It has never been easier to be a remote worker. Internet speeds on average are the fastest they have ever been and more companies are deploying tools to keep their entire workforce connected at all times (like Chatter, Salesforce, GoToMeeting, etc). In fact, it is not uncommon at all for someone in our industry to have a call with someone thousands of miles away on a daily basis. All remote working does is take you out of the office and have that call happen from your home. With all of these opportunities available, I wanted to take a few minutes and talk about my experience so if others get the opportunity, they have an idea of what they are getting into.
I started working at FinancialForce.com over 6 months ago. My team is spread across multiple countries in multiple time zones across multiple oceans. I have really enjoyed the experience so far, but I can understand why it may not work for everyone. You need certain disciplines and certain habits to make yourself successful. Before I jump into why I think it is awesome, let’s talk about some of the challenges so we don’t get too excited.
One of the biggest issues is finding the right motivation as a remote worker. Truthfully, it is a completely different experience than being in an office with others. You won’t get as much feedback around your performance as you would in face to face interactions, you need to be motivated internally. Be confident in your ability and do your job the best you can. It is also a good idea to ask for feedback as often as possible as well.
I have grown up in the digital age. In my mind, having a Skype conversation with someone or interacting with someone on Twitter is the same as any interaction. Not everyone shares that opinion. For many, an IM is not the same as being face to face. This is one of the key distinctions between someone who really enjoys remote work and someone who really has issues with it.
It is easy to think it may be a good idea to clean up, do some laundry, watch the kids, or help out with some other chore, but remember you are at work. If you wouldn’t do it in an office situation, you shouldn’t do it when you are working. Make a home office for yourself. It can be anywhere. When I was working at home in my 1 bedroom apartment, I had a specific seat at my dining room table that was my “office”. It worked well. I knew when I was sitting there I was working. It is important to make that distinction or you will find it hard keeping the distractions away.
My commute takes about 15 seconds. Hard to beat that. I didn’t have a long commute before this by any means, but it does save me some time every day. If I worked in a larger city where my commute was an hour or more, that is the possibility of 20 extra hours per week just by working remotely.
I know what you are thinking, but you just said “Distractions” were a challenge. Well, these are different distractions. Have you ever been working on some highly complex piece of functionality or task only to have someone randomly come to your desk/office and interrupt you with something that isn’t important? It is much easier to turn off IM/Email notifications for a bit than try to make yourself invisible in an office environment.
You can control your schedule more working remotely. If you need to go to the doctor’s office, you can typically just go and do it (this does depend on your organization). Working remotely is very results oriented, giving you the ability to control your schedule a bit more. When you are home, you are only moments away from your office so it makes it a bit easier to just sit down and get some work done.
There are pros and cons to everything, including working remotely. You need the right personality for it and you need the right motivation. Overall, it is just a different way of doing things. I think The Oatmeal sums it up pretty well.
Important Note: It is important to remember that this is my personal opinion. As with any opinion, it may or may not reflect the opinion of any organization I am associated with.