Many of my friends wonder how can I work from home, stay productive and do not go crazy with constantly staying at home. I’d like to shed light on remote work from an employee’s point of view.

Disclaimer

Everything described here is just a personal experience and my point of view. By the remote employee I mean not a freelancer, but a full-time contractor who works remotely for some company.

There are three concerns that people have about remove work:

  1. How to work efficiently without looking aside?
  2. How to establish workplace and avoid interruption of work by other people?
  3. How not to become crazy being the same building for the whole day?

How to stay focused?

There is a big difference between on-site and remote work. In case of remote work NOTHING prevents an employee from spending working hours on the personal stuff. “Well, if I skive they even will not find it out”. It is the first evidence of hilarious fail in the nearest future. I’d say epic fail. Let’s try to figure out why. First of all one should know answers to two questions:

  1. Why do people become remote workers?
  2. Why do employer choose remote workers and what they expect?

It is not difficult, is it? Answer for the first question almost always includes three things: money, flexible schedule and mobility. So here are your benefits:

  • contractors always earn more than folks on-site
  • on remote positions it is possible to have a (relatively) flexible schedule. We’ll get back to it later.
  • while being a remote worker one is free to choose any place to work. Though some places are better than others.

It’s very important to understand priorities. It’s not a coincidence that I’ve enumerated benefits exactly in this order. Reality is that flexible schedule and mobility are just side effects which sometimes can be sacrificed. Many people think that remote work means you can stay at the sea shore and perform you work while drinking delicious cocktails. Folks, you should always remember that work is work. You definitely can work on the seashore. It doesn’t depend where are you — in the flat in some small town or somewhere on the beaches of Thailand — work should be done.

Trying to foolish someone will never give any benefits and can bring to disrepute. Now it’s time to determine why companies sometimes prefer remote employees. Answer is somewhat different: expertise, reducing expenses and mobility.

What benefits does company expect to get from a remote worker:

  • expertise — obviously remote worker should be skilled and experienced to be more attractive than on-site workers(“why should I hire remote worker that is a source of additional risks and worse than my on-site workers”)
  • reducing expenses — contractors usually receive more money but are not eligible for any benefits as insurance, health care, massages and cookies from the kitchen

Clearly expectations are bit different. Well, the first one is essential. You should be the best or be able to become the best. So prepare to work like mad on self-development constantly. Earning more money by the employee and reducing expenses by the employer are synonyms if we are talking about remote working. Each cookie that employer will be able not to put on the kitchen can potentially be used to increase a compensation of the contractor. So it is complete win-win situation.

Obviously, there are no companies that do want inefficient workers that can make harm to their businesses. A remote employee itself is a big risk and it’s rather difficult to manage a remote team. So if person is not capable they won’t stay too long. On the other hand IT and Internet are like a big, but friendly city, where citizens know or at least heard about each other. Thus, reputation is the most valuable and fragile thing professional has and skiving is a path to nowhere. Everyone who is working remotely should always remember about it. Another tightly connected problem is an explaining other people they can’t disturb you at the workplace even if it is at home.

How to explain other people you are working?

After weeks of euphoria, almost everyone starts noticing that people around (spouse, relatives or friends) do not understand the remote working. It’s so difficult to explain them that if someone is at home it doesn’t mean they are not working. Everyone tries to ask for “small help” in housework or invite you to go somewhere, etc. Programming requires some time to get into so called “flow” state when person is completely concentrated on some task and can keep in their mind all details of the problem that is being solved. To achieve a flow state 10-15 minutes usually needed and only few seconds of interruption will cause loose of this state.

Here are ways that can protect from being interrupted during working:

  • explain to surrounding that you are not available. No one can disturb you unless the problem can’t be postponed to the end of the working day. Though I don’t have children yet, I know it is virtually impossible to explain to little children that father/mother is busy. Friends solve this problem by renting office.
  • limit access to a working area
  • turn off the sound of the phone
  • combine all methods from above

While these methods can seem rude at the first look, the only thing they can help people understand and respect your work. Another thing people around should understand is that working from home reduces the time on the road between work and home.

How not to become crazy?

There are lots of comics and memes about remote workers. It is funny, but almost all of them contain a bit of truth. Remote work is not for everyone. If one like communicate with people while working, play ping-pong, PS3 or discuss political problems with co-workers on the kitchen they should know there is nothing close to it in a remote work. Almost all communication with co-workers is in written form or via audio calls. So possible problems:

  • lack of communication
  • staying in the same place for the whole day

Both problems can be solved. First of all you should remember that communication can happen not only at work. By the way, discussing something besides the work can be useful both for personal development and relaxing. Meet new people, take part in conferences, gather with friends. Also, it is possible to work almost from anywhere. If you feel bored at home, just go and find some cozy cafe, hackerspace or co-working center and spend some money to variegate your working days. Besides it, new places are good for meeting new people.

What are your sworn enemies?

You should watch out of these(really insidious):

  • laziness
  • workaholism
  • social networks
  • cookies and sweets

How to use your benefits?

Well, it is time to demonstrate some benefits of the remote work. Here are some use-cases:

  • it is possible to work in the early morning and take a break in the middle of the day. Spending some time on the fresh air when sun is shining is awesome. Believe me — I tried.
  • it is possible to “shift” your schedule in both directions and choose to finish earlier or to use morning for personal needs. E.g. I visit the gym in the morning or the late evening when it is not crowded
  • remote worker can change your workplace. From time to time(e.g. once a month or two), I visit other cities to see something new
  • now you have up to two hours of free time which you spent in your car or public transport.

Conclusion

Working as a remote employee is both fun and difficult. It requires more concentration, efforts and responsibility. It also brings lots of opportunities both for employee and employer. Feel free to ask any questions and I’ll try to answer them.