Remote working guide. Part one: employee

Remote working guide. Part one: employee

It has always been a struggle whether to encourage remote working or not. Do we telecommute at StartupWorks? What are major advantages and what sort of troubles are we having? Is remote working still an up-to-date and worth discussing issue? Making use of my nearly 2-year-long remote working experience I'll try to analyse it and eventually draw some valuable conclusions or at least try to interest you.

Background

What happens when you say "I work remotely"? Your friends start to imagine you lying on the beach with your laptop somewhere between Maldives and Seychelles, quite opposite to your aunties & uncles that may think you actually do nothing productive staying at home... Where's the truth? I work approximately 250 km from StartupWorks’ headquarters and I see my teammates once a quarter or so, however I managed to organize my personal life with telecommuting as it's part. That's a fact.

Definition

"Remote working, sometimes called telecommuting, or telework is a work arrangement in which employees do not commute to a central place of work. A person who telecommutes is known as a "telecommuter", "teleworker", "home-sourced," or "work-at-home" employee"

From my point of view we are able to draw out 2 types of working activities qualified as remote working. First one is when you work usually in an office and from time to time you take 1-2 remote days. It's not a big deal, as it merely differs from usual work. The second one is totally opposite - you work remotely most of the time and from time to time you go to an office. I'll cover only the latter as it's 'real' remote working.

Advantages from worker's point of view

For me the most important thing is that no one is interrupting you what makes you way more productive. When I was working in an open office I could stand it but I can barely understand why people are constantly interrupting each other mainly by talking about not-work-related topics. 

Secondly, If you want to work remotely you have to be well organized. I would say it's some kind of a lifestyle. No one is standing next to you, there's no 9 and 17 o'clock at the office where other see you're late or working at night. Telecommuting helped me become well-organized at a level I hadn't ever dreamt about. 

You save a lot of time by not going to and from work. In major Polish cities it's about 1,5h a day, what makes 30 hours a month and 15 days (!) per year. Imagine what can you do with your spare 15 days!

The next is that you're improving constantly your written/oral skills. First of all you value contact with people more, as you have less chances to communicate.

Nextly, you always try to be precise and hit the mark.

The last thing is improving foreign languages skills. I noticed an enormous improvement of my technical English writing skills . 

What's more is that you are far more flexible with working hours, what might be quite useful during daily routine. 

To sum up, you may work wherever you like. But it's not that simple as it might look. I used to think that I'd be travelling all the time and working from different places - it didn't happen at this scale so far, although my travel enthusiasm remained the same. 

Disadvantages from workers point of view

If you are not well-organized you can work all day long. 1 hour here, 1 hour there and the 8 o'clock in the evening bells...

If you work at home, your home is your office and there's no clear border between these two, so one has to come up with a solution tailored to one's needs.

No face to face contact with teammates might cause such an impression of loneliness - you don't feel this beehive atmosphere of working and deploying together on Friday afternoons (Never ever deploy on Friday afternoons. Just don't.) If you work at home other people like family or friends may think that you're not working at all and that they can bother you whenever they want. 

Coworkers' and managers' point of view

  • higher productivity of worker because no-one is interrupting
  • higher effectiveness - manager has no other criteria of evaluating you as by looking what you've done
  • with higher productivity comes lower creativity
  • you're not so creative alone
  • it's more difficult to understand each other on Skype when you don't see body language, internet connection is interrupted from time to time
  • lower costs of running office is self-explanatory
  • majority of communication is writing which is fast and precise, often faster and more precise than talking
  • as you write many things down you create better tutorials, docs, descriptions for clients
  • we need to know our availability in advance. 
  • weaker integration with teammates is a huge disadvantage.

What's vital to work remotely and be happy? 

The most important thing is trust. To be more precise, 2 types of trust: manager's trusts that a worker is doing his job and worker's trusts that his manager knows his working hard. You need to feel a part of a team that has its own aims. You all have to come up with an attendance calendar in order to organize asynchronous work better. You need to define your daily work routine and keep it.

Summary

Obviously, remote working is not for everybody but I strongly encourage you to at least try it! Then describe and share your feelings here. But please, don't stay in bed late and don't wear your jammies to work!

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