Working Remotely -- Week One

One Week Down

I've finished my first week as a so-called remote worker. Thankfully, it hasn't felt as much like exile as I had feared. But there's definitely been a period of adjustment compared to my previous location.

Here's a bit of what I've learned so far:

Introductions Can Be Tough

Any time I am in a new situation, I typically go out of my way to meet and introduce myself to others. It's definitely a challenge and my natural inclination is to hole-up alone and get coding.

I thought it'd be nice to bring in some doughnuts on my first day and e-mail the department to stop by (probably about 30-50 people).

What I didn't anticipate was that this particular location had no distribution list (see: easy way to e-mail everyone at once). How was I going to get rid of two-dozen doughnuts if no one knew to stop over?!

A silly picture under a box of doughnuts is your foot in the door to many introductions

I ended up making a paper sign with the silly picture above and putting the doughnuts on a chair. It worked well as an ice-breaker and I've gotten to know many more people from the experience. It has really helped make the office feel less isolating.

Harder, More Concentrated Work

The other thing I've noticed is that I am working significantly harder with longer periods between interruptions than I did previously.

People in this office are very quiet and largely keep to their cubes during the day. This is quite different from the developer environment I was in before. There, developers would hold meetings in each other's cubes, rally co-workers to head to the cafe at regular intervals, and more. Those aren't bad practices, just different.

However, I find myself working for 2-3 hours straight through, which is really helping me feel more productive than I have in a very long time.

Feel the Brain-Drain

With an insanely quiet workspace and hours of uninterrupted time I am much more productive. But at the end of the day my brain is completely empty.

I've started to look into the Pomodoro Technique as a solution to this. My hope is that it affords me consistent periods for my brain to cool off and for me to collect my thoughts.

Another alternative is to start making use of the on-site gym as a decidedly non-mental mid-day task. I find that stepping back from tough programming problems helps me to attack it from different angles upon my return, often yielding better results. Taking a lunchtime trip to the gym may give me enough distance from my mental tasks (and a welcome endorphin boost) that I'm less likely to be completely burned out by day's end.

The Workplace is What you Make of It

I have to say, this is the best-equipped office I have ever worked in. It's got natural light (a first for me in any workplace aside from Jimmy John's). I have a large work area, great hardware to develop on. I have the tools I need to keep in touch with my team (webcam, headset, Lync phone, etc.).

There's other benefits like an on-site gym, cafe, and free coffee. Of course, the best benefit is being only a few minutes from my family (the original impetus for my move in the first place).

Yet, I can see how this isn't what really makes a workplace for me. It's still feeling connected to my company and feeling like I'm an essential part of what I do here. Luckily, I think the worst of my fear has dispelled and I can concentrate on my current projects rather than just re-integrating into my work space.