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What I've Learned After Working Remotely for 10+ Years

lefebvre profile image Paul Lefebvre ・4 min read

It's now been 10 years since I've been working remotely, full-time from my home office. And for a few years prior to that, I had worked remotely at least a few days a week.

After all this time, I obviously think working remotely is the best way to work. In fact, because I've worked remotely for so long, I think I'm officially unable to work in an actual office any more.

Here are what I consider the top reasons for working remotely and how it benefits everyone.

Flexible Schedule

Employees are adults, so why not treat them like it?

I work in the tech industry as a developer and writer. Both of these tasks rely on some creative ability and oftentimes creative work does not like fixed schedules. With a flexible schedule I can switch things up to work when I am likely to be most effective. I can work in the evening when that suits my tasks. Or I can start earlier in the morning. I can pop out in the afternoon during the doldrums so I'm not wasting my time.

I get the benefit of running an errand or attending one of my kid's activities while my employer gets the benefit of me being more effective and available at non-traditional times. They also get the benefit of me having to take less time "off" because I'm essentially just shuffling my time around.

Increased Productivity

It's really all about getting stuff done. Does it really matter where you do it?

When I tell people I work from my home office, I'm often asked how I can get anything done with all the noise and distractions. Honestly I have no idea what these people are talking about. It is quiet here with just me and the cats. The rest of the family is usually at school, so there is no one else around to provide distractions. The neighborhood is also pretty quiet as most everyone else has to leave to go to their jobs (so sad). Occasionally a neighbor might mow their lawn during the day, but that is no more distracting than the constant sound of sirens and traffic that I heard every day when I worked in the city.

This does mean that you have to actually have an office at your home! Working from home does not mean you're working at the kitchen table with tons of people around. That doesn't count. I have an actual office with a door I can close. And that is much, much better than working in a large office at a cubicle (or worse) in an open-floor plan. There are not many things more distracting than that!

An office with a door is a great way to be productive. Just close the door! There are no co-workers around to "drop-in" and distract you.

Effective Communication

A common concern you'll hear from people is "how do you communicate?" Apparently they believe the only communication that works is face-to-face communication.

Don't get me wrong, face-to-face communication is great, but I prefer it in small doses. Otherwise it ends up being a distraction. How many times have you had a co-worker "drop by" your desk to chat, interrupting you for no real good reason?

Chat services such as Slack or iMessage are commonly used even when everyone works in an office because they are effective ways for people to communicate with one another without also constantly interrupting one another. And believe me, those tools also work great for remote workers.

In addition, it's 2018 and video chat is a thing that works real well. Services such as Zoom, Google Hangouts or FaceTime all provide excellent ways to talk face-to-face with one or more people.

But I agree, sometimes it does make sense for the team to get together in person. But that's easy to do! Just schedule time off-site (or on-site) for the entire team to get together. There's nothing wrong with flying everyone to a central location for occasional group meetings. It's wonderful for morale and team building. And because these events happen infrequently, everyone has great incentive to use the time wisely.

Managing Progress

Managers can be worried about remote workers. "How do I know they are getting any work done?", they'll ask. Well, how do they know when the worker is in the office? If you are a manager and you only monitor your workers by ensuring they are are their desk for 8+ hours a day, then you are an ineffective manager. It's easy to sit at a desk but not get anything done. Ever heard of Reddit?

Instead, be a manager! Understand what your workers are doing, have milestones and track progress on their work. This is what you need to do regardless of whether someone is in an office or working remotely.

Employer Benefits

One of the biggest benefits is by having remote workers, you can to greatly expand your pool of potential employees. Rather than being restricted to just those in your geographic area (or those willing to move to it), you can now literally choose the best person from anywhere in the world!

When employees work from home, employers save on office rent and parking. They also help the environment by limiting the amount of people driving to work. It's a lot cheaper to pay for employees' Internet service than it is to pay for renting a large office space in the city and then also having to pay for parking in a garage or parking lot.

You'll get a happier employee that produces quality work, which benefits everyone.

For a technology worker, the benefits of working remotely are tremendous for both the employee and the employer. Consider giving it a try!

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Paul Lefebvre

@lefebvre

Play: I am a father, husband, baseball player and technology geek. Work: Xojo Software Engineer.

Discussion

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Working remotely the last 7 years, agree with everything. I don't want to come back to office anymore. It's easy to spend more time with family because of no need to go to the office and spend hours sometimes for transport, at home I have the best cafe because I can cook myself or order anything to home.

Flexible environments for traveling around the world despite on the vacations or planning like it used to be in office.

 

Sounds interesting. I've been thinking actually to start working remotely but I think there is a problem: how do you manage this when a team working together is a must? I work in the gaming industry so nowadays is pretty common you have to ask for what is needed, talk to designers, artists, your producer and probably with other programmers to check how to do things, how are we going to make it, etc.

Without saying that most productive products I've ever seen belongs to a team working in the same room.

 

I've worked at companies that have done the "war room" thing to get a bunch of people in the same room to be productive. But really the purpose of this was more to isolate those people from the rest of the company.

What is the benefit of everyone being in the same room? That you can yell out a question to someone? That's distracting to everyone else and badly interrupts at least one person.

That you can easily get up and go ask questions of others? You can easily do that via video chat software.

Working together in the same room can have its benefits (I've done it), but it also has plenty of negatives.

No one environment is perfect for every situation, but working remotely is better for more situations than people think.

 

I work in a completely remote team. It's great for cases like this, when you want the entire team to isolate themselves from the rest of the company and focus, since it can happen with minimal disruption to the rest of the company.

And when you do have a knotty problem you need the space to tackle by yourself, you just flick off the video call, and do it.

 

Great article, thanks a lot.

How do you deal with the "social" stuff? Even if you are the type of guy, who sits all day with his headphones on and eats alone at his desk, you still have some social interactions. Even the goodmornings-goodnights. Do you happen to feel socially isolated or something similar, from time to time?

 

On our team we do a daily "huddle" via video chat (Zoom.us). This lets us see each other each day and go over what we are all working on for the day. I can also video chat anyone as needed.

If you require more social interaction you might consider investigating "co-working spaces". These are shared office space for people that work remotely. I've also used them sporadically in the past, but don't feel I need them (and they can be noisy/busy).

 
 

I don't. But at Surevine, where I work, we make a point of video-calling each other for a chat as well as just for work. Plus there's the usual dailies etc which keep you in the loop.

 

Great article! I've been working remotely for the past 2 years and I feel the same way: Can't imagine myself working in an office anymore.
Apparently, it's hard for some managers to adjust to the idea of remote employees, but I believe companies are slowly beginning to see the advantages you mentioned in your post, so hopefully we'll see more remote working opportunities in the future.

 

Agreed with your points! I’m super grateful to be able to work remote. It’s been challenging as a Product Manager but I make it work. Lots and lots of video calls. It’s like you’re there just without the constant getting up and interrupting your coworker for a question. Now I better prepare for meetings with planned topics or questions to discuss and just bang it all it in a call. Also! Video calls can be short. Sometimes explaining something over a call is so much faster than typing it all out. My only gripe is that being remote and having the rest of my team in the office becomes sticky because there are a lot of things I miss from side convos that happen after meetings. But overall, I enjoy remote life. But this year planning and making the move back into an office job.

 

I started working full-time remote 2 months ago. I agree with everything. My only issue now is sleep schedule. I find it very hard to wake up before noon anymore. I have had sleep problems my entire life but not having to attend a fixed schedule doesn't help me. Feels like my days are getting wasted like this.

 

staying up all night and sleeping from morning till afternoon is also my problem.

 

I have the benefit of kids that need to go to school each day to at least get me to start the day on time. But even in the summers and vacations when there is no school I make it a point to start the day around 8am.

 

I've been working remote since, erm, around 2002. Totally agree with this.