I moved from San Mateo, CA to Miami in early 2018, and I've spent much of that time working out of the WeWork South of Fifth. I moved primarily for family reasons and didn't expect to like remote work as much as I do. After nearly 2 years of remote work, I'm convinced that remote work is the best setup for a software engineer. I thought this opinion was common sense, but this Twitter thread brought up some surprising points:
You get offered 2 jobs:— Chris Herd (@chris_herd) November 27, 2019
- same job
- same salary
- same responsibilities
🏢One is office based
🏠The other is remote
Which one do you choose?
Don't You Get Lonely?
As anyone who's commuted to work on a crowded New York City subway can tell you, it is perfectly common to feel lonely even when you're surrounded by people.
One of the biggest benefits of remote work is the ability to choose who you spend your days with. Many employees don't have much choice over who their coworkers are, and in a traditional office setting, the only way to change your coworkers is to get a new job.
On the other hand, changing your office space is much easier. For a while I spent most days working from my dining room table - getting some time to myself was great. Then I felt like I missed office happy hours and social events, so I got a small office at the local WeWork.
Through working at the WeWork, I met a lot of great people that have helped push me to be better. Before moving to Florida, I lived in New York and the Bay Area, two places that are not known for having a strong fitness culture. On the other hand, through going to a coworking space I've made friends with a former bodybuilder and a former record-breaking college wide receiver. Being surrounded by impossibly fit people makes it that much harder to skip leg day.
Remember - remote doesn't necessarily mean you're sitting in your basement wearing a bathrobe from 9 to 5. It means you have the freedom to choose where you work. You can:
- Set up an office in your house
- Work from a coffee shop
- Join a coworking space
- Join a social club
- Go to the local library
- Get space at your local coding bootcamp
- Go to the park
The point is that you can choose your work environment, and switch as your needs change. Major crunch time at work? Find a quiet corner of your house where you won't be distracted. Things are a little slow and you're feeling cooped up? Go to a coffee shop or social club. Is New York City winter getting you down? Move to Florida! The choice is yours, and you can switch regularly without losing your job.
But What About Collaborative Work and Communication?
Maybe this is an unpopular opinion, but unless you're in sales, most productive work is done alone. Unfortunately, there's no such thing as a collective brain. Individuals need to put in the thought and effort to produce work on their own, whether the work is building an app, writing a white paper, balancing the books, or building a financial model. Even pair programming is typically broken up into two roles with distinct responsibilities.
Communicating, and sometimes overcommunicating, is key, don't get me wrong. To work well remotely, you need to be a good writer to get your point across in Slack, and a clear and concise speaker to get your point across in Zoom. Regular meetings are key to ensuring that everyone's work lines up and each team member has an understanding of what the rest of the team is working on.
However, striking the right balance between communicating your work and doing your work is key. And, as a remote worker, you have the privilege and responsibility of finding the right balance for yourself. In an office environment, it is hard to say no to a meeting invitation or when someone taps you on the shoulder to ask you something.
When you work remotely, you have more leeway to batch your communications. Check Slack and email only twice a day like Tim Ferriss? As a remote worker, it is possible. But the responsibility for finding the right balance is yours.
How Do You Stay Motivated?
There is some truth to the old adage that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Going into an office can help you be a more productive employee. If you're spend every day with top-notch hard working people, you'll be more motivated and pick up good habits. Surrounding yourself with people that are successful in a part of your life that you want to improve is one of the oldest self-improvement tricks in the book.
On the other hand, remote work gives you more freedom in choosing which 5 people you're the average of. Suppose you just became a father, and you want to spend more time with people that have kids because you want to be a better parent. If all your coworkers are single 20-somethings, you're severely limited in the amount of time you can spend with fellow parents.
Working remotely doesn't mean you're spending every day hanging out with unmotivated beach bums. Many people at my coworking space run their own successful businesses. There are plenty of remote employees as well, in industries ranging from visa application consulting to tech VCs, and they all work as hard, if not harder, than office employees.
I had my concerns about remote work before trying it. Being lonely, struggling with communication, and lacking motivation are real concerns. As is the fact that remote jobs are still uncommon. However, I feel the benefits outweigh the risks. Being able to choose which work environment is best for you given your current situation is unbelievably valuable for your personal development. If you have the opportunity to work remotely, give it a shot - you'll be surprised how much your life will improve when you have more control over your day-to-day.