Before I started working remotely I thought it was something reserved for freelancers, business owners or people with far more experience than I had. I had many ideas in my head about why it would be difficult and I was a little afraid.
Some of the things I was worried about
I was afraid that I wouldn’t have the same access to mentorship, and that my career progression would be halted.
I was afraid of struggling to be productive at home surrounded with so many distractions and no one around to give me that sense of “I should be working”.
I was afraid that my learning rate would slow down due to fewer direct interactions and chats with colleagues about new concepts and the state of the industry.
What really happened
I started working from home and as the time rolled by I never really got lonely. What happened in fact was that I was able to appreciate and have more genuine interactions with loved ones, friends or anyone I chatted to throughout the week (how remote work has influenced relationships and how I interact with people will need to be a whole post on its own). Being a remote worker doesn’t mean I’m isolated from my work colleagues, I chat with them every day via standup video calls, instant messaging and even once a week virtual coffee catch ups.
Virtual mentorship, in the sense that I cannot just stroll over and ask questions in person, hasn’t been challenging either. Sure it takes a little getting used to as the mentor-mentee dynamic is almost entirely based on how well and how much you communicate. Unlike being in an office together, the mentor cannot gauge from body language or other such cues as to whether or not you are struggling, so this requires a little more honesty with yourself. I have had trouble with that, being that I am rather stubborn I’d often rather smash my head against the wall trying to solve a problem than just ask for help. I have learned that once I am stuck and have tried something with little to no progress for a few hours then it’s time to ask for help. After all the company is a team and we all want the job to get done and everyone to succeed.
Getting the job done from home presents some challenges, and those challenges are often in the shape of a fridge and/or Xbox. Luckily I’m not a massive gamer and not much of a cook, but you get the idea there are a ton of distractions at home. So staying productive can be challenging, but then again just because you spend 8 hours in an office doesn’t mean you were productive for 8 hours. In fact it’s often quite the opposite - pointless long meetings, colleagues interrupting you, and the time it takes to get back into a train of thought all that adds up quickly and who knows you could have as little as 2 hours productive work in a day. Being remote on the other hand mean async communication, where interruptions can be muted for certain periods of time so you can engage in what Cal Newport calls ‘deep work’, that oh so productive time where you can carry a thought to completion without distraction. Meetings on the other hand cannot be avoided and are arguably more important to remote workers for sharing project details and status, however due to the fact that they are usually done via a video chat, and mics can be muted you could easily continue with admin type work during the inevitable parts of the meeting that do not pertain to you (unless of course the meetings are well considered and executed concisely) and catch up on stuff you may have missed by watching back the recording of the meeting. I highly recommend recording meetings, the company I work for has recently started doing it, it’s a game changer.
Socialising with coworkers
Chatting to co-workers, whether in person or virtually often leads to learning opportunities outside the direct scope of what it is that you are working on. I mentioned that not working in an office I was afraid that my rate of learning would slow, due to less circumstantial and informal discussions but interestingly that has not been the case. I still browse hacker news, twitter and other corners of the internet to keep up with the industry. What’s more is that when I do chat with colleagues about the subject, which is perhaps less often than in an office, less times it’s just a throw away chat about some obscure tech that we will never really use. This also helps me to keep a better level of narrow focus in my personal learning, as I spend less time changing course due to my squirrel brain that gets distracted every time I see or hear about a shiny new thing.So if you have any apprehensions similar to mine that have been keeping you from making the jump to remote work, I hope I could help ease your mind.