A little over a year ago I took a new job and because the office is close to an hour and a half away, I wanted to work remotely for most of the week. Commuting upwards of three hours a day five times a week would have destroyed me.
So, while I don’t work 100% of the week remotely, I work two days in the office and three days at home. Everyone has their own experiences working remotely, and I thought it would be interesting to share my perspective and experience.
Oh, and for context, I have a four-year-old son and a six-month-old daughter. My son goes to daycare three days per week, and there is some overlap with the days I work from home, my wife is a stay at home mother and also currently studying as well.
You need a dedicated space
You need a consistent working space. Working from home if you love what you do, it’s not hard to be disciplined, if anything, it is difficult to stop working once you start (more on that later). I often hear people remark when I tell them I work from home they would find it hard not to watch Netflix or slack off.
Working remotely while more relaxed, you should still act like you’re in an office. Get yourself set up with an office or corner of a quiet room, buy a comfortable chair and a sturdy desk.
Noise cancelling earphones are a must
If you work from home and you cannot guarantee that you will only ever be there alone in business hours, get yourself some noise-cancelling earphones. For me, it’s a crying baby and an energetic four-year-old running around the house, the TV going or music.
It’s not fair to expect everyone else to change their routine or how they go about their day for the sake of making it work office like for me at home. Also, if you live near a busy street, you’ll have outside noise like cars and motorbikes.
At present, I have to deal with a loud street sweeper making hourly trips up and down my street. This is because of some development work happening at the end of the road.
It can be harder to stop working
Some people have laughed when I tell them that working from home makes it harder for me to stop. With no commute to and from the office, I find I start earlier and finish later quite often because being in the comfort of your own home can be deceiving.
For me, this is really the only downside. Fortunately, my wife is great at making sure I finish at 5 pm a lot of the time, mainly because I help with the night time routine and I can help free her hands up to do other things not related to the kids.
Slack makes the distance more comfortable to manage, mostly
For some, the lack of office co-workers is a dealbreaker for them. And admittedly, at times not having a co-worker to bounce an idea off of or head out to lunch with can be a bit of a drag at times.
For those times, when I need to speak to someone, they’re only a Slack message or video call away. Because I live in Australia, and we have embarrassingly slow internet (my connection is decent compared to the average), sometimes there are technical difficulties getting on a video call because our main office can’t get a proper connection in the area yet (despite the fact it ironically is one of the first places in Australia to have 5G rolled out).
I highly recommend if you’re working remotely to install the Visual Studio Code LiveShare extension, it allows remote coding sessions (including the ability to share a terminal), so you can do remote pair programming and troubleshooting as well.
You save a lot of money
By cutting my commute time 80%, we are refuelling our car a lot less (once every 1.5 weeks). What felt like twice-yearly car services, has now become just the one annual service. We are putting fewer kilometres on the odometer, which is a considerable saving. Special shout out to the environment, I’m reducing my carbon footprint in the process.
And then you have the saved money on coffee and food. When I used to work in an office, I would eat out more often than I care to admit. This is usually how you bond and socialise with your colleagues, over a nice takeout lunch. My wife is the queen of food preparation, so we always have a good selection of lunches to pull out of the freezer for lunch.
Then you have the big wallet drainer, the big “C” coffee. I am not sure how much a cup of coffee costs where you are, but where I live it’s on average AUD $5, which is about USD $3.40. It adds up really quick when you can drink upwards of four coffees per day (especially during meetings).
At home, we invested in a coffee machine, and if you work remote and love coffee, I highly recommend splurging on a coffee machine and some quality beans of your choosing. The cost per cup is so low, the only dangerous thing you need to watch out for is drinking too much coffee.
The savings don’t stop there. Because I work from home, at tax time, I am allowed to claim some costs as work-related expenses. I can claim part of my internet bill, cost of buying stationery and other things your accountant can help you out with. Getting some money back from the government is always a good thing.
So, while I am probably spending more on AC during the summer months, using my electricity and water, it still works out cheaper than a commute to an office and eating out. Winning.
Working from home makes you so much more productive if you can trust yourself to be disciplined and not sit on YouTube all day long. Working in a traditional office is full of interruptions, detrimental to productivity. There is nothing worse than getting in the zone and having someone tap you on the shoulder, or meetings that run overtime.
When someone wants to ask a question, they have to Slack me, and if I am set to busy aka do not disturb, I won’t even see the message until I check. I get to reply on my own terms.
You get sick less
If you have worked in open space offices (or any office), you will be familiar with office plagues. There is always that one or more persons who come into work sick (like it’s a badge of honour) and spread their sickness around like Germaclaus (an ill version of Santa that spreads sickness).
I have only been sick once this past year and like I said in the opening of this post, I have a son who goes to kindergarten three days per week. The fact I get sick less with a child in kindy than I do working in an office, it says a lot.
Last, but, not least…
I get to work in my pyjamas. On those three days, I am at home, I get into the shower and then put on some comfortable pants and a shirt. There is nothing like working in whatever you want to wear.
When I am in the office, I have to put on an ironed collared shirt and chino pants with a belt, but at home, I am one step away from being ready for bed.