Working From Home: Eighteen Months

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It’s been a little over a year and a half since I left the daily grind of a commute and began working from my home office. It’s been an amazing year filled with challenges, adventures, struggles and blessings. I’m like most developers: I relished the idea of having a quiet place to work, of getting more done, and of getting back 2 hours a day that I previously spent on commuting to and from my job.

I’ve learned a lot in my year of working from home. There have been some great moments, and some low ones. Overall it was a great move. So what is working from home really like?

Work is work, regardless of where you are.
I believe most developers see working from home as a panacea of freedom from the daily grind. They imagine having more time, less stress, greater freedom and less feelings of exhaustion at the end of the day. This is not the case. Work is work, and it doesn’t much matter where you are.

The hardest part of working from home is realizing this fact. Working from home isn’t any easier than working in an office; it simply has different challenges. The goal of going to work is to get work done. It’s critical to head into the home office with that attitude every single day.

Getting dressed does a lot for your mood and motivation.
“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” ~ Mark Twain

While this quote is sarcastic, it’s also true. Getting dressed makes a huge difference in one’s mindset. We don’t need to wear a suit and tie or even what we’d normally wear to the office at home, but sitting around in underwear does little for the motivation. Getting dressed makes us feel as though the day has begun and is a powerful psychological tool for actually being successful.

Changing the scenery helps prevent ruts.

Ruts can happen wherever you are, and wherever you work, even in an office environment. Getting stuck still happens. The challenge for the remotie is two-fold: first, they have to get “unstuck” without having someone to sit next to them (most of the time) and two, they have to stay motivated. The good news is that there’s a few things a remotie can do to improve their situation.

A change of scenery is both easy and effective for helping prevent a rut. Stuck on something? Go to Panera, Starbucks, a co-working space, a new town, a conference, the office (if you’re near one), the airport, the park, wherever you can get a spark of inspiration. I’m lucky enough that my boss works within 40 miles of me, and can get together to co-work from time to time. This greatly improves my inspiration, as does our occasional trips to New York for various events.

I’ve found that a change of scenery for a couple of days is the best way to reinvigorate oneself, and it’s easier as a remotie than it ever was as an office worker.

Working from home can be isolating, if you let it.

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” ― Mother Teresa

It stands to reason that most of the friends we make come from the groups we interact with daily. Friendship requires frequent, unscheduled interaction with others. But when we no longer work in an office, it’s easy to become isolated from those who are our friends. Most of us who have left jobs have the experience of saying goodbye to friends, with every intention of retaining the relationship, yet it doesn’t happen. This can be a problem for remoties.

Shortly after starting my working from home I began participating in aviation. My regular interactions with flight instructors, other pilots, and folks at the airport offered me a great opportunity to meet with people and establish friendships outside school. Church offers a similar opportunity, for different reasons. Remoties must work harder at relationships, but it’s well worth it to prevent isolation and loneliness.

The challenge of working from home will cause you to grow.

In my recent performance review, my boss noted that I have gotten much better at getting “unstuck”. She remarked that this shows growth as an engineer. Working from home has a lot to do with this: I must get unstuck, because failing to get unstuck can be disastrous. Working from home has caused me to grow in this area.

No matter how skilled you are as a professional, you will grow as you change jobs, and as you change venues. Working from home presents unique challenges in motivation, focus and determination that cannot be emulated in any other environment. It’s been a tremendous experience learning how to work from home effectively, be a part of a remote team, and I would really hesitate to go back to working in an office ever again.

Brandon Savage is the author of Mastering Object Oriented PHP and Practical Design Patterns in PHP

Posted on 8/13/2012 at 8:07 pm
Categories: Employment, Software Development
Tags: , , , ,

Khayrattee Wasseem (@7php) wrote at 8/14/2012 2:05 pm:

Thanks for sharing you experience Brandon! It’s a good read!
About the isolation, may be the other ‘alternative’ to mingle and find more friends could be even a better one! ;)

itoctopus wrote at 8/16/2012 5:44 am:

From my experience working from home as a developer, it’s very important to:

– Wake up very early in the morning and start working non-stop
– Ending your day around 3 PM – 4 PM and then getting out immediately (jogging, shopping, watching a movie, etc…) Loneliness can be terrible

Thanks for sharing!

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