I’ve spent the last six months working from my home office. During the first few months I was building a software product for a local community, and in November 2018 I started working remotely for my new employer.
In this article, I want to share my experience working from home with you. What are the real benefits, the challenges and my personal experience working from home?
One of the most significant changes, when I started working from home, was that I did not have to commute anymore. In the area where I live traffic jams are expected, and you never know how long it takes to arrive at the office or how long it takes you to drive home after work.
Working from home removes that entirely from my schedule. It is a big thing for me because I hated commuting. I did not have a viable public transportation option to reach the offices of my former employer. I had to change vehicles between two and four times to get to the office with waiting times between each change. It was not fun.
Now I can walk into my home office, start my computer and start working immediately. It feels so much better. I am relaxed, and I feel a lot more efficient. If I want to work 8 to 5, I can start at 8 and leave at 5. Before, I had to leave my home between 30 minutes and an hour before I wanted to start working.
Two more benefits of not having to commute daily are that I’m able to save a lot of money and I do not pollute the environment as much as I did before. I drove about 400km every month only to get to my office and to get home again. It added up to around 4000km a year (holidays, etc. taken into account) which I do not have to drive anymore. It saves me real money.
Working from home means that you have to care about your infrastructure yourself. I have to set up my computer, smartphone, internet service provider, modem, WLAN everything I need to do my job. Most people including me will have most of those things already set up. It’s no problem if everything works.
But if I lose connection to the internet or if my computer breaks down I need to figure out how to get it back running and if something is broken, I need to invest my own money to get things running again. If something is broken, I cannot work, and therefore I have to fix it as soon as possible.
The advantage is that I get to choose my hardware and my operating system as I like them. I have a Windows computer with hardware from December 2017. I can upgrade whenever I want to. I do not have to ask my manager for a new computer and wait forever until it gets installed at my desk. The only thing that I have to do is go to a shop, buy the hardware and set it up.
A typical work week includes two to three phone calls. I can spend all my other time to fix bugs, create new features and improve the code of my project. There is no need to take part in traditional meetings and other downtime activities.
When I have to go to the toilet or need to get something to drink I do not have to worry that I run into a co-worker which immediately starts talking to me. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all into socializing and working as a team. But, let’s be honest here. Most of the time you’re discussing your last weekend or other non-work related topics when you run into a co-worker while walking in the office.
My manager trusts me. I get work assigned, and I put my energy and time into the task to get it done as quickly as possible in the best quality possible. I do not get micromanaged which means that I do not have to report every few hours how much work I’ve done and why something takes longer than expected.
If I have a question about the scope of the task or if I need more time to complete a job I can call my manager anytime to figure out how to resolve the issue. It’s a very friendly environment to work in, and I am quite confident that this kind of trust is helpful and necessary when you work from home.
I feel very productive and successful when I get my things done and do not need to relate to other people to do the job. It motivates me to give my best. They cannot see how I do things, but they see that things are getting done and they know the quality of my work. I always strive to make them proud and satisfied with what I deliver.
One of the challenges you face when working from home is that you need to do almost everything for yourself. Nobody is cleaning your office, taking out garbage or cooking for you. Well, since I also have a private life and I like my place to be clean and welcoming I do those tasks anyway. But, you have to keep in mind that you pay for everything you drink or eat while some offices offer you things for free.
Another thing is that from time to time I have to leave my office to meet my team or my manager in person. It usually involves traveling by public transportation, and it takes about 1.5 to 2 hours for me to reach the main office of my employer which is located in a different city. I do not have to be there often, but when I do, it takes almost an entire day from 7 am to 9 pm to get back home.
I live with my girlfriend who works as a shop assistant and has different work schedules. Sometimes she is at home when I have to or want to work. I do not have problems communicating that I need to work and she does not have problems accepting that, but it might be a challenge for other people. I think that it becomes an even more significant topic if there are kids involved which is not the case for me.
There are also other distractions than people at home. Maybe you suddenly remember that you have to buy something. Or you think about taking out the garbage or even playing Playstation. Everything is accessible and only a few steps away. I do not have problems getting distracted because I am used to be working at home for school or university. I did it for many years, and I know how to resist those temptations. But it can be a challenge if you’re that kind of a person.
Sometimes you feel lonely. If I am continually working for a few days on the same topic and do not have to talk to any other person about it, I can feel lonely. It does not happen that much to me, but I would lie if I said it has not ever happened. It might be a challenge for people living alone or for people that need more frequent real-life communications to feel happy.
As soon as I finish work, I start working on my personal (side) projects. As you know I am a blogger (you’re reading my article), I recently started a YouTube channel, and I run a SaaS (Software as a Service) product for a local community. There are plenty of things to do which I treat the same as work, but I do for my own. The ability to work from home helps me to combine all my tasks.
I am also able to use the same infrastructure for my private projects as I use for the work I do for my employer. Maybe you don’t want to invest a lot of money into your personal computer because it does not make you money? It’s different for me. I spend my money on my computer because it makes me money and I can use the same setup to work on my side projects.
The ability to focus and prioritize. It’s also important to focus on your work when you work with your co-workers in the same office. But if you work from home, you need to focus even more. You are not judged by how busy you seem but by what you deliver. The more focused you are, the higher and better your output will be. Stay focused. Take a single task at a time and finish it.
Organize yourself. It is something that I have learned to master during my years at the university. There was so much going on at the same time, and there were different schedules with different people, and every other day was a deadline for some delivery. When it comes to working from home, you need to organize everything on your own. Having a perfectly organized schedule helps me a lot to get the things done at the right time with the right mindset.
Communication skills. People cannot see you that often. You have to impress them with your ability to communicate what you’re working on, about your results, about what did not work and how you could improve the product or your workflow. In short: You need excellent communication skills when people do not see you every day. It helps so much in every aspect of the work. Also, you should expect to write down more things when you work from home. It’s a strength I gained I wish I had years ago.
Self-motivation. I am a very motivated and busy person. I try to show up at as many local developer meetups as possible. I have several side projects in parallel, and I like to blog and do many things in my leisure time like golfing, inline skating, playing soccer and driving go-carts. I am very motivated when there is exciting work to be done. I doubt I would be able to get things done if I wasn’t that motivated. It’s critical to love what you have to do, and I believe it is even more important when working from home.
Right now, after working from home for about half a year, I would not want to go back to working in an office. In my opinion, the advantages of working at home are much more significant than its disadvantages. I feel great, productive and I can choose how to work and when to work. It’ exactly what I wanted to do for a long time.
Let me know in the comments if you also work from home and if you have a similar or different experience. I’m keen on hearing from you.
This article was originally published on claudiobernasconi.ch on February 14th, 2019.