I’ve gone from driving in SF Bay Area traffic to work 5 days a week to working from home. It’s been a year now since I made the switch. These are my reflections on life as a remote worker in tech.
The first days of being remote were phenomenal! I put those extra hours gained by not sitting in traffic to good use: making myself a healthy breakfast and going for a run.
When I sat down to work I was incredibly productive. I attribute this burst of productivity to a couple of factors:
- Control over work environment
- Control over interruptions
The ability to change the work environment helps tremendously in clearing mental blocks that hinder productivity. I could start the day sitting at a desk and end the day on the couch. If I needed a bigger break, I could go for a long walk or complete my list of errands if I get really stuck. The flexibility allowed me to solve whatever problem was most urgent, regardless of whether it was work or home. So when I returned to work, I didn’t have any nagging non-work issues.
The other factor that helped my productivity was the ability to control when I receive interruptions. In an office, I couldn’t ignore people walking up to my desk. Being remote I could close chat/email and just focus. This allowed me stretches of uninterrupted planning, writing, coding time.
I became so productive that by early afternoon, I had completed what would normally take me to 8 PM to do in the office. Not only that, I physically felt better. Naturally there’s never a lack of help needed on all fronts in a startup. So I began to take on more tasks. I still felt great because every hour I worked remote amounted to the output of 2-3 hours in an office environment.
In the office environment, the physical separation between work and home fortified a mental separation as well. When I’m at work, I think about work problems. When I’m at home, I’d like to enjoy my home.
My first weeks of remote work blended these experiences together. I went to sleep thinking about the problems our startup had to solve and woke up thinking about them. I thought about them on the way to the supermarket in the middle of the day (best time to go) and when I walked around my neighborhood in the afternoon. It was a rush I hadn’t felt in a while.
If you’re commuting everyday for work like I did, I highly recommend working at least 1 day remote. It’s important that you actually try to work, instead doing the “work from home” (a euphemism for vacation without taking PTO days).
The first few days are very enlightening on the levels of creativity and productivity you can achieve with uninterrupted focus. Even if you’re a manager who likes to be in constant contact, it will help you understand how to unlock the potential of your team (remote or local).
Next I’ll talk about the next few weeks of working remote: handling team communications in a world where we’re constantly bombarded with notifications.