I have been working in the tech domain over the last twenty years (OMG!). During that period of time, I’ve transitioned from the regular office environment to be fully remote. This is my personal experience so far, lessons learnt and things I’m still struggling with.
I’m working at Jamm, a video-first collaboration experience for modern teams. Our goal is to enable not only fast, friction-free communication but also enable to collaborate meaningfully with a bunch of people regardless of location or timezone. You can request access to our private beta here.
Note This is not a detailed explanation on the benefits of remote working but my personal experience. If you’re interested in going deeper on the subject, I recommend the book REMOTE, office not required, by @jasonfried and @dhh.
Avoid commuting to work
Living in Barcelona, if you work for a company ordinarily offices are in the city center so getting to work will not take you (or me!) more than 40 minutes; and that used to be my case (40 minutes max one way) before working from home. Over the years I used the usual means of transport:
metro: a bit crowded in the mornings, fine in the afternoons. Very uncomfortable in summer time, when the humidity in Barcelona is at high peak. Good option to carve out some time to read.
public bicycle system: it works fine, even though it’s fairly common that you need to visit a couple of stations for picking up a bicycle or finding a free slot to leave it back. Things are getting better over time though.
my own bicycle: my favorite option. I had a 25 minutes ride to the office, good enough for doing some physical exercise without sweating. The city is well equipped with a network of bicycle lanes map here.
scooter: fastest option, but that’s the only advantage compared with the others, and it’s for sure the most dangerous one.
In the best case (scooter), it would take me around 50 minutes (two ways) every day. Now that I’m working from home, I earned that time, for free. 5 days a week during 11 months per year means roughly 183 hours per year, equivalent to around 22 days work (a month!), 5000 km with my road bicycle or around 2000 km running. Every single year.
I’ve never been a fan of commuting so I’m taking this as a great improvement in my daily routine.
Get your working space right
Over the last years I’ve tried different options at home to find the right environment to work. We moved into our current apartment a couple of years ago; however it has just been this winter when I have the feeling that I found not only the room but also furniture, lighting and hardware that works for me. I tried several options before, but they were either too noisy, bright, dark or distracting.
Previously, since working from home was very rare, having a dedicated space was not so key but now, with no office to go to, it is important to find not only a suitable space to be productive, focused and, also important, being able to shut the door and separate my personal from my professional life.
Last year I left my MacBook Pro 2017 as secondary device and acquired a PC. Not that I was planning to switch from macOS to Windows/Linux, but my perceived performance of that laptop was extremelly low and I needed a change. I started thinking about setting up a Hackintosh, and after getting some suggestions from Arturo about hardware and some help from Iván to set it up, I got it working. Find below the hardware that I used; overall I’m very happy with the outcome. Performance is much better and I’ve never got infuriated due to my computer under performing (now I can only blame myself if I’m getting stuck!):
- CPU:: Intel Core i7-8700K 3.7Ghz BOX.
- Motherboard:: Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Pro.
- Memory: Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 3200 PC4-25600 32GB.
- SSD: Samsung 860 EVO Basic SSD 500GB SATA3.
- CPU Cooler:
- Power supply: Corsair RM750X V2 750W 80 Plus Gold Modular.
- Tower case: NZXT H500i.
- Screen: LG 34UC99-W.
- Webcam: Logitech C930e.
There’re a lot of specs about Hackintosh hardware setup, this one being the last I read.
I used to spend a lot of time hanging out with my coworkers when I was working for Telefónica. The company itself (Telefónica R&D) was around 1000 employees back then, and over the ten years I worked there I had the chance to meet a lot of great people. In my last role in the company I was leading a 30 members team in an organization of around 150, which meant a lot of interactions, both professional and personal ones. When I left the company almost three years ago, I thought the social part was going to be one the things I’d miss the most, and looking back that’s been the case. It was very common for me to hang out in a coffee break, lunch time or after work with a beer, and I do miss that! Nevertheless I’ve done several activities I would not have done if I continued working there, like joining a triathlon club (even though I don’t swim, that’s an opportunity to hang out with runners and riders :-)), attending a japanese food course or taking some painting classes (not very impressing results, as you can see ).
It’s not something that I knew would happen when I started working remotely, but my daughter was born a couple of months ago, one of the best things ever happened to me. After some weeks of parental leave, I’ve got back to work. Knowing that I’m 30 seconds away from her really makes me happier.
Working in an office usually means you’d get tons of interruptions during a day, specially if you’re working in an open space. Working from home does not mean you won’t have any interruptions, but you can probably impact better manage those and get rid of them with ease.
Flexible working hours, but limit them
Working from home means it’s much simpler to change my working hours, and having that flexibility is great for those days when something requires my attention, or just it’s 12PM, it’s sunny and I’m willing to run for a while.
I’ve been using several daily schedules, and the one that currently works better for me is:
- start working early in the morning (7 AM): that’s a requirement because our company is not only fully remote but also fully distributed. We have people in San Francisco, Sydney, Perth and Barcelona. While most of our work is asynchronous, having a daily standup helps us to sync up and hang out a bit.
- take a long break at noon: something like 3-4 hours, so I can spend some time with the family, do my almost daily run routine while training for the next marathon and even take a short power nap.
- work another 4-5 hours in the afternoon: key to overlap with PST timezone and catch up with the team.
Well, this is the theory of this, reality comes with longer hours at work although I am working to improve the routine .
If you want to take a single advice: if you are working from home, try to identify burnout symptoms and take actions.
Technology / Tools
These are the tools we’re using for our day 2 day work:
- Jamm: Jamm is a video-first collaboration experience for modern teams. Remember the note at the beginning of this post, that’s the product we’re building.
- Slack: for internal communication we don’t use email, hence we’re using Slack for any text-based communication. We also use Slack as an information hub (integrations with our cloud provider, Typeform, source code, ticketing tool, etc).
- Notion: internal documentation.
Communication and expectations
Proactive communication is a key skill if you work in a physical office with your team, but it’s even more relevant when working away. To keep the team up to speed, and mitigate the effect of working in different timezones, prior to calling it day I share my notes with the rest on how the day went, issues I had or just the last joke I’ve heard around…
Under promise and over deliver is a well known quote, I’d reformulate to over and over communicate if you’re working remotely.
Work from anywhere
One of the key benefits of remote work is that I can work from anymore, given that what I just need is my computer and a good Internet connection. Why should I be limiting myself to be in my home office?
So what’s the deal?
According to State of remote work analysis by Buffer and AngelList, 98% of the surveyed would like to work remotely, ast least some of the time, for the rest of their career.
And I don’t blame them! While working remotely may have some negative consequences like not being able to unplug or feeling disconnected from the team, you can impact on these consequences by building a company culture around remote work and your own experience as you gain it.
In my experience, the flexibility to work in a flexible schedule and from anywhere are the major advantages, something I’d definitely try to keep at least for some years