Remote For The Winter
I was a remote employee for the winter. My normal round-trip commute every day is 1 hour with no problems and obeying the speed limits.
During the winter it can go from 1 hour to 3 or 4 depending on how much snow is on the roads. I don’t have a 4wd vehicle because I decided that gas mileage was more important. It’s honestly not bad, most people here are in the same boat.
The other problem with winter driving and the commute is the amount of stress and anxiety that I get. Some people that have lived here have the same problem. Other people like my wife for example have no problem going out in a blizzard.
During my commute I listen to audio books that I purchase on audible.com. Everyone was going on and on about this new book called Remote that just came out and how I should read it. So instead I downloaded it and listened on my commute to and from work.
The book spoke to me, and I realized that what I should do is try it out. One of the suggestions was finding a way to work from home only a couple of days out of the week. That’s when the lightbulb turned on. Instead of spending a 1 or 4 hour commute on the road biting my finger nails off and watching cars go by that spun out in the ditch. I should try and spend it at home and work from my office.
The First Snow Day
I pounced on the oppurtunity to test working from home. I got up at my normal time, made breakfeast for my kid and kissed my wife goodbye but instead of heading out the door to my car I took a turn for the basement stairs and ran down them to my home office. I opened up my laptop and sent an email with the subject WFH.
It was business as usual. We had our morning 8:30am standup over Skype. Everyone talked about what they were working on and our road blocks. No one said anything about me WFH. They all knew it was snowing and it wasn’t going to stop until evening.
I put my headphones on. I made sure my skype and hipchat was all up and made sure that I wouldn’t be missed if someone had a question or needed something. I was in the zone.
It wasn’t that hard, my wife understood what I was doing and since I was in my office downstairs and she didn’t see or hear me it was business for her as usual.
I found that anytime I needed to do something with servers it was the same as if I was in the office. If I needed to ask a question or ask someone to do something it was easier then doing it in person and wasting more of their time with general chit chat before getting to the point.
No interuptions was more time in the zone. It was streamlined.
Here was the test of working remote I thought. If anything was going to cause problems it was going to be remote pair programming. I did some research and found a couple of nice apps that would fix this and given the internet was doing great it wasn’t much of a problem.
- sqwiggle (https://www.sqwiggle.com)
- screenhero (http://screenhero.com/)
- floobits (https://floobits.com)
My pair was game to try them and we ended up using screenhero. They were all very good and did the job great, we just ended up on screenhero. One of the nice features was having dual mouse pointers.
All of the projects I had at work I use Trello for. By now I don’t have to explain to people why Trello is so awesome but it let my manager see the progress I was making and make comments and ask questions. It was a visual indicator of the progress I was making without having to be in the office.
All the meetings that we had we used Skype for. We would have used it anyway if we were in the office. The only other tool we used was GoToMeeting
The little experiment of working from home when it snowed was doing great. When it didn’t snow I would go into work and catch up with everyone else.
A couple of my coworkers who have longer commutes started asking me if I was working from home on purpose and I explained to them what I was doing and why. They couldn’t believe it. It was as if I had broken the laws of work slavery.
I told them all the tools I used and how I was being more productive and living a less stressed life without having to worry about driving into a ditch or causing a huge accident.
Now that winter is over, I feel great. This little experiment had changed things for me. I felt for the first time since I moved to Iowa that I had fun during the winter. Those days that I would have spent driving for 1 to 2 hours trying to get home after a long day were instead spent on building a snowman with my daughter or cooking a nutritious meal for my family. My work had improved and I was taking care of business even better.
Maybe next winter you will decide to take snow days. I know I will.