4 min read

Remotely Possible

Remotely Possible
My house is nowhere near this nice, but I love it all the same. All credit to Disney I suppose?

Working from home all the time is probably the best thing that's ever happened to me. Well, the best professional thing anyway.

It's not like I hated working from the office.

It was a perfectly serviceable experience, and I've got some great memories from those times.

I've had fiery debates about direction, back and forth collaborative design sessions, savage competitions against my colleagues in Mario Kart and shared hallucinations during D&D.

But on a day-by-day basis, working from home is better in almost every way.

At least it is for me.

What's The Sitch?

I prefer interacting with people through the veil of technology.

If I get overwhelmed or bored, it's much easier to extricate myself from a remote conversation than it is to do so from a physical one. I suspect there is some element of my personality that finds interacting with people tiring or confronting and having that extra element of control makes me more comfortable.

If I'm in a Zoom meeting or equivalent, I can stop paying attention to the video feeds and focus on the sound, or I can just leave. If I'm chatting with someone there is typically no expectation of real-time communication, so I'm free to think about my responses as much as I want.

I've taught myself to be extroverted over the years, mostly because it's very helpful when you're a manager. Being the quiet person in the corner is less useful when you need to lead, inspire and if necessary, direct.

But I still find it exhausting.

When I'm doing it remotely, I can keep it up for a lot longer than I can when I'm physically co-located with a group of people, and that's not only better for me, but also better for the people who depend on me.

Some people find that it's more difficult to connect with others when the interactions are remote, but I actually find it easier.

Sure, there are all sorts of social cues that are missing or muted in a remote environment, but I'm pretty sure I was terrible at picking up on them anyway, so I don't care.

When I think about it, all of the above probably indicates that I have some sort of developmental disorder and that I sit somewhere on some sort of spectrum.

The best part about remote working is that for the first time in my career, that doesn't matter.

And it feels good.

You Think You're All That

Patterns and habits are important to me.

I'm pretty sure they are the only things that keep me from dissolving into a soft, mewling, lazy blob.

That's hyperbole, but I honestly do think that having good patterns and habits is important to being an effective adult, and when I'm working from home, establishing and maintaining those patterns feels easier.

I'm not sure why though.

After all, working in an office involves a daily commute of some sort, usually aligned to public transport, and if that's not a pattern, I don't know what is. It also typically involves taking breaks at specific times, like lunch. I still break for lunch each day, so it's not like what I'm doing at home is fundamentally different.

Maybe it's the hint of freedom that makes the difference.

These are my patterns and habits.

I choose to get up early in the morning and stretch, exercise, and write before work.

I have the freedom to choose my own schedule. To make my days work for me.

It could also be familiarity and comfort that makes it easier to maintain my patterns and habits.

I don't have to uproot myself every single day. To pass through a strange environment, with a bunch of people I don't know or trust, just to get to a place that I have no control over.

I don't have to wear specific clothes to meet a standard that I don't agree with. To be subject to the random attentions of people whenever they feel like it.

I can focus on doing what I need to do, when I need to do it, and nobody cares about anything beyond that.

And that means a lot to me.

But You're Not

Working from home isn't perfect.

For one thing, it requires a certain amount of discipline, which is a limited resource.

If you don't have somewhere to be at a specific time, it's easy to let things slide. To wake up a little bit later, not take as much care of yourself, stretch those breaks out longer and longer.

Unlike offices, which are built around the concept of work, homes aren't. They are typically built for comfort, family and relaxation, so the threat is insidious.

For me, my adherence to patterns and habits mostly keeps that sort of thing at bay, so I'm lucky. I know it's not as sustainable for others.

There are things I just plain miss about working in an office as well.

Like the the casual social stuff.

I'm not the most social person, but even I feel the loss of those spontaneous shared experiences.

I go out of my way to try and organise opportunities for them to happen in a remote world, but the ability to opt out that I exalted earlier in this post is a real double-edged sword.

And organised things don't have quite the same charm anyway, even though they are still highly enjoyable.

But that's really about it.

And the cost of dealing with both of those things is one that I am more than willing to bear in order to get the benefits that I see.

I Am What I Is

Not only am I happier working from home, I'm pretty sure I'm also more effective.

Sure, I don't get the casual interactions and context gathering that I did when I was physically co-located in the same space as a bunch of other people, but I do get a lot more focus and lot more ability to protect that focus.

It would take a lot for me to work in an office again.

But it's not all about me, and I need to ensure that I'm supporting the people I'm responsible for who need different things than I do.

Who need more contact in order to be happy, fulfilled and effective.

Which is why I've organised a full team get-together for next week, where the entire team will be temporarily relocated to the Atlassian office in Sydney to spend some time getting to know each other in person.

Honestly, I doubt there will be much actual work done, but I'm fine with that.

Connecting to the people that you work with is just as valuable, if not more so.