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Going Remote: My 5 Expectations

alexkindle profile image Alex ・3 min read

On Monday, I will start a new job as a remote software engineer at Articulate. My only remote working experience to date was in grad school, where my research sponsor organization was around 50 miles from campus. I commuted in every Friday, and spent the rest of my time working remotely. It was a mixed bag - I set my own hours, but I was a grad student. I had no sense of boundaries. I was on an island - the other 2,000 people in the organization were all on-site. I didn't really know what I was getting into, and I had no support structures in place.

The circumstances now are dramatically different then back then. Articulate has been a fully remote organization since day 1. I've gotten much better at setting boundaries around work. I think I'm going into it eyes open, but I want to document my hopes and expectations about remote life going into it.

Expectation: living a healthier life

At my past job as a rocket scientist, I worked 9-10 hour days, spent half an hour commuting, and frequently worked through lunch, grazing on goldfish or free meeting food. Stress was high, I spent half my time in meetings. Work had its thumb on the scale of work-life balance. I never went to the gym: before work was way too early for me, during work would leave me sweaty and gross, and after work I was always drained.

I'm hoping this changes. In grad school, I went to the gym almost every day in the early afternoon, cooked healthy lunches, and still got tons of work done. I'm expecting to be able to walk the dog in the morning and afternoon, to eat homemade lunches most days, and to go to the gym in the early afternoon like I used to.

Expectation: more productive work time

I'm so excited to be freed from the open floor plan nightmare, to be freed from a tetris calendar of meetings, and to be freed from drop-in idle chit-chat. Getting back long blocks of uninterrupted time to just do work and get things done - how could it not be more productive, even factoring in the increased difficulty of collaboration?

Expectation: working from places other than home

I haven't been with family for Thanksgiving since moving to Seattle. Traveling around Thanksgiving is expensive and stressful and PTO balances are never quite high enough. It always comes down to Christmas vs Thanksgiving, and Christmas always wins. If I just pad out my stay and work from my parents' house a few days before or after, then I might be able to strike the balance of getting home for holidays without missing huge blocks of work or having nightmare travel situations.

Expectation: an office that suits me

No more company-issue computer, desk, chair, lighting, and decor. I've instead been supplied with my choice of computer equipment, and I get the freedom to design my home office however I like. I can open the windows and hang out with the dog, all with a fifteen second commute.

Expectation: setting boundaries

I failed at this in grad school. I did some of my best work after midnight or on the weekends. It burnt me out. I'm hoping to take a much more rigid approach this time around. Our house is small, so I'm expecting my home office space to already be dual-use with my personal computer. I'm planning to just set up an entire second desk, chair, and computer in the office for work. One desk for play, one desk for work. After a good day's work, the work setup gets turned off, and that's that. It won't quite be wholly separate offices, but it's as close as I can do - I hope it's enough.

Discussion (6)

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codingcapella profile image
Amanda Capella

It fully depends on your personality.

You'll be fine, but remember to not hold yourself too strongly to expectations. Set goals. Observe progress. Adjust goals when they don't seem achievable, logical, or pertinent any more.

My non-remote jobs all provided food for me...now that I'm at home, I find myself eating less food, but eating healthy when I do.

Focus is scattered. I'm not 100% in my flow all day, but I never was at an office either. I need space to think, small projects to coast through while larger, more complicated tasks process in the background.

So...less limits/boundaries and more mindset: if I find myself being unproductive, I simple reroute my efforts to getting the next task done. If I'm unmotivated to start one..I find another and hotbox all day. Suddenly it's end of day (a time I set for myself).

The biggest struggle I've found is stepping away from work, really. To just stop at a certain time is difficult...some days i look up and its hours past my "closing time".

Everything else is great. No office politics. No superfluous meetings. Schedule your own hours. Wear comfy clothes. Go to a cafe. No commuting. NO COMMUTING. sigh, it's so good.

Wishing you the best! Enjoy the freedom & welcome to riding remote😎

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jmervine profile image
Joshua Mervine • Edited

Having worked remotely now for four years, first as an engineer and now as a manager, I’ve found all of these to be true. Like anything, though, there’s give and take.

“living a healthier life”

As a home-body by nature, this takes work for me. I eat better and sleep more, however it takes conscious effort to get up and out of the house and get moving. I track my steps and have a standing desk to help with this.

“more productive work time”

This is very true, especially as an individual contributor. One adjustment I had to make was ensuring I had multiple projects or work streams. Given that my entire team is remote, dependencies and blockers requiring collaboration aren’t always immediately resolved — you can’t just walk to someone’s desk. As such, context switching when stuck is important.

“working from places other than home”

This is really awesome and I do it frequently. I have found that picking the time and place are important, and sometimes tricky. Coffee shops are great, but have “rush hours” and can get very noisy. I have (too many) meetings throughout the day and this can make video calls difficult at times. While traveling can also be tricky — know the internet situation ahead of time and if staying with family, find a coffee shop or co-working space nearby. (Trust me on this.)

“an office that suits me”

Again, very true. If you have others living with you (for me, it’s my wife and three kids), make sure to set firm interruption boundaries. For me it’s if my door is closed, it needs to be an emergency.

“setting boundaries”

This is the hardest one for me. With three kids, I set firm “before 8am” and from “5pm to 9pm” boundaries. However, I tend to be an “always on” kind of person and it creeps in to my evenings, after the kids are in bed, far too often. Fortunately, I love what I do, so 🤷🏻‍♂️.

Some other suggestions

  1. Meetups are a great way to meet folks in your area with similar interests and get some socializing in, where work related topics are king if you so choose. This is help for keeping fresh. Sometimes there’s no substitute for a healthy face to face debate.
  2. Request semi-regular opportunities to get the team together face to face. Ideally focused on team build, face to face paring, etc. avoid walls of meetings. This is your immersive “water cooler” time.
  3. Try to spend a few minutes each day with “small talk”. It sounds silly, but building a team is about more than just the work.

Hope this helps. Enjoy your new journey.

edit: small typos

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alexkindle profile image
Alex Author

These are great suggestions, thank you!

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thejoezack profile image
Joe Zack

I love it, and have no desire to go back although I do miss aspects of an office from time to time.

I definitely recommend d having a separate office space for sanity, but it sounds like you've got that covered already...its very, very easy to live at work rather than work at home.

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jeffreychung profile image
Jeff

I think the type of work you do has a lot to do with how productive working remotely can be. For a job like programming, I feel like less human distraction and general office noise is conducive to getting more focused work completed but for jobs like sales or fundraising over the phone, I think an open office design that creates a competitive environment is almost a requirement.

I'm probably just old school but even the clothes I wear affects my work mindset. Working in shorts and a tshirt just doesn't get me in the same type of zone. If working from home I think it's important to work in a completely different room than where you sleep and knock boots. It helps to separate your personal and business time....plus you don't have to worry about your dirty socks in the background during skype calls.