Remote Work

My professional world got tipped sideways last June when we heard the announcement that my company had lost a big contract and jobs would almost certainly be on the line. They were. But it took months to figure out the exact ramifications. Who was going to stay and who was going to go? And now, nearly 9 months later, we finally all seem to be settling into our new roles.

For me, that includes the brand new experience of working exclusively from my home. My employers are headquartered on the far side of the continent, but they made an exception for me and have allowed me to stay put, and work remotely.

Mostly, this makes me ecstatic. I have a great job – a promotion over the one that I left behind, and an opportunity to learn new things. My VIP and I can stay in the house we built, in a beautiful location where VIP has a steady job. And the flexibility of the remote work situation has not been lost on me.

Friends pointed out early on that in Europe the “standard work day” would be shifted to the afternoon, leaving mornings open for exploration and adventure while still leaving time for a full work day later on. It’s not a vacation. Honest. I’m just “working remote”.

However, I’m also familiar enough with people who work remote full time to know that it’s not all stars, rainbows and working in your slippers either. Social and professional isolation. Boundary setting. Staying motivated and productive. These are all challenges that I was well-aware of when considering the option.

In preparation, I started researching and tried to anticipate the issues that would present the biggest challenges for me. I changed the guest bedroom into an office, and made that my “working space”. I put intentional effort into getting together with friends – even if it meant a long drive that used to be on my commute, but was now out of my way.

I read articles – many many articles – so many articles, that by the time I finally managed to pick up the book Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, I was already familiar with most of what they had to say. In fact, I’d already read several of the chapters of the book in article format.

(This seems to be a new style of book that I’ve been coming across more recently. It is really just a collection of articles by the author(s), sort of like a blog, but with the pretension of outside publication. Overall, I prefer actual books, with a consistent flow and the assumption that if you’ve mentioned something at length earlier, you don’t need to cover it all again three chapters later. Maybe I’ll write more about that  later.)

However, I did get one new idea from the book that I’ve been trying to take advantage of as much as possible.

You can work from anywhere! No, no, stay with me. Before I read this book, I had imagined myself holed up in my home office most of the time – like AN office, just not THE office (European not-vacations being the exception). But the beauty of remote work goes beyond that. At 37 Signals (the author’s company) people work in the office part of the day, and then work from home. Or they work one day from a coffee shop and the next day from their living room. They work on airplanes, in hotel rooms, and on the beach if they can get a decent internet connection. It’s obvious. But at the same time, I didn’t really get it until just recently.

Of course, everything new is exciting, and I’ve only been at this ‘remote’ thing for a month. The realist in me is just waiting for The Dip. But for now it’s all so wonderfully exciting.

For more reading on remote working, I just ordered The Year Without Pants by Scott Berkun, about his experiences with remote work at Automattic, Inc., the company behind WordPress.com. I’ll let you know how that goes.

I haven’t even downloaded the book to my phone yet, but it’s already off to a good start. The title alone makes me smile, and I enjoyed the few articles I glanced through from Scott’s blog. The article on his favorite books is definitely one to return to.

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