Last year (2018), I made a decision to leave Brisbane and move to Canada. Fortunately, RedEye (https://www.redeye.co/), the company I work for, was open to letting me work remotely. Remote work is something I’ve experienced before, although it was with smaller teams and generally in the same timezone. So here are some of the things that I’ve learned in the last 4 months about working remotely with a co-located team.
For remote-work to work, there needs to be a massive amount of support from everyone you work with. I have been very lucky in that, everyone at RedEye has been very supportive. Support ranges all the way from a technological standpoint like getting the VPN to work without massive latencies, cameras and microphones for team meetings, all the way to just keeping the communication going. The number of people that has checked up on me to see how I’m going and to make sure that I’ve got everything I need has been amazing.
If you are working from a place that has a co-working space or a remote-work community, I highly recommend joining one. Whilst in Toronto, I was working from a co-working space and it allowed for the sense of community that is missing when you move out of the office. Even if you don’t work out of there full-time, just coming in some days or to some of the events is great. Another option is to join meetup groups that shares your interest.
About a month ago, I’ve started working from home as the town I’m currently in does not have a co-working space. For the first week, I felt like I was more productive as I did not have the usual office distractions. I was finishing things faster than I predicted. But at the same time, at the end of the day I was always feeling really tired and burnt out. I realise that when you are in the office, those little talks in the hallway, the random meetings and discussions, going out for coffee (or hot chocolate) breaks up your day so that your brain takes a break every now and then. When working from home, you do not have this and so your brain is constantly working for the full 8 hours of the day. So I’ve started to make sure that I take some breaks every hour or so and I will talk to my housemates, go for a walk, read a quick chapter of a book, listen to a podcast, or watch part of a TV show. Doing something that has nothing to do with work for about 5–10 mins in those breaks has been great.
Working with a laptop on the desk is not great for your back as I’ve found. So I highly recommend getting something to prop your laptop screen up to the correct eye-level and an external keyboard and mouse too. I started with just a couple random books and/or boxes, but recently I got one of those laptop stands from Amazon.
The reason I wanted to move was to travel a bit more and experience more things that are unavailable in Australia. Working remotely at a different timezone actually allows for this quite massively as I don’t really need to start work until around 3 or 4pm. Of course this means that I don’t finish work until late at night. So its a bit of a balance to achieve. Currently I am working from 1pm-9pm Mondays and Wednesdays and keeping the other days as a 10am-6pm, of course this is flexible in that if I’m required to attend any meetings, it will be shifted as necessary.
Remote work for me has been great so far! Of course its not always perfect and there are always things to improve both from my side and the companies side. The main thing is that everyone is willing to receive honest, sometimes brutal, feedback, willing to change and to try new ways to solve the problem. Would love to hear your thoughts and what else you and your company have done to make remote-work a possibility.