The first thing to say about telecommuting is that it isn’t for everyone – and the second thing to say is that I absolutely love it! I wasn’t expressly looking for a remote position, and there are definite downsides, but I find it really suits me nicely. Strangely I’m a really sociable person most of the time, and I go a bit crazy if I spend too long on my own, but working on my own is a revelation.
With excellent timing, we finished turning one of the smaller bedrooms into an office just a few days before I started looking for a new job. It has lots of storage, more network and electricity than I know what to do with, and a nice view of my (completely overgrown) garden. It also has a door that shuts and a futon for visitors to sit on. I acquired the large desk out of the study bedroom I had as a teenager, and have a fabulous office chair to sit on.
The thing about working remotely is that it can be quite isolating. For quite a while now I’ve had more interaction with online friends than coworkers – and even when communicating with co-workers I have usually used IM. So to be physically elsewhere actually makes little difference except I don’t have to hear their music played too loud over headphones or someone typing really loudly. I like to interact with people and found it quite easy to get to know my new colleagues, although it took time to meet them all in real life. It is often difficult to ask for help, but I’m very good at it (ask any of my usual questioning targets) and I find everyone very sympathetic and helpful even when my problem is actually that I’m having a “blonde moment”. In a real office, I’d probably ask the person next to me to cast their eye over my code and spot the problem – and its actually not that tricky to do it with a physical divide. I use IRC, Skype, twitter and pastebin to interact with various people – coworkers and other techies.
I’m contracted to work a normal working week, and although I have flexi-time, so far I’m dodging the bullet of losing too many hours to working when work and home are the same place. Part of that is that I’m a morning person anyway, and I work for a Dutch company so I usually log in early my time and join in their morning greetings. I also have a social life which is adapted around working a 9-5 office job – so I’m out most evenings. Add into the mix a partner that does work those regular office hours most of the time and needs his dinner at the same time every day, and you can understand how I find it possible to work regular hours and still play hard as well. There are plenty of distractions around the home, chores to do and games to play, but I’m trying to stay in my regular pattern of working in the daytime and saving everything else for evenings and weekends. Being at home though does mean that lunchtimes can include a nap or a swift round of mario kart, and if I put my washing on the line I can go and rescue it if it rains!
I’ve skated over the downsides, the days where you don’t know what you’re doing and the person you’re trying to get hold of isn’t answering emails or phone calls. Or the days when things are going really wrong and its hard to know what other people are doing and who you might interrupt for help. All in all though, its all good, probably helped by having a job that is stimulating, and colleagues that are friendly. Having discussed this with a few different people, I am of the opinion that not everyone would experience this the same way have. But for now, life is good.