Working Remotely and Getting Weird

Boiled down, the Big Idea of this Post is this: working remotely is awesome because it lets you be much weirder than if you were working in an office, and this makes you happier and more productive.

I’ve spoken before about how working remotely means you lack certain social signals in your day – however, working remotely also means that you don’t have to worry so much about what folks around you think of your behavior – since there are likely only folks around you when you choose to have them around, be it in a cafe or a coworking space or whatever.

Something I have come to deeply appreciate in the remote work environment is the opportunity to run experiments on myself and the way that I work, to become happier, more productive, and a bigger impact agent within Automattic.

I don’t think of myself as a particularly anxious person, but I do think that I’d struggle to pull off some of the things I’ve tried in a more traditional office setting.

When I was working with the Terms of Service team, each day was a bit of a roller coaster – you never knew what you’d run into (but lots of golden cucumber derived medications, oddly), but it wasn’t always the sort of thing that weighed lightly on the conscience. I would often take 2-3 breaks during the day to lay quietly on the floor in Shavasana to still my mind and listen to my own breathing.

When I was first working with a live chat team, I tried working a number of different hourly and daily configurations – four long days, three long days and a few hours here and there the other four days, six shorter days, etc.

Working remotely also allows you to see how other activities can impact your day – for a long time I’d take a break in the middle of my day to go to the gym. I eventually found that my day before the gym tended to be less focused, less productive, so now I get to my local Y at 5AM on gym days – that way I’m home before Mango or the Doc wake up, and I usually get some quiet work done in that post-gym, pre-breakfast window.

The best part of working remotely for a company that understands the import of results over butts-in-seats is you’re able to fit your work to your own ebbs and flows, rather than trying to fit yourself into someone else’s understanding of what The Work should be or look like.

My current schedule would absolutely get me in trouble in most traditional workplaces – a lot of the work that I do doesn’t look like work – it looks like going for walks or staring at a whiteboard or reading a book. It also doesn’t look like a regular work schedule – can you imagine pitching this during a job interview?

Well, I’ll put in an hour, maybe 45 minutes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 6AM and 730AM. Tuesdays and Thursdays it’ll be a little more. I break for breakfast and picture books every day for about two hours.

I’ll be around-ish for most of the day until maybe 4:30, 5PM, although I won’t be at my computer or even really available for some unpredictable amounts of time.

I’ll also work on the weekends sometimes, but not always. But sometimes.

It would be a hard sell! But, this setup isn’t random or the result of whim; it’s the result of literally years of experimenting on the way I work, the times I work, when and how I approach each part of my day and each of my responsibilities.

Whether you work remotely or in a more traditional workspace, give some experimentation a try – you never know what might help you make a leap forward 🙂

 

11 thoughts on “Working Remotely and Getting Weird

  1. … working remotely also means that you don’t have to worry so much about what folks around you think of your behavior …

    Yep, you can pick your nose as often as you like without fear that someone will see.

  2. I can completely relate. I work remotely for a large company and need to be available during core business hours, but that doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily at my desk. Taking care of our less than 1 year old son makes the days interesting and having to take random long breaks to get things done around the house. I’m often working early (like 5am) and/or working late (midnight or later) and weekends to get the time in. Thankfully, my boss understand this becaue it would also be a hard sell to find another job with this schedule, or lack ther of. It’s a struggle but having more time with my son is completely worth it.

    1. Being a new dad myself, I hear you! For a while when my daughter was born, I took every Friday off to spend with her, and I’m so glad that I had that time 🙂

  3. I work from home and can completely relate, Routine is key to keeping my insanity, but being self-employed is not the kind of job i would give up lightly. I often have this discussion with lots of other self-employed ladies in the Aspiring Business Women business support group. It’s amazing how quickly time can pass when you are sat at your desk!

    http://www.aspiringbusinesswomen.co.uk

    1. I totally agree – creating a routine is important for me, too, especially in leading a team. Knowing how I can spend each day makes a big difference 🙂

  4. Thanks for sharing these insights! Inspiring. In my current job I work more of a “traditional” M-F 8-4:30 schedule on-site at the company campus, but there have been a few occasions (e.g., during snowstorms) when I’ve been able to work remotely. On these days I’ve found that I’ve been more focused and productive during my “work sprints” even though I was able to take more breaks throughout the day to watch snow, shovel snow, etc., and generally felt more comfortable, healthy, and alive in my environment. The communication aspect was more of an issue, but I know (because you’ve told me!) that modern companies have systems in place to make sure this happens effectively.

    1. I’m obviously biased, right? But I do think remote work is the future 🙂

      One thing I think a lot of companies have trouble with is this: if you have even one remote employee, everyone has to communicate like they’re a remote employee. Otherwise it’ll all fall apart.

      1. Right! And the folks who like to walk over to your desk to insinuate themselves as your new top priority would need figure out a different behavior. Change is hard, but I think your thesis is right on.

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