Experience from Six Months of Remote Work
Posted on May 29, 2019 • 6 minutes • 1224 words
I’ve been working full time remote for Disney Streaming for the past 6 months. This is my first full time remote position.
While I’ve had lots of experience working in open source and tons of experience with communicating asynchronously doing full time work remotely is different. I wanted to share some things I’ve learned so far.
It’s important to note my life situation is likely different than yours. I’ve been working in technology for >10 years, I’m married, and I have 2 kids (one less than a year old).
I’m more of an extrovert than an introvert and love meeting new people.
It’s very isolating
Even with daily meetings via video calls I still don’t get the human connection I did when going to an office. It’s hard to go out after work hours because I have a family I want to spend time with, and I live far enough away from major tech hubs that I cannot meet friends easily for lunch. On the occasions I have driven to see friends for lunch it adds 3+ hours to my day (1 hour drive both ways and time for lunch).
On the other hand, I get lots of time with my family which is amazing! I love my family! I don’t get the mental stimulation from them that I do from talking with co-workers or friends, but the time spent with them is more rewarding long term.
Here are some other thoughts from the past 6 months.
- Lunch with friends (see above)
- Free snacks/breakfast: This isn’t a big deal and in general I have more options while working from home (I’ve also gained 6lbs). Sometimes it just feels nice to get a free snack, drink, or meal.
- Building events and swag: Disney Animation was very good at having events that celebrated wins. On a regular basis there were all hands gatherings, celebrations, and parties for our movies and to celebrate each others accomplishments. We still do that remotely but it’s not the same as a catered special event.
I don’t miss
- Driving in traffic: My input from podcasts and audiobooks has plummeted in the past 6 months, but it’s worth the trade-off to not sit in mind numbing traffic.
- 3 hours of travel per day: My day was in general longer because of my distance to work. Moving was an option but after years of looking we never found something better than our current situation.
- Not being able to focus: I’ve never been in a truely open office, but any shared space with a lot of people will have distractions. Finding time to focus on work has been much easier being remote.
- Being home when my family needs me: With a new baby this has been especially great.
- Being more involved in my kids lives: I get to see my kids throughout the day instead of just when they wake up and go to sleep. They have learned when to not inturrupt me while I’m working, but summer vacation is soon here and I have a feeling I may need to leave the house more often.
- Flexibility in my schedule: Not only has it been great to be at home (or at least nearby), but occational breaks are easier to accomidate when I don’t need to go to a parking garage and drive somewhere to get something done.
- Turning on DND and being able to focus: This is possible because of a good culture and management style IMO.
- Remote first communication: I don’t have to worry about missing things in the office because the team I’m on is 100% remote. Many of the other teams I communicate with frequently are either remote or spread across multiple office locations so communication is generally remote friendly. However, I’ve also never been to our main office so I have no idea if there’s something I’m missing. I don’t feel like there is though. Compared to my last position where if you were remote you were an outlier there was often decisions remote employees were not involved with.
- Not moving because of my job: I was looking to move closer to my office for >2 years. It was a lot of work and emotially draining. I like my current house and community and now I don’t need to give those things up to save time on a commute.
- Being able to explore my local community: I’ve lived in my house for almost 10 years but never had the chance to visit some of the local businesses becase they were only open hours while I was at work. I have now gone to multiple small businesses in the area and generally fell more connected to my community.
I don’t like
- Not leaving my house: I generally get outside for my kids school drop-off and pick-up. But some days I feel cooped up inside and need to just go for a walk or a long drive (without traffic).
- Eating the same thing frequently: I’m not a great cook and am not very creative in the kitchen. I have a few different go-to options for lunch but I need to figure out a better way to add healthy variety to my diet.
- Starting my day at full speed: Because I’m on the West Coast and our main office is on the East Coast every day when I sign on I feel like I’ve shown up 3 hours late and I need to catch up on lots of context and jump straight into meetings. Occationally, I also need to give a presentation first thing. I’m not a morning person (especially with lack of sleep from a newborn) and this has been hard to adjust to.
- Troubleshooting video conferencing: There’s always problems no matter what the service is. Not every meeting, but I experience network, audio, or video problems at least a few times per week from myself or other people in the meeting.
- Effort to meet new people (work and locally): We use Donut which has been helpful but nothing can replace a human introduction. I suggest you ask your manager to make introductions for you to other people because those connections will likely have more meaning for your work relationships.
- Effort to be recognized by upper management: This is hard even when you’re in the office. I have not found a way to measure my impact or visibility as a remote employee.
- It’s harder to make meaningful connections: I talk to my team on a daily basis, but almost every time I talk to them it’s about work or because I need something. This makes building meaningful relationships much harder than when I was in an office. I also attribute this to a lack of building events and casual lunches.
I hope some of these things can help you understand what it might be like working remote full time. At this point in my life I can’t see myself taking another job that requires me to work in an office full time.
But that’s not to say there aren’t hard things and difficulties.
If you have any insights on how I can make some of these things better or what you have done to make being remote better for yourself I’d love to hear it. I’m available on twitter for any comments or further discussions @rothgar .