Working Remotely (Or how to retain your sanity)

So I've been working remotely for almost a year now at my new job at Clevertech, which I love. It's an all remote position, meaning I can work from home, a coffee shop, another country, or wherever. I love working remotely, but it definitely has its shares of ups and downs.

The ups

  1. I can work from anywhere. My home, a coffee shop, a cruise ship (I don't recommend this, as Internet sucks), or another country. No one cares where I am.
  2. I set my own hours. More or less. I have one stand up meeting in the middle of the day, and I'm expected to be available when someone on my team has a question or we need to chat about things.
  3. This one is connected to the one above, but if I have a doctor's appointment or a kid's school function, I just go. As long as it's not during my stand up (and when it is, I just give an update via slack), then I don't have to make special arrangements.

The downs

  1. You work from home. By yourself. I get a bit stir crazy sometimes, not to mention seeing people is nice occasionally, even if you're an introvert. It's easy to get disconnected or lonely without much human interaction.
  2. Home and work separation is tough. It's easy for me, especially if I get over involved in trying to figure out a problem, to work a twelve hour day. It's not expected by my company, and it's not the norm, but it's easy to do.
    • As an addition to the above, it's easy to feel like you're not doing enough, especially if you worry about whether you're doing everything you need to. This makes it even easier to fall into the trap of overworking yourself.
    • Family sometimes has issues with realizing you're working too. It's up to you to make it clear that you're working, and you can't be doing chores and such when you should be working.

Working around the Bad

There's a few things I do to help me stay a little bit more sane. The first thing seems obvious, but it's easy to forget. I like to go out to lunch with random friends any time I get the opportunity. It gives me a little bit of social interaction, and gets me out of the house.

I also work from coffee shops or co-working spaces occasionally. Again, it's nice to have a change of scenery, and at co-working spaces, you'll often be surrounded by like minded people who are interested in chatting about tech stuff.

If I don't do the above two things during the week, I tend to drive my wife crazy, as she'll get home from work and I'll immediately want to go out and do something, anything, to get out of the house.

For boundaries, visual boundaries tend to work best, at least for me. My teenage son knows that if I have my laptop open (my laptop is for work, desktop is for play), that I'm working and he should probably wait to bother me until later, unless it's an emergency. He's occasionally a little unclear that emergency means the house is on fire, not that he wants to know if he can go hang out with his girlfriend, but we're working on that.

As far as overworking yourself to make sure you're doing a good job, I think the best way to combat that is to have clearly defined goals with your team. Our team tends to have specific github issues that we're working on at any given time, and if we are running into problems where we're going to take longer than expected, we just chat about what the issues is. For big problems that we're getting frustrated with, someone will often volunteer to take over looking at that for a little while to put a fresh set of eyes on it. Sometimes we'll just let our team lead know that we're shelving the issue for a day (assuming it's not mission critical immediately) and then come back to it, fresh.

Not sure if this will help anyone else, but it helped me, so one can only hope. If I could go back in time and decide whether or not to work remotely again, I'd do it in a heart beat, but I'd definitely tell my younger self to start doing these things immediately. Perhaps then I'd still have some hair left.