productmusings written by Jiri De Jagere

Six years of working remote

October 15, 2018
5 minutes

Six years ago my life changed dramatically. The company I worked for was acquired by Aurea. But that in itself was not the reason. Not directly, at least. The real reason why my life changed dramatically, is that Aurea has a fully remote workforce. And I became a part of it.

Since the end of 2012, I have not worked a day from a corporate office. That was a big change, coming from daily commutes from Antwerp to corporate offices in either Brussels or Rotterdam.

I had come up with all sorts of ways to make that time spent in commute meaningful. Conference calls were planned during driving time. I listened to podcasts and audiobooks. And sometimes to music to try and relax.

I've seen colleagues flourish. Others burn out or leave, frustrated. #remotework is great, but not for everyone!
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Not having to commute seems like a luxury. And it is! Not having an office where you can collaborate face to face with colleagues seems a hurdle. And it can be. In fact, there are days I miss it! I have colleagues who fully embrance remote working, while others really loathe it.

If there are three things that I have learned about working remote, then it must be these:

  1. Making it work is hard work
  2. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing
  3. It’s not for everyone
I can truly say I love #remotework! I took a while to adjust and find my rythm, but the possibility to work remotely has become a pre-requisite.
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I can truly say I love working remote! I took a while to adjust and find my rythm, but the possibility to work remotely has become a pre-requisite. But it definitely isn’t an all or nothing.

Here’s a quick summary of what I have found to be the benefits and downsides of working remote. For me, as an individual. And how I make it work.

The benefits of working remote

You won’t be surprised about the things I see as biggest benefits:

  • Your days are so much longer. Or at least, it seems like that. No more catching up by the coffee machine. No more unexpected interruptions by people walking into your office. You have more time to spend on the things you have to do. Your productivity skyrockets!
  • You’ve got a lot more flexibility. There is no expectation that you’ll walk into the office, or leave, at a given time. Being part of a global and remote workforce, everyone starts and ends at different times anyways. You decide when you start, when you stop, when you take breaks and how long they are. As long as you get the job done.

The downsides of working remote

You might be somewhat surprised by the downsides, though:

  • Your days are so much longer. Have you ever tried working eight (or more) hours straight? In an office there are distractions. Those can be counter-productive, but they also break the day. Let’s just say that eight hours in an office does not equal eight hours of working remote. Not by a long shot!
  • You’ve got a lot more flexibility. People start to take that for granted. Being part of a global workforce, meetings pop up in your calendar at any given time in the day. In fact, most of the time people don’t even know what timezone you’re in. But the same is true for the family. They too grow to expect your availability whenever they need it, because you can.
  • It gets lonely. People, introverts and extraverts alike, need some level of social interaction that extends beyond the computer screen. I see, literally, many of my colleagues every day on Skype, Zoom and Slack. But it’s not the same as meeting people in person.

Things I do to make it work for me

Here’s what I do to make it work for me:

  1. I plan my days ahead, with big chunks of time-boxed work and some room for flexibility. I even plan when I’ll do emails, when I’ll have meetings and when I work on documents, presentations, code, etc. This way my productivity is really high, but I also protect myself from working too many hours. And trust me, the risk of remote workers working too many hours is higher than the risk of them slacking off.
  2. I try to strictly separate work and life. I have a separate room in the house to work in. When I close the door, everyone knows to leave me alone. I’ve switched off notifications for Skype and Slack on my mobile. No push messages on the phone, only on the computer. When I close the door behind me, work is done.
  3. Get out! The first year I only worked from home. The only ‘real’ people I saw were my family. As much as I love them, it drove me nuts! So I signed up for a membership in a coworking office. It’s a 20 minute bike ride away. I go there two to three days a week.

Working remote is awesome, but …

Over the years I have seen some colleagues flourish, others burn out or leave. All in large part because of working remote. It surely is not for everyone.

I can truly say I love working remote! I took a while to adjust and find my rythm, but today the possibility to work remotely is a pre-requisite. But it definitely isn’t an all or nothing.

A healthy dose of working remote and office time is, for me at least, the ideal to pursue. What is your opinion?

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