I started working (almost) full time remote at the start of January. It's been two full months now, thought I'm not sure the first month really counts, so I thought it would be a good time to reflect on how it's going.
Why work remote?
I was finding that my previous job didn't offer me the flexibility I thought I wanted in my days. I have a toddler who turned 3 just a few weeks ago and I really felt like I was missing out on a lot of his life, I was leaving before he woke up and getting home at tea time when he was tired and grumpy. I only really got to hang with him at weekends which then was a lot of pressure for me to be the 'fun mummy' AND get jobs done round the house AND give the wife a bit of time off as she doesn't really get a break during the week either. I was tired and all I really wanted to do was have a lie in and watch shitty TV.
There were other reasons that remote work appealed to me. I miss having control over my schedule. I want to eat good food instead of spending all my money on crap sandwiches from Tesco Express. I want to do some exercise so I don't die at 40, but I don't have any spare time left to give to the gym. I wanted time to think quietly about things in a nice comfortable environment, stop arguing about aircon and being interrupted by pointless meetings.
Expectations vs Reality
Autonomy over my schedule
- I don't think anyone has full autonomy over their lives, there's always someone relying on you, or you need someone to do something and you have to wait til they're ready. However this has been a huge positive change for me. Obviously I still have a boss and a team that is relying on me to do certain things, but if I feel like getting up at 6am and going straight to work, I can. If the kid didn't sleep and I'm tired, I can get up later. It doesn't matter (within reason...!). And it's amazing.
- Downside is, with no one actively looking over my shoulder all day it is very easy to get up late, have a nice long lunch the clock out a bit early because it's a nice day. Or the opposite, I've definitely accidentally done some very long days because I've been into something and didn't want to stop yet.
- The difference though is that this is now MY choice. I've had lazy days and I've had hardcore working days. I've had no lunch and I've had 3 hour lunches but every time it's been because I have chosen it.
Spend more time with my family
- This is also a positive. The kid has been very good at understanding that I have to work in the day and doesn't stress out when I tell him I have to go to 'home work' now, I did initially worry how that was going to go but the transition has been pretty easy.
- When we're all in we have lunch together, and when I need a little break I come down and play Duplo or something with him. It also means if the wife needs to do a job I can pop down for 10 mins to watch him so she can get on and do things too.
- I have the house to myself all day Thursday and Friday, so I take over long-winded tasks like laundry, and because I'm already home (no commute woop) I am in charge of dinner. It just makes our lives a little bit easier.
Eat healthier food
- Working on this. We have a lot of crap in the freezer that I am slowly working my way through! Office days (6 hours of travel) are pretty bad for takeaway but I'm starting to figure out what/when/where to buy slightly healthier food to get me through the day.
- Well I spend less on lunch but a LOT more on Amazon!
Quiet time to think about things
- There's definitely more of this! If you don't enjoy your own company, remote working is not for you. We still have Slack and Hangouts, and I do have to communicate with people regularly but I have a lot more time to think about things. This is more to do with the nature of the job than the remote part though. I am no longer leaping from crisis to deadline back to crisis again, and that's nice. Been a bit of a change of pace for sure!
- The office is a WIP. I have spent a lot of time and money on a nice desk setup, it's just the rest of the room that's a dump! I do, however, have my own window and control over the temperature so even though the walls are bare plaster and there's junk piled everywhere it's already miles ahead of an open plan office.
Unexpected side effects
OK so I do know myself quite well, and this shouldn't have been an unexpected side effect but I was determined at the start that I was not going to fall into the same old traps. Well, I did :D
I do not like asking for help. I don't think anyone does really, admitting you don't know what you're doing is hard. I am getting a LOT better at putting my big girl pants on and asking the embarrassingly stupid questions - I still need to do it more though. I've struggled through some things over the last few weeks that I probably didn't need to do completely by myself.
It's a problem though, because the way I learn things best is by actually doing stuff. Videos, reading, people telling things... it just doesn't stick. However a little bit of guidance is probably not a bad thing. Work in progress...!
It's getting better as I get to know people more, so I know who to ask (and how to ask them). It's tough getting to know your team when you're new and remote, this is not something I have really got figured out yet. I've committed to going into the office once a week so we can hang out in real life and that has really helped. To be honest I think I would have had the same problem at any new job, whether it was remote or not.
Plans for the future
So no plan is ever set in stone. I've had tried a routine-free casual approach to work for the last few weeks, time to experiment.
For March, I will try and stick to a rough daily schedule where I get up, have breaks and finish the day at the same time. Lets see what happens...!