10 Observations after Working Remote for 6 Months

I turned my “on-premise” job into a remote one 6 months ago.  Here are ten observations from the experience so far, with the goal that these assist others transitioning or thinking about transitioning to remote work:

1. Able to eat a lot healthier

This was the most unexpected benefit of working remote.  It’s been much easier to cook (almost) all meals at home while remote.  When commuting to and working from an office it was always difficult to prep meals the night before, but working from home it’s easy to cook while working.  Rather than paying for expensive cafeteria or restaurant food that is lacking in nutrition, cooking meals at home with good food from grocery stores or markets is easy.

2. Need to plan out work locations

It’s been easy to fall into a pattern of working from home and not going out to coffee shops, libraries, coworking spaces, etc. to do work.  Planning out the day in terms of which locations I’m going to start or end the day at has been helpful in avoiding this trap.  Usually a change of scenery has greatly helped critical thinking when stuck on a problem.

3. Easy to forget timezones

If you’re working with a distributed team, chances are there is still a home office for your company that several of your team members work from.  Usually the home office time zone becomes the de facto time within which meetings are scheduled.  This was a slight adjustment at first, and planning things like trying to eat lunch an hour earlier took some getting used to.  Even now it’s still easy to forget this time difference sometimes.

4. Able to get more done, more effectively

Productivity is often one of the biggest concerns companies have when considering a move to a remote work model.  It may be accurate to say that doubts around effectiveness are the main factor behind this concern around productivity.  First, it should be noted that if you’re hiring employees you don’t trust to get work done in any location, then you’re hiring the wrong people to begin with.  Second, and most importantly, the transition to a remote model is certainly no easy effort but if it’s done right and team members have proper support, productivity can actually receive quite a boost.  Speaking anecdotally, I’m working with a team now that is entirely distributed across several states and continents.  I’ve noticed my personal output has greatly increased, with this increase mostly coming in quality (but quantity as well).  Our team has consistently completed work on time and even sometimes ahead of schedule, helping assuage any doubts our company might have head about productivity in the remote model.

5. Being the first truly remote employee has its pros/cons

Being the first truly remote employee within my organization, it’s been something of a pioneering experience.  The organization within which I work has had offshore contractors for many years but no employees who work remotely full-time (from another state entirely).  The biggest advantage of this for me has been that I’ve gotten to prove that the model works and move the organization ahead.  “Innovation” is incessantly paid lip service to by any and all companies these days, and while many of them may be pursuing legitimate innovations in product or processes, innovation around work itself is often neglected.  Remote work is the future and is slowly but surely gaining adoption.  Being able to help guide my company into this new frontier has provided both myself and the company with a lot of benefits.

Of course being the first has its downsides, the main being that the organization is still adapting to this kind of work.  Fortunately I’ve received support for it at high levels within the organization.

6. Can feel singled out, but this can be a positive thing

Continuing from the last observation, it can be easy to feel like the “remote guy” when you’re the only one.  Now that I’ve proven the model though, others within my organization are starting to join the ranks of the remote workforce.  Done right, you might find that others within your company respect you more for it as you’re essentially setting yourself apart from your coworkers.  Others will see that you’re trusted and respected enough to be granted this privilege.

7. Work is still work

The stereotypical image for remote work is some guy on a laptop working from the beach, but it’s not in any way that idyllic or cinematic.  Work is still work and if you’re on a tight deadline or putting out some fire, no grandiose scenery is going to change that.

8. Whiteboarding suffers

Depending on the type of work you do, not having a whiteboard can seem debilitating.  It’s a highly effective and quick tool for communication.  Similarly, being in meetings and not seeing what is being drawn on the whiteboard contributes to the communication gap.  An easy solution for this is to setup a video conference (either through Skype on someone’s laptop or a room VC if you have one) and point the camera at the whiteboard.

9. Having more frequent 1×1’s is helpful

I’ve had more frequent 1×1’s with coworkers.  This has helped fill the place of hallway conversations that you don’t get not being in the office.

10. A lot of other remote workers are out there

Working from coffee shops and coworking spaces I’ve seen a lot of other people in these spaces that are also working remotely.  These people have all varied in age, so it’s not just old or young employees pursuing this working model.  I suspect more and more spaces will open up, and existing ones catering to the remote worker as this becomes the future of work.