Tidbits on software development, technology, and other geeky stuff

Things I have learned working remotely for 3 years

Laptop on Test

About 3 years ago, I joined the YNAB team. This was my first remote work experience and although I have come to really enjoy working remotely, it hasn’t been without some challenges. I did some things wrong early on, a few things right, and I am still learning as I go.

I really like it

First of all, I want to mention that I have really come to enjoy working remotely. The reasons:

  1. Control of my working environment - I am able to create a quiet, comfortable working environment in my home. For me, this is a huge boost to my productivity and happiness.
  2. Geographical flexibility - This is pretty obvious but I sure do enjoy being able to have flexibility in where I work, geographically. My wife stays at home with the kids so if we want to take a trip out of town or out of state to visit family, we can stay for weeks if we want to because I can just setup and work from there.

Lessons learned

One of the first (and best) things I did when I knew I would be working remotely, was reach out to a buddy of mine I’ve known since college to get his advice on remote work. He had been working remotely for about 5 years by that time and I knew he would have plenty of good tips. And I was right. He was able to give me some things to watch out for and some ideas for settings up some positive habits early on.

I put those tips into practice and figured a few things out that work well for me. The biggest lessons I’ve learned that make remote work sustainable are:

  1. Physically separate work and home - my office is in the far corner of the house with 2 doors of separation from everything else. When I’m home, I don’t see my office and it’s a bit out of reach. If my office is visible I lose separation of work/home and this can lead to dread/burnout.
  2. Tear down at the end of the day - when it’s quitting time, I make a point to get to a good stopping place, shut my laptop all the way down and close my office door. It’s tempting to plan to “finish some stuff up after dinner and kid’s bedtime” but it’s a dangerous precedent because it can lead to burn out and take away from family time.
  3. Work somewhere else a few times a week - It took me awhile to learn this but to prevent cabin-fever, it’s good to go work somewhere like a coffee shop for a few hours a couple of times a week because it helps me interact with actual people and mix things up a bit.

Discuss on Twitter