I love working remotely. Working for Automattic is especially solid, since our entire company is distributed. There is no office anywhere, although we do have a building in San Francisco for events and visiting Automatticians.
Scott recently tweeted about one of the advantages that working remotely offers:
He’s absolutely right. Over the last two years I’ve shrunk my required inventory to be productive down to a pretty tiny footprint. Check it out:
The combination of having a job that allows me to work anywhere and a personal interest in working everywhere has really helped me to bring my workplace with me where ever I go – I’ve worked from State Parks, libraries, buses, trains, cafes and libraries of all shapes and sizes. As long as I have access to a power outlet every 4 hours or so, I’m pretty much ready to go.
When I say that working remotely allows you to shrink your office, I do mean it in terms of physical necessities – I don’t need office space, or a parking space, or a copy machine. I don’t even need a desk or chair, although if you’d like to become a Supporting Member of the blog, I am in the market for one of these:
Shrinking your office down to one messenger bag worth of stuff is really great; it allows you to move around physically to where you feel most productive, it allows you to move around as your lifestyle demands (I worked from cafes in Syracuse, NY, for the week before Christmas this year so we could visit family around the holidays), and it brings with it the sort of streamlined thinking that comes with less stuff around. No clutter and no desk means you can’t have a cluttered desk, which helps with the cluttered mind piece.
There’s also a mindset that comes with an incredible shrinking office – work is no longer something that I do in a particular place. I remember when I was opening and operating coffee shops, there was a real sense of physical context to each type of work within the job. I’m in a blank cement box, so I’m working on plumbing and drainage and architect’s drawings. I’m in a kitchen, so I’m working on recipe development and inventory management.
Working remotely breaks that cognitive connection between where you are and what you’re doing. I can do a one on one with a team member anywhere. I can break down a hearty .csv anywhere. My work is no longer tied to a physical space, which makes it much more important for me to identify, cultivate, and wall off my mental space – otherwise Work Mind will tend to bleed over into Gym Mind and Reading a Book Mind and, worst of all, Dad Mind.
This is the other, more metaphorical part of the shrinking office – I’ve had to reduce, or at least more sharply define, how I think about The Work. This has especially been true since moving into a leadership role. When Work is one proxy connection away, one tap on my smart phone away, it becomes my responsibility to know when it’s appropriate to work and to not work.
In that way I’ve had to draw sharp lines around my mental office, to keep it in check. When I’m done for the day, I’m done for the day. I am not a surgeon, I’m not a fireman, I can’t think of anything on my plate that can’t wait 48 hours for my attention – if there is some sort of emergency, I’m still connected via Skype, Telegram, and my phone.
For someone like me, with a bit of a motor mind and an entrepreneurial spirit, it takes some effort to box off The Work to certain times, to turn away from the never-done, but it’s important, for me and my health and my family, to shrink that mental office. Working remotely allows for the kind of experimentation and iteration that helps me work best, and be the best version of myself.