute. Commutes are also known to give people other types of problems like obesity, neck pain, insomnia. 

My hope is that remote work will give me the ability to lose some of the stress, too loose some weight and become a more creative worker.

Family Life

One of the best benefits to not only becoming a more health individual is that it changes my schedule. Right now I wake up at 6:30am. Get the kids ready for school, feed them breakfast and in the meantime get myself ready. This is not an easy task for a 2yr old and a 5yr old. I think most parents understand this part. This rushing out the door creates stress. Instead of being a nurturing parent. I’m rushing them, ordering them around and I’m also getting upset when they don’t do something I’ve been asking for the last 20 minutes. It’s all very negative, and it’s a rush just so I can make sure I’m in my seat by 8am. My kids and my wife probably love when I’m out the door leaving for work.

What I want to change. I want to be a good parent who doesn’t have to rush to be in my seat at 8am. I would like to spend time with my children before they leave for school. Teach them in a way that they understand. Show them how to make a lunch, how to make good choices. Help them eat a better breakfast than just throwing a bowl of cereal at them and telling them to hurry. Most importantly it’s setting a better example for them when they become parents.

This isn’t just about the mornings either. Working remote is going to give freedom to pick them up from school at 3:30pm or even go have lunch at the school with them. I’m going to be able to ask them how their day went when they get home. I will be able to interact with the other parents and get involved with the teachers and the community. I’ve only met one of my daughters teachers twice. 

I know, this isn’t going to happen everyday but I want to be an active parent in my child’s lives and get the opportunity. Right now when I get home, it’s straight to the dinner table (if we are lucky) and then it’s a bath night or some other activity like T-Ball or Dance. Then once they are done my wife and I read them their books and they are off to bed. I might see them for an hour in the morning, and then maybe 2 hours before it’s time for bed. 

As far as my relationship with my wife goes, she deserves a better husband than what I am now. Every day I’m amazed at her ability to continue to love me and be with me. I don’t deserve to have such an amazing person by my side. She makes me want to improve myself just for her. I think being remote is going to be able to give us more quality time together but also learn to become a better team. 

My Remote Plan

I said earlier, working remote isn’t an easy task. I’ve been working on a strategy that so far has seen good results. I wanted to share that with other people like me.

Working remote for the winter.

I live where it snows and gets pretty cold. Last winter we saw quite a bit of snow and ice. I started making it perfectly clear, around Fall that I wasn’t going to start risking my life to be in my seat. I made the case that I could either do my job at my house or I could possibly get in a wreck or run into the ditch which would cost more time and money for me and the company. I’m not the best driver when it comes to snow and ice so this is very possible. When the first snowfall came in, I look at our road conditions and realized it was time. I worked from my basement, sent out a WFH (Working From Home) email and made sure to put all of my contact information in. I also added that if the roads got better I would come in. 

Working partial days from a remote location.

This one was a little harder I think to probably negotiate. My co-worker and I decided it needed to be done. I made the case of needing a change of scenery which has been proven to help creativity. I suggested that we work from a coffee shop up the street for the morning hours. 

Coffee Shop

This actually worked very well. My boss understood where we were, what we were doing and that we were coming back to the office after lunch. The coming back part is important. It’s showing that we can be trusted. We aren’t going to leave him forever and we are still apart of the company. It also taught us that it’s important to find good places where we can focus. I’ve also found this is beneficial to the people that are still in the office because I’m not becoming a distraction.

Spreading the word.

Every time we leave we make sure to tell people. We tell them what we are working on, where we are going and how much better it is to be remote working. The President and CEO of our company is even aware of this. We share with upper management some of the benefits of working remote either by our email or via LinkedIn (yes..I actually found a use for LinkedIn). This is a way for us to provide evidence from other sources that remote work is good for employees and helps get people used to the idea that we don’t do our best work sitting in a chair from the hours of 8am to 5pm.  

Being flexible.

I’ve had to bring this up before. I think a lot of management fears come from giving up that control of not being able to track people and trust them to get their work done. I’ve made the case that working remote doesn’t mean that we aren’t ever going to work in the office again. I tell them that starting out remote working isn’t easy, I personally will miss the social interaction I get with my coworkers. So for me, remote working isn’t about working and never coming back. I will still make a point of coming in, sharing and being there if I’m absolutely needed. Remote working is about being flexible and understanding that there is a balance that has to be maintained.

Start with a trial.

One of the next big steps we implemented was we asked upper management if it was ok to work remote once every couple of weeks. Each week one of us would work remote on Wednesdays. 

What does the trial do for us? 

This would allow trust to develop, we can document all the benefits of working remote and keep a log of our productivity. The trial isn’t set to last long. Once you notice the trust issues disappearing then it’s time to ask to work remote more often. 

What you should be doing during a trial?

  1. Finding places where you can work and test them out. – If you have a choice between 3 coffee shops. On your remote day, travel to the different coffee shops. Test out the atmosphere, look at wifi speeds and see how easy it is to focus and get work done. Figure out what it’s like to work from home. If you have kids, this is good for them because you can set the ground rules early. If you don’t, maybe this is a good way to realize that isolation is just not for you and you need to try a coworking facility.

  2. Be your most productive. – Remember, you need to show how productive you are on your remote day. Figure out what work you are going to be most productive with and that will work best on your remote day. As a programmer, sometimes I find that doing documentation, or fixing eslint issues are good tasks for my remote day. Maybe doing an implementation on an experimental feature. Those are good tasks that you can describe to someone who isn’t very technical. “On my remote day I documented the User API, fixed 300 eslint issues, and implemented how to use OAuth2.0 authentication into our api.” 

  3. Communication – You need to make sure that you can show that you are there and a part of the team even though you aren’t in your office chair. This means maybe when you first start working send a message in a Slack channel with a funny joke or just say Hi to everyone. This shows people that you are there, if your manager has trust issues. This gives them some relief that you are actually there. One of the arguments I hear the most is that if you aren’t in your seat, then how can we reach you? Well you need to make sure people and managers have your contact information. Send out an email to the team and your managers before.

“Hello Team,

Tomorrow is my day to work remote. Here are some of the things I’m going to be working on.

API Logging User Service — Profile Image resizing Dockerizing the player service

If you need to reach me, feel free to contact me via Slack, Email or by my cell phone at 515–555–5555.”

Not only is the trial good for your manager and team members but it’s also good for you so you can find your bottlenecks in the communication pipeline. One of the ways I pick up on these bottlenecks is the next day, ask if anyone was waiting on anything from me and just wanted to wait till I was back in the office. If your coworker says “yes, I wanted to get your thoughts on this whiteboard diagram I made but I couldn’t share it with you”. Thats your queue to come up with solutions to fix that bottleneck before going remote full time.

Conclusion

Hopefully after the trial period is over we are working remote. We have gained the trust of management and can now start balancing our work life and our non work life better. We should have better communication as a team, better results from our work and better and healthier life.

In the end I hope I provided my perspective on what remote work means to me and a game plan of sorts for remote work. I really do believe that remote work is the future.