No alarm clocks, ever. No driving unless I need to haul something. No commutes. I refuse to deal with rush-hour. I truly enjoy naps and long lunches and have no set schedule - sometimes I'm up nights, sometimes days.
I could very well move to a farm-house in the country, but I think I'd lose my mind. I truly enjoy city life, as a personal preference. I used to think I wanted to be a "nomad", but it turns out I really enjoy my sit-stand desk with three monitors, a comfortable chair, and everything just how I like it. I'm far more productive than I ever have been while on the road. Instead, I prefer taking long breaks with my wife to travel without any work-related devices.
I'm not always incredibly healthy when it comes to eating, exercise, and extra-curricular activities, but mentally I generally feel I'm in far better shape than most of my peers who deal with the bustle of a daily on-location occupation. I have the utmost respect for their ability to carry on every day. It's just not for me.
Imagine how open the highways would be if this was how everyone worked/lived.
Clear the highways. Save the planet. Work from home.
Now what would be plausible is if we could get 10-20% of the workforce remote, and thinking about what that looks like. It might mean that at a remote-friendly company, something like 50% of the staff is remote so we need tools to help remote and in-office employees work better together.
It could also mean that parts of traditional organizations get broken into independent services. x.ai and clara labs both are great examples of how part of a traditional assistant's job is handed off to tech, but the same approach could be used to hand work off to remote employees. This would enable companies to hire fewer people for the in-office tasks, but it requires a rethinking of what each role's responsibilities are and might include sharing an assistant amongst a few execs rather than each having their own. These changes could have a big impact, but don't come directly from new technology. Still, I think they are worth considering when we imagine a more remote workforce.
EDIT: Also if you have the skills to work remote (or partial remote) you will never want to go back to the old "must be in the office every day" job again ;)
The main problem here are power distribution and network connectivity.
Mobile data is an unfeasible option as monthly quota would be just too little, and there are some basic requirements in terms of bandwidth and latency (think of video-chatting with colleagues -- for example, during meetings).
What does this even mean? If everyone worked away from the city, there would be no city to drive to. And of course the people in the city, or on the outskirts of the city, don't need to drive—they can take public transit anyway, or bike, or walk, or whatever.
More people living outside the city and driving into it is how the roads get congested, not how they get clear. If they only go into it sometimes rather than all at the same time the roads might be less congested at rush hour, but on the other hand, unless they're all setting up in another, similarly dense city, you're just creating sprawl, and the roads between the little towns and suburbs are probably going to be pretty crowded as people go between them to run errands, meet friends, dine, etc., since by hypothesis everyone's all spread out, and therefore so are all the conveniences, shops, entertainments, etc.
Please do share how you managed all of that—it helps to have insight!
I've been working remotely for that company for coming up on 10 years now. It's a software consulting company, and I'm the only person who works remotely full time... however many of our clients have employees who work remotely, so it generally works out very well.
When working with people at my company, there was an adjustment... at first I would miss out on a lot of office discussions, but it has been a learning process for them too. My colleagues and I have a lot of mutual respect so it didn't take long before they realized they needed to halt a spontaneous conversion for a moment and loop me in on the phone/skype.
I think you go through different adjustment phases, but I've come to realize I need to treat working at home with great discipline to do it long term. This may not apply to everyone, but I need to maintain a routine, although the flexibility is available if/when I need it, but that sometimes comes at a cost of focus and/or productivity for that day (although I think the much greater focus and productivity that is achieved most days more than makes up for any of these off days). So although flexibility is one of the great perks, I'm not someone who can take advantage of that every day. But, when things come up it's great!
I can help out in my kids classrooms, or show up for their midday school events whenever I want... which is an unbelievable luxury. If we want to beat traffic for a long weekend we can leave the day before and just work from the hotel the next day. This is an amazing treat because then when you're done work, you're already at your vacation destination and you can start to relax or enjoy the place.
Just like the author wrote, I never had a problem with it before but now I find it much more distracting to work in an office. Even if my wife is working from home and I can barely hear her across the house, just having someone around is distracting. It's not a major problem that can't be solved by some noise isolating headphones, but it definitely a change I noticed.
Even though I don't spend any time with them, I know of a few nice people on my street who also work from home if I really needed something. I have also met people on meetup.com who are interested in similar hobbies to mine, and regularly get lunch with the ones who live/work near me and it's surprising how many other people work remotely now too.
After cramming 2 decades of work in the next one, I burnt out and worked remotely from a cabin in NC. I was a network engineer so fast net hours from a major city and I was king
And can it stream Netflix?
Never understood this Netflix thing. Guess because I'm not into TV series and the movies I watch are likely not there. But I can stream Youtube just fine. If that helps. ^_^
This sounds like something which would be hard to do with a family.
And believe it or not, even rural places have schools, at least in the US.
If anything, I think this is more appealing to families, because of the available space.
Biggest issues were :
- Nobody sees how much you are invested into your day to day work. They just see bunch of commits / builds and the little gray or green presence indicator on your messenger app. But if you are struggling for 3 days x 10 hours per day to fix a bug, chances are high that nobody will realize this.
- You're constantly alone. Even if nowadays we have great communications tools, the reality is that you'll spend 95% of your time alone in front of a computer in an empty apartment. I am excluding working from coffee shops because of the noise and bad setup (chair/table), this can only work once in a while.
- There is no separation between private and professional life, unless you have an office space and you dedicate yourself to go there on a daily basis (which is at the end equivalent of having an in-house job...). Being in the same place where you live and work makes it very challenging to not think of job in your private time or vice-versa. I also have to be honest and tell you that temptation of using your working time to do private things are much higher when you are at home.
- You need to be everything. In regular companies, you usually have direct manager, human resources, office manager, cleaning personnel, legal department, IT support, etc... When you are alone at home you need to do everything by yourself, organizing/cleaning your space, negotiating your vacations, dealing with your personal issues, etc...
So now, let's analyze the most common issues of working in an office is...
... The time lost in transportation.
Right now in my new office job, I am spending around 1h30 everyday to get ready and to travel back and forward to the office. At first I started to see that at pure waste. But actually this is not that bad. The days weather is good, I am biking to work and also doing sport, days weather is bad, I drive listening to music and relaxing.
With the biggest advantage of not thinking of job as soon as I leave office, I will definitely never go back to remote work!
What you just described is why it’s so important to have daily standups and an assumption that when people on a team finish a story they will pair with somebody who has not. It has to be a standard mode of operation because there are so many people who are too proud to ask for help or think it will make them look bad. Sometimes, you just need another set of eyes.
The perks of pairing are regularly unsticking stuck people, getting another set of eyes on a problem, learning from each others development habits as a side effect of doing your job. People tend to really overthink what is involved in pairing, turning it into some rigidly drilled type of exercise.
All that is needed to get most of the benefits is to fire up a screen share and verbally communicate while the main developer keeps working. Everything else falls into place. Even if it's just for a couple of hours here and there rather than "finish this entire story with this person" it's beneficial.
When people get stuck on something, it can become harder for them to focus. They'll start looking for alternatives like opening HN or Facebook, reading an article, etc. For a lot of people trying to prove themselves, asking for help isn't going to happen until it's too late and that makes it easy for people to work in their own little bubble.
If it's considered an interruption for you to screen share while the person continues to code, you're doing pairing wrong.
If pairing periodically is enough of a burden on you that it would cause you to interview elsewhere, it really seems like you're overthinking the impact.
These are the questions that periodic pairing answers with the lowest possible negative impact to members time.
Now, if you get into an environment that is 100% pairing all the time, or two people at the keyboard taking turns with an egg timer, etc...that can be a huge pain and I'd totally understand not wanting any part of it.
Watching somebody code while you drink a cup of coffee at your desk and offering the occasional "you know, if you do such-n-such it will be a little cleaner" or "I think there's a function that already does what you're writing"...is pretty low-impact.
EDIT: I read through your comment history and see that you were with Pivotal. IIRC they are a pairing all the time shop (I seem to remember seeing a presentation at some point). I can completely understand how that would suck.
I had this issue as well, but managed to solve it by renting an office with a few of my remote working friends. This resulted in best-of-both-worlds: I could still go to the office to work with tech people (and grab coffee, lunch) while noone really cared if I came in. Also the city I was living in was decently small which meant 15 min "commute" with bike if I wished.
> if you are struggling for 3 days x 10 hours per day to fix a bug, chances are high that nobody will realize this
That's on you. You need to seek out help no matter what environment you work in. You should never struggle on something for more than an hour or two. Seek help early instead of wasting time.
> You're constantly alone.
The author described the way they tackled this. You can also join a coworking space or rent a shared office.
> There is no separation between private and professional life, unless you have an office space
Also an advantage of working at a coworking space.
> You need to be everything.
Only at very small companies. In that situation it'd be the same problem if you were working at an office. Larger companies should have a proper management structure and good management of remote workers.
That's typically what can do bad remote managers. Don't ask any question, don't know details but already judged the situation. :-)
Can you expand on this? I do not work remotely right now but as programmers, we're problem solvers. Often times I leave the office after 8 hours but the problem I was solving is still in my head through the night. However, I do not open work stuff over the weekend or in the evening unless there's an emergency. Do you find yourself doing work stuff after your working time or just thinking about it? Also, do you have a work computer and a personal computer, or both in one? Back when I first joined my company was cheap and I used my personal laptop for work, and it made it hard to ignore work stuff when I wasn't in the office.
If I worked remote I'd do that I do now - request a work only laptop.
Answering emails, reviewing docs, project management drudgery at all hours is oppressive.
The asynchronous nature of the medium you think is understood but it is not always at all times.
I had to change my thinking that my inbox is always zero priority. I choose what to focus on. In the evenings I only do email if that is what I want to do.
Not always possible if there is someone elses anxiety to deal with. I was motivated to help because it was a rare human connection that I didn't want to strain. But I eventually learnt expectation setting is a key skill to master.
While I was working from home, just seeing this desk / chair make me think of job. The temptation to look on mails / slack outside of your working hour is also much higher.
That's all very well when you own your mode of transportation. When I was working and decided to work from home, I was limited to a train that ran every hour, taking an hour to get to the destination. Many times I was either in a shoddy train (A cost savings measure by arriva) with nobody, or (more often) I was packed like tuna with a bunch of other people who also used it to go to work. If I missed that train, I would then have to wait another hour, usually in the cold and wet, being totally unproductive. It was an hour's walk to this train station as well, making it irritating when you add on the usual time cost of preparing to Enter The World. To add to this, people from my area tend to talk very loudly. I would often find myself either deafening myself to avoid listening to them, or being completely and utterly distracted and unable to focus for much of the journey (I used to attempt to read).
When I switched to working from home, I no longer had those concerns, which allowed me to dedicate more time to my job. Of course it lacked the usual work/life separation, but there are other ways to enforce that. A shower, or going out for a short walk often works. Putting on a short episode of a favored show is another.
It's interesting to me that you didn't have those! Is that because you were working for small startups? I work for a pretty large company, so I have a manager, HR, a legal team, and IT support. I can't go see the IT folks in person obviously, but they have occasionally mailed me things I need. I talk to my direct manager 1:1 once a week, and he also works remotely. I definitely feel like I'm part of a larger team / company of people who can help me and not like I'm just off working on my own without any support.
I edited the post to add a section about "But if you are struggling for 3 days x 10 hours per day to fix a bug, chances are high that nobody will realize this." (that hasn't been my experience so I wanted to talk about how I approach spending a long time stuck on something)
- Unexpected physical 1-1 with an HR in a meeting room about your problems.
- Cleaning and organization of your working space. Even if this represents only 10 minutes a day this can represent half a day at the end of the month...
- And more generally everything that goes through email / chat / calls tend to take more time than if you just go to see the person and ask.
The fact though is that remote working will work for some people but will completely fail with others.
I'm in this situation, and it really does feel like an in-house job. It's not as "free" as people would think it is, because while I can technically work from anywhere, I have a very comfortable setup at home (multiple screens), and I don't really like to leave it. I still do it from time to time, and it's pretty handy.
One thing everyone talks about when talking about remote work is loneliness, but I think it doesn't always apply. If you have a family and / or volunteer somewhere at least weekly, it's very easy to avoid feeling lonely.
This is possibly the biggest (theoretical) feature for me. I want to be judged in results produced, not work done. In practice, even remote-friendly places seem to want (at least) daily check ins, and a lot of visibility about how people are working, not just what they manage to build.
However, all things being equal, I would much prefer to be in the office 3 days per week (not 5!). For all the advantages of working remotely, the social isolation is extremely unnatural and not good for you. Today, for example, I will chat with my personal trainer at the gym, and have a couple phone calls, and that's it for human interaction on a Monday.
Also, while heads-down coding is probably better in the home office, brainstorming and whiteboarding and collaboratively figuring stuff out is way better in person.
> First, I have 5-6 weekly 1:1s with different people with no agenda
That's a great plan, and I wish it were realistic for my team. We've done things like that but they always fall apart once everyone gets really busy. I'd love to blame the 6 time zones but it's not that.
Funny, when I was younger and worked remote on a couple of startups, the isolation wasn't that big a deal. But I went out almost every night, and one (hopefully) outgrows that.
Anyway, good article, and I hope the author continues making the best of a good but tricky way of working!
I seem to thrive with a certain level of interaction. Companies I've contracted for remotely have been great but it has been extremely isolating. Where I felt like I had a good handle on the overall direction of things when I worked in an office, moving this 100% to slack and google docs has left me often feeling more like a cog on one piece than a part of the overall project.
Are you truly isolated?
At work: no 1:1/group chat or video conference? We are on chat all day and dive into video or a phone call for brainstorming. I don't have that sense of isolation. Heck, some days I feel like I've wasted too much time interacting with work mates on chat.
Off work: I understand you can't hang out with your buds every night of the week but it would be an odd day if I did not talk to at least one of my friends on the phone or Telegram or play a video game together. Kids change things and they are less available to "do stuff" but we still talk almost daily. Weekends are still there to get together or an occasional after-work dinner.
Have you tried seeking out some clubs of a hobby of yours? Sports, board games, maker/hacker spaces, volunteering?
My vacations which I look forward to are still the ones where I turn off all communication and seek isolation where its just me and the wife out in nature away from other humans.
Certainly by Friday evening I need to be outside and chatting to people. I've recently discovered a couple of friends are working from thome, so considering trying to spend a day working from their home and perhaps vice versa. Keeps the convenience of avoiding the commute into London but gets a little social time and some other people to bounce ideas off.
Hardest challenge for me was staying in shape, because I lacked self-discipline to workout and eat healthy, but funny enough work didn't suffer and it was the most productive period in my life.
It gets extremely easy to start slacking (no pun intended) and not do your work out. You tell yourself "oh let me just push this feature, fix this bug or communicate about a new feature". Work gets prioritized and everything else is put aside. That actually damages your productivity in the long run and the chance of burning out is far bigger than if you dedicate time to do other things.
Took me a while to recognize the trap I was in - I felt obligated (no peer pressure, but just the fear of missing out) to always be online, answer emails or slack messages. Of course, my mental and physical health suffered due to this FOMO.
Since I have about six months before I get back to the office I promised myself to tackle these things by doing:
- Fix morning routine by working out, cooking and taking time to do other things (read, play video games, hobby)
- Snoozing notifications at 6pm my time.
- Learning to say "It will have to wait 'till tomorrow".
- Spend more time outside of my apartment at night.
- Dedicate more time to my SO.
- Learn Elixir/Erlang during the weekends.
At year three I started waking at 6am to fit in 2-3 hours of personal improvement time, primarily working out and reading. Unless it's an emergency, I'm not doing anyone else's stuff within those 2-3 hours. I also go to sleep around 10, which takes some getting used to.
Today I'm the most physically and mentally healthy that I've ever been. I actually live close to NYC but the train / ferry commute would take those critical two hours away. Going to keep my current system in place as long as I can.
I'm currently working from home, and it seems to work even better at home than it did full time with an office commute, and I clock out more or less whenever I feel like it (which is less often than I would've guessed).
I've spent the last year at home, and these last two weeks have been literally an integer factor more productive and enjoyable. I've enjoyed it so much that I currently work somewhat on weekends as well, by choice.
Do you not feel the urge to always be online when you're working from home? Once I clock out I can't keep myself from checking emails/slack etc.
It can get to be a serious problem, but my solution is to just close the stuff while I'm working, and set time aside to check it when I get up to refill my beverage and relieve myself. If somebody really needs to reach me, then they can call my phone.
Update: In addition to that, for the moment I have the luxury of doing exactly what I want, and selecting who will employ me for it, so that could be affecting this considerably. I think the holy grail would be learning to convince myself to enjoy my work even if some day it's untangling some ridiculous JSP cobweb instead of porting compilers.
But generally just tune out from work and make sure you are disconnected.
How do you expect that will be fixed by spending more time in the morning and at the end of the day commuting to work?
Getting up early is an amazing feeling, but I learned that by tiring myself for a week, eventually your body will go to bed earlier and you'll wake up earlier. Do it for two weeks and you should be able to become an early riser.
5:30ish - wake up, bathroom etc
5:45ish - Have breakfast. Want to eat slower so I allocate 30 minutes.
6:15ish - 7:00 - read/cook lunch and dinner.
7:00am - head out to the gym
9:00am - back from the gym
9:30ish shower, eat, check email
10 - start working or an hour long nap depending on how I feel.
My experience working remotely for 10 of the last 13 years is that it suits me very well and leaves me feeling _differently_ than when I worked in an office.
I don't know if I can say I'm happier, but I'm generally more satisfied. I work MUCH harder and I work MANY more hours. Both of these are sort of my choice, but my behavior is driven by my goals to succeed with whatever project I am on or have defined. Thus, I don't know if I'm overall happier; but I feel less like I am just wasting my life compared to when I burned hours in an office at a much lower productivity.
Another difference (for me) is that the kind of projects I work on and the clients I work for give me a greater chance of financial success at this point in life compared to a more typical job. It may not be a greater pay-per-hour result when you factor in the hours I work, but I have much more opportunity to be part of a winning ($$$) outcome than I did in the corporate world.
And finally, one of my favorite perks is that I can work from anywhere in the world. It's not always easy to work for a month from a Caribbean island while squeezing in scuba certifications, but it makes life a lot more interesting than walking into the same building every day.
I doubt I'll ever walk into an office again for anything more than a week or two at a time. Finances aside, that gives me the feeling that I have _won_ the rat race.
I think the key things for me are
- Love your work, motivation then comes for free
- Communicate a lot, as the article says. Personally I'm a fan of written communication, as I find that is frequently more impactful. Easier to share, and so on.
- 1to1s are also great
- Have someone in office you can talk bullshit with over text chat. That helps a lot with the isolation and staying on top of office gossip.
- Being remote naturally encourages a more independent working style. Being forced to solve problems myself and actually think has been great for me. Not being in office provides the calm and quiet to do exactly that!
- A lot depends on your manager. Mine is trusting and accomodating, and I very much appreciate it.
- Finally, having a good internal network in the company is important. Putting in the travels to get some face time is important, as written communication gets a lot better after having met.
reality is, if your team is 80-90% not remote, forget about career advancement. People who show up have two things, a) they want to advance their careers so will use proximity to their advantage and b) don't understand why they can't be working remotely.
Plus of course processes and culture aren't going to be tailored to remote folks.
The only time I've ever been able to make this work was when the manager was also remote.
That's quite a sweeping statement - and doesn't resonate with me at all. I fit that statistic, but I work in a company that has a mature process for career advancement and that also has multiple sites scattered across the world. I cannot claim that remote work has held me back career-wise. That is, I'm still quite early in my career, maybe the wall comes later.
It has, however, likely steered my career away from management (and thus towards the technical track), which I'll happily admit does not bother me in the slightest :)
Are you talking from personal experience, or guessing? I strongly suspect a lot of this depends heavily on how the talent review process works in the company this takes place in. A gifted engineer will likely get recognized anyways, but an average engineer will need the review process to look beyond face value.
I have no problems connecting with people on Lync (or more recently HipChat). Interactions are via phone, email, Confluence and Jira.
I get to have a home-cooked lunch with my wife every day. I save all the time I'd spend commuting and dealing with interruptions. No money spent on gas. No getting sick from people coming in and spreading germs (something of an epidemic right now at my office).
I'm pretty sure at some point I'll be forced to give this up, but man, it's been a fantastic ride so far.
...make sure that you get enough personal interaction (the hardest and most important depending just how "remote" you are), and make sure that you appreciate the lifestyle perk that it is, and be happy.
As much as I love it, it's really not for everyone... I've seen some people be allowed to go remote, move away from the office, not be able to deal with the remoteness and quit. It happens.
Slack is your best friend but if you chat for more than a minute straight about something technical call your collegue otherwise you will lose your time.
Written language is not spoken language. Sometimes misunderstandings can arise.
Do separate your work environment from your daily life. If your house is small, like mine, light off your computer during lunch otherwise you will find yourself reading some docs, checking some code, etc.
Video conferences are not phone calls. When my team need to stay focused everybody have appear.in open in the background.
Always dress like you will dress if working in your office.
I used to work in a coworking space of 250 people, and I loved it. If I'm being honest it's not great for productivity, but socially it was amazing. It was also a really good way to meet people and make new friends, which was important because I moved to a new city and didn't know anyone.
I couldn't handle spending over 20 hours a day in the same building either, I'd get cabin fever. Even spending a whole weekend at home drives me crazy, I have to get out of the house.
I could totally do remote working in a coworking space, or the digital nomad thing, but not working from home. I also think that remote working works best if the whole company is remote. You can't have some people remote and some people on location, because you get an "us and them" mentality. It also makes communication difficult, an on-location team member might tell everyone in the office something, but forget to put it in Slack, as an example.
At the end of the day though, different things work for different people.
While sometime I will go back to remote work (and return to Sedona), for now I find it much better to be in an office. My advice would be to not do the same thing for too long without moving on to something different.
I've worked with people from all over the world across many different time zones. Email, Google Hangouts / Skype, IRC and Slack are all what I use on a regular basis to communicate with clients and it works out well.
I offset working alone from my place of residence by going outside a bunch of times per day for exercise and talking with people around the neighborhood. I also try to goto local tech meetups when I can.
Overall I would say I feel happy and generally feel like I'm making the best use of my time. I don't think I would trade this life style in for anything (within reason :D).
On the free plan there's a one hour cap to meetings, which is ideal as nobody wants to be in a meeting longer than an hour.
I regularly use Hangouts, Slack calls and Zoom and I totally agree. Especially quality of Slack calls is awful. Just earlier today we had a call, where audio was delayed ~2s while video was perfectly fine.
And Zooms grid view is so nice. I wonder why their competitors don't offer the same functionality.
The 1h cap is no issue. Great time to have a 5min break before starting again.
Every person i talk to who sets it up the first time always struggles to click the "audio by computer" button and i have to spend the first 2-3min explaining how to get their mic working. But it saves the setting after that. Only ever an issue once per person.
The main critique I have is their push to monetize as of late has been clumsily executed in my experience of the product. The expanded "pro" features have shifted around without enough heads up. The chatroom ownership system is not at all clear in how it interacts with paid accounts. We abandoned a few rooms used widely in our org until we figured out whose random account we had used to own a room earlier (from a prior push by Appear for room ownership) and got ownership transferred to a paid account.
I'd recommend looking at the Logitech BCC950 (about $200) or one of the Jabra Speak table conference mics (about $100 but you also need a camera). Polycom IP phones and desk conference devices are also worth looking at, but they get very expensive.
We got some high end blue tooth speakers that are crap (but cost upward of 4.000€ for 4 pieces). I just asked Google for these things and found them to be Sennheiser TeamConnect Wireless. At least connecting to them with a MBPro when you also want to use AppleTV wireless just isn't a solution.
Never hat so much hassle with setting up conferencing. Give me a good landline for voice and a camera/Tv setup for image.
My experience with them is that they are not that great - you need to be wary of being close to them and speaking in their direction or they'll have trouble picking up your voice.
Screen sharing is a bit unstable, but conferencing is rock-solid. It's connected to our phone system so people can call in and out .
I also highly recommend the Owl 360 degree video camera/speaker: https://www.owllabs.com/
As a remote employee, the Owl makes it much easier to be a part of a discussion around a table where most of the meeting participants are in a room at HQ, and a few of us are remote. (I know some of the employees, so I'm biased, but I like to think I would love the Owl even if I didn't know some of the team.)
We use both in the company I work for and it is a pain in the ass to use. and the image quality isn't really that great.
But both are at least usable.
More important is imho that people know how to use the tools. Give people room to interrupt/ask questions. Make breaks in between your thought units a little bit longer. Because you won't have non-visual signals that someone wants to ask a question. And on the other hand: Give people the chance to bring their thoughts to an end. Don't interrupt premature.
Be more considerate and kind. Go out of your way to compensate for the non-visual signals of communications, that regularly help a lot in f2f situations.
We decided to try old school - we hosted our own Mumble and while maybe not nice UI/UX, it works perfectly for 20+ people. Also I recommend as well having good headphones (with integrated mic) to avoid potential echo (jitsi echo can be annoying without headphones).
> Before we get into the struggles of working remote, [...]
but then never gets around to describe those struggles. I wonder what they are.
The author's name is in large type at the top of the page.
* someone refers to me as "he"
* someone else corrects them to "she"
* an extended argument ensues about whether "he" is a gender neutral pronoun, whether "they" is a gender neutral pronoun, whether it matters if you refer to a woman as "he" or not, whether the original author cares whether they're referred to as "he" or "she", and on and on and on :)
From my perspective (since I've seen this argument so many times) this argument is very repetitive and doesn't add a lot of value to the HN comments -- I think it would be much better if people just accepted being corrected with "it's she" and then go back to discussing the actual contents of the article in an interesting way (in this case, a lot of people are sharing their experiences with working remotely and it's been really interesting to see what everyone's different experiences are!)
so if you care about this topic I would humbly suggest that you don't comment further about pronouns and instead maybe share your experiences with working remotely! =)
Nice article anyway, I appreciate you sharing your experience, since you address most concerns people might have when taking the jump of working remotely. Take care!
There might be answers in there if not in this article.
I try to stay with the gender neutral "they". Especially if it just isn't of any relevance for the topic/discussion at hand.
I'm sleepy and commented from memory without having the article in front of me, hence the use of "I believe."
Apologies for the mistake.
She. Or they, which I recommend when the subject's gender is irrelevant even if you know of it.
The English pronoun they is an epicene (gender-neutral) third-person pronoun that can refer to plural antecedents of any gender and, under certain circumstances, to a singular antecedent that refers to a person.
1. used to refer to a man, boy, or male animal previously mentioned or easily identified.
2. used to refer to a person or animal of unspecified sex
3. any person
"They" is more modern, if a little awkward in some cases, but the english language is fluid and thus "he", alongside "they", remains perfectly acceptable for those who wish to use it in that capacity. The message was able to be conveyed, which is the only requirement of the english language.
> "They" may be more modern, if a little awkward in some cases, but the english language is fluid and thus "he", alongside "they", remains a perfectly acceptable for those who wish to use it in that capacity.
Well. I am not sure of your sources for your statements (1 to 3). But would love to read them, as this is a topic of great interest to me. Especially as they go against everything I did learn during my time studying the history of languages (German and English).
I know of language fluidity and I know of a time around the 14th century where "he" was in some contexts used in a more gender neutral way (and even that is debated nowadays). And even then the neutral "they" (singular and plural) was also in use in cases that were clearly gender neutral.
So looking back into the development and the history of the English language I cannot find (or recollect) indicators for your way of reading "he" as being totally fine and acceptable and really gender neutral (and not just a sign of a more patriarchal society).
Talking about fluidity of language. At least in the last some years there has been a development of "he" being incivil and assuming and therefore should probably not be used in a gender neutral way. Also that other alternatives would be more civil and unassuming regarding others taking part in our conversations.
> The message was able to be conveyed, which is the only requirement of the english language.
Well technically speaking that is true. But aren't there always human beings part of every conversation? And imho our wetware isn't a purely logic parser for information. We are flawed and our flaws should be considered when trying to communicate. Esp. if we try to get an idea across and not wanting to "hurt"/alienate others.
We have different "ways" we process information. The purely informational part of a message is but one of them. Ignoring the others might just hinder our arguments/ideas from getting the recognition they deserve.
One model of communication for example:
Removed unnecessary quote markers.
The dictionary, as provided by Google in this case. Although you are likely to find similar definitions in any dictionary. The usage, even if falling out of fashion, is still common enough to be recorded.
> Well technically speaking that is true. But aren't there always human beings part of every conversation? And imho our wetware isn't a purely logic parser for information.
Which is fine. The original comment provided enough information to indicate that this person was referring to the original article, which reveals that the author is female. Even if you accidentally parsed "he" as referring to the male gender at first, the context surrounding the comment would quickly clarify that misunderstanding and highlight that the comment was written in a gender-neutral form. That "wetware" you refer to makes humans particularly great at forming these connections between disjointed sets of information.
I don't see why it isn't just as likely for someone, like the person who corrected the use of "he," to decide from context simply that the poster was mistaken about the person's gender, and to treat it like they'd treat any factual mistake. Language is about conveying messages to people, and part of the message that was received was that ratsimihah believed the author to be a man. Grammatically acceptable or not, using "he" as a gender-neutral pronoun here introduced confusion.
The person who corrected the original commenter seems to recognized that "he" was being used in a gender-neutral way, even offering the use of "they" in its place, most likely as gender-neutral "he" is offensive to some.
However, english does not concern itself with what is or is not offensive. That is entirely up to the user to decide.
> Grammatically acceptable or not, using "he" as a gender-neutral pronoun here introduced confusion.
That gender-neutral "they" was suggested as a suitable replacement here, I don't think that is the case. The fact that we can find another word that unambiguously removes gender from the subject means that gender is irrelevant to the comment in question entirely, leaving no room for confusion with respect to what the message is about, no matter what pronoun is used.
Their first suggestion was to use the correct gender-specific pronoun, and then they said that alternately a gender-neutral one could have been used. I don't think it was understood as gender-neutral.
> The fact that we can find another word that unambiguously removes gender from the subject means that gender is irrelevant to the comment in question entirely
Sure, but if it's read as gender-specific then it's still a factual mistake. Would you be so defensive about someone correcting a wrong, but not critically important, date?
Of course it was, as specifically noted in said corrective comment. Your comment could either use the author's actual gender or not involve gender at all./
> The gender correction seems to be more about pedantry than confusion.
No, the gender correction was about getting the author's gender wrong.
To be clear, I was not the one who originally used gender-neutral "he" over "she".
> No, the gender correction was about getting the author's gender wrong.
Due to overzealous pedantry, or a misunderstanding of what "he" means in english? Understandably not everyone comes here with english as their first language, so I can appreciate that the word may be not fully understood by some.
Some people might consider it pedantic to insist to someone who was confused by a choice of wording, and offered a less potentially confusing alternative, that actually it's fine because it's technically correct, regardless of how people understand it when they read it.
> Would you be so defensive about someone correcting a wrong, but not critically important, date?
First of all, the usage of "he" is not technically wrong.
I do not know if there is a great date analogy here, but perhaps "tomorrow" carries enough ambiguity across timezones that we can work with it. If I say tomorrow is Tuesday, but you are in a timezone where tomorrow is Wednesday, then you're fine to say that tomorrow is Wednesday, and I'll chime in to say that tomorrow is also technically Tuesday. To continue to argue that the original comment shouldn't have used "tomorrow" as it is too ambiguous to understand is fine, but given that you say it is not critically important, I'm not sure what there is to gain?
If, by "tomorrow", I mean Tuesday and you think I'm talking about Wednesday, does it really matter when it is just a passing fact and not something particularly relevant to the overall message?
No, the person who corrected the original comment (that would be me) assumed the comment's writer (that would be you) had gotten TFA's gender wrong.
Hence 1. providing the author's correct gender, and 2. noting that gender-agnostic comments avoid this sort of issues when gender isn't specifically required for understanding.
> most likely as gender-neutral "he" is offensive to some.
No, because "he" isn't any more gender-neutral than "she" and may be a mistake of the commenter with respect to the author's gender. Following which you decided to blow a gasket.
> That gender-neutral "they" was suggested as a suitable replacement here, I don't think that is the case.
You think wrong.
The singular "they" dates back to at least middle english and Chaucer, its proscription is the recent event (~18th century) and went mostly ignored by informal speakers: https://books.google.be/books?id=Lijcg3vt9yAC&pg=PA93&redir_...
Not in english.
The fact that you were able to successfully recognize that the person who used 'He' was specifically referring to Julia Evans without having to question that person means that the message was conveyed quite succinctly and the subject was perfectly understood, which is correct from the perspective of the english language.
Either "they" or "the author" is a much better choice today.
As, in fact, they have. "They" was the gender-neutral singular pronoun in English for a long, long time. The idea of "he" as the "neutral" pronoun was forced onto the language only within the last couple of centuries. And now "they" can be, and is being, forced back.
Exactly. English is fluid and you can correctly use any word you want, as long as the message is accurately conveyed. And in this case it provably was, as the person I replied to specifically recognized that the original commenter was referring to Julia Evans when using he. So what is the issue here?
Attempting to retrofit a "well it's OK to use it gender-neutral" explanation onto that doesn't work. And trying to enforce a gender-neutral "he" is hopefully going to stop working in the near future.
Although, for what it is worth, even if this person is a man, I see no harm in using "she" as well. It's just plain not pertinent information to get the proper gender here. The message that it is referring to the original author would still be conveyed, and that is the only thing that really matters. English really doesn't care about anything else.
Also I am unaware of any culture in which "Julia" is in common usage as a masculine personal name. Being a modern Romance-language version of a Latin-derived name, the "a" ending gives it away quite plainly ("Julio" would be the masculine, or "Julius" in the original).
However, it is very common to use "he" in a gender neutral way. So common, in fact, that the modern dictionary includes gender neutral definitions for the word. If we cannot make assumptions about the usage of common words defined by the dictionary, how can we begin to do the same for names of people? Julia, even if always assigned to females, may simply be a name given at birth that does not represent this person's current gender.
Overall the experience has been life-changing in a positive way, and I would highly recommend people try this arrangement at least once in their careers to see if the tradeoffs give them an advantage.
Here are some benefits, in no particular order:
- I have the flexibility to rearrange my days so I never have to take time off work for things like shopping, errands, appointments, visits, meetings, and even events I want to attend during the day
- Because I can choose when I work, I am able to capture my most creative and productive times during the day for work, and spend my downtime doing chores or things that require little creativity
- By changing my surroundings according to my mood, I can 'hack' my productivity to a small extent (going to a lively environment when I feel unmotivated, isolating myself when I need to focus and block out interruptions, etc)
- I don't have a set wake up time, nor a set bed time. If I need to work late one day and it works to my advantage to stay up later rather than break, I can 'push' my next day back
And here are some downsides, in no particular order:
- You can go a little stir-crazy working from home too much, the onus is on your to get out of the house and surround yourself with other people to stay social
- Sometimes you will find yourself pushing life out of the way to make room for work because of the same flexibility that lets you push work out of the way for life sometimes. Not having set hours is a blessing and a curse at times, but overall beneficial
- It can be hard to gauge how you stack up to others if you're not seeing other people doing the same kind of work as you are. Some people are self-starters and compete against themselves for continual improvement, but if you lack in this area it can be a struggle to not stagnate and get too comfy in your role
For me, the benefits have far outweighed the downsides, and I can't imagine ever going back to the 9–5, butt-in-chair-all-day kind of work arrangement. I feel that by working remotely I am doing my best work ever, and I have the freedom and flexibility to improve myself too!
I'm not sure there's much valuable advice however, as the way you should set up your process seems pretty obvious once you really decide that including remote workers is a high priority.
I work for a company of close to 3000 that has maybe a dozen remote workers. Most of which are sales people, a few workers that work on site all over the country and then me, a developer/analyst.
As a general rule, the company allows occasional remote work for select teams (mostly just IT), but as a whole, it's against remote work. I am the only developer (or IT for that matter) that is full remote.
Working for a company that is NOT a remote friendly company is an absolute challenge. Here are a few of the additional challenges you deal with above and beyond the normal remote work.
- missed conversations. they happen way more in an office that doesn't have remote workers
- no advancement possibilities. I'm already sr. so I don't care)
- jealousy issues. not a real problem aside from I can't tell people I am working in another state for the winter
- you are an inconvenience to everyone. every meeting requires the phone or remote desktop just for you
- all processes have to take into account 1 remote worker
- missed team events, although I attend most of them since I only live 1.5 hours away (most of the year)
- VPN... if there are issues, I am the first to know
- expectation of 8-5 m-f. Although I actually prefer it because routine is good and sets defined work/life time
Ultimately, if you are not sure if you would like to be a remote worker, I wouldn't recommend it at a company that isn't at least 50% remote (or at least the team you would be on).
I worked mostly remotely for one Bank - mostly because I arranged to have 2 desks and then slowly moved home and worked from the different offices. I love face to face sometimes and remote (full concentration) other times.
Again I find that a lot of people can't handle it. Like a basic rule should be that you should respond within 1-30 min to any chat message.
I generally live by your basic rule. I actually respond better than the majority of the people in the office.
There are two types of people i have noticed that are challenged the most with working remote. Those that need lots of social interaction and those with smaller kids at home. One simply hates the isolation and the other is usually too distracted.
The positive is that I am entirely focused on GSD. I'm not sure about everywhere, but the place I was in-house at was fairly sparse and focused as well. I dread the thought of ever working at a place with pool tables or other distractions.
Working remotely puts a lot of trust in my work. They trust that I'm doing what I say I'm doing when I track hours. I've never had an issue disputing hours, so that's not a negative.
Working remotely pegs you as one of the smart ones. Apparently I earned the right to work remotely? I don't know, it's just work to me, but I also do a lot of short-term contracts, so the image is probably different.
This leads to the big downside. Out of sight, out of mind, out of personally caring. This somewhat goes both ways, but it's difficult to make text friends. Humans are simply wired for face-to-face, and I don't think Skype really replaces that.
This causes some problems with impedance. If I ask a question, I would need an answer right away because that's likely a blocking issue. If everyone else is on lunch, in a meeting, and so on, it leaves me hanging.
A positive is seeing a whole lot of codebases. It really helps you understand where you and everyone else is in the pecking order. It also brings up a lot of issues surrounding the meaning of good -vs- bad code, experts programmers, and so on. Exposure has shown me that these concepts are murky at best.
A negative is that some companies try to pay lower, selling remote work as a benefit. It isn't. I often have to split my day and work odd hours to keep myself on the same page as everyone else, nullifying whatever inconvenience I gain from not going to and from a local company.
But, really, it all comes down the company that you are working with. It is obvious when they haven't worked with outside developers, so I think it's a lot more about the company than the actual ability to work remotely.
Remote work is just work, and I don't think that, outside of direct human interaction and speed of communication, there is a significant difference between in-house and remote. Either way, code is written and shipped.
Wow, five meetings a week not even counting project or departmental recurring status meetings or random crop up ones? That would totally annihilate any hope of the uninterrupted 3+ hour stretch it takes to do any real work.
here are the strategies I use to keep my calendar under control:
- try to cluster meetings together (have a 1.5 hour meeting block so I only get interrupted once)
- block off 4-hour chunks of “focus time” in my calendar. People are good at respecting that.
- add an “end of day” block on my calendar at 5:30pm EST every day. This means that people know not to schedule things with me after I’m done for the day. Sometimes it’s unavoidable because 5:30 EST is 2:30 in the home office, but people always ask if it’s okay to schedule something after my end of day.
> on the remote teams I’ve been on, the the whole team has adopted a working style where all important team communication happens over Slack / video calls / email.
In other words, you're thinking of the wrong context, which is impressive since the entire article explains that different context. The part you quote is in response to:
> How do you have idle/watercooler discussions?
We are already talking about a situation without chats at the watercooler. And when she says 1:1, she refers to her earlier explanation:
> One pattern that has been incredibly valuable [to learn from my colleagues remotely] is – meet with $person (on my team) 1:1 every week for months/years and get advice from them about whatever I’m currently working on. One important thing to me in this kind of relationship is that the person be continuously invested/engaged in my work – it’s way more useful to get advice from someone who’s familiar with everything I’ve been doing for the last year than from someone just swooping in with their thoughts.
While she explains this in the context of learning from colleagues, it is also a coping mechanism for staying in the loop despite not having normal meetings.
Also, maybe it's me, but a 1:1 meeting is usually one where "real work" gets done. Ignoring that, she clearly has more than enough time for long, uninterrupted stretches of work.
But ultimately, it’s just another way of working, and the basic unpleasantness of working in corporate America/tech industry remains. Don’t get me wrong, I relish the ability to do my laundry when nothing is going on. But it’s not really that different, and the things that bum me out about working are mostly not to do with office space, though I do lament the move to open offices.
These days I work with a person who was working remote for around 5 years or so. He now works with us full time. There are somethings you forget and forgive me for saying this, you also gain a lot of bad habits. The worse among them being ability to work with a team and collaborate. You also lose out on learning from technical discussions, practices going on in the industry, colleagues who share things. And most important of all ambition that comes from peer pressure. You sort of lose out on so many things that it will hard to start working with a team again.
Sure if you are at the top of your game, you can drive things on your terms. But please rethink your stance. Also, its quite hard for long term remote workers to start working with teams. Many bad habits crawl to the workplace. Most important of them being dysfunctional communication, sometimes its as simple as committing code and writing documentation.
Remote workers can be bad cultural fits for almost any culture. Simply due to the fact that they are exposed to none.