Considerations on home office

April 24, 2013 at 5:27 am 5 comments

Ah… home office. The dream of any real programmer.


I was about to say ‘hacker’ but it seems that this substantive has become something that can’t be said in some circles in current ‘social sensitive’ society (but that is a topic of another post).

Can you imagine that: wake up at any time, no need to commute, have your very own office space decorated in any way you want?


I have being working in a home office setup for the last 16 months and realized a couple things that may be interesting to share with my friends and the opensource community overall.

First lesson: it requires discipline. There is no one around to push you to do your job, so unless you are a disciplined lad, probably you may get in trouble. I’ve lead teams of developers in the past, and I can say that not everyone is cut to work in a more relaxed and self managing environment. What is interesting: the majority of people when offered the opportunity to work remotely will be scared of it and will find an excuse to avoid it.

Second lesson: timezone differences are your friend. Last year I was able for 2 months to wake up early in the morning, visit a beach from 6AM to 12PM and then start working. If you have the opportunity of working remotely for a sponsor located in a different timezone, it is beneficial for both sides to explore that. You will be available at the sponsor’s timezone and at same time, it gives you freedom to do things that won’t be possible in a common 9AM to 5PM workday. Tip: since I’m using KDE, I have in my workspace analog clocks displaying the timezones of all involved parties in a project.

Third lesson: have your office. To properly turn on your mind set, have an office (which may be a room in your house) that will be your work place. When you start working, close the door and make clear to everyone that you are busy and not available. And when you are done with your daily journey, simply leave the place and close the door behind you, to help you change the mindset and be able to relax.

Fourth lesson: communication rules. Be in touch with your pals, provide daily updates and try as much is possible to be aware to what is happening in your project. Being thousands of Kms (or should I say miles to the Imperial guys?) away makes your work pretty hard to be noticed by managers and at same time provides unique challenges to be able to feel how a project is going and what the sponsors priorities really are.

Fifth lesson: you will always loose something. The trash talk at the coffee place? Not documented good practices? Some cool pet project developed by a co-worker? You will loose all that working remotely and that is a sad fact that you need to accept. There are also limits to what you can contribute back to your company while working remotely, which leads to the next point.

Sixth lesson: you will achieve the ladder’s end pretty fast. We, humans, are related to primates. Hunters in the past used to depend on facial expressions to properly assess danger and happiness. Even with current’s advances on remote communication, there are limits imposed by our own nature that won’t be overcome by technology. You need to accept that you won’t be able to achieve the top of your company while working remotely.

Seventh lesson: it requires courage and confidence on your skills. Think about it: you probably signed a contract with a foreign company that probably cannot be enforced in your local country and which gives freedom to both parties to end the aforementioned contract at any time. I personally feel that this keeps things straight and honest between both parties (you need to be happy and the sponsor needs to be satisfied with the results), but there are people who may be afraid of such situation.

Well… this is it. If I remember other things I’ve learned on this subject, I will update this post. Do you have thoughts on the subject? Let me know.


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

icecc setup how to

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kjetil Kilhavn  |  April 24, 2013 at 10:30 am

    I only work infrequently from home, but I have discovered a couple of additional benefits: the coffee is better than in most offices and no company that offers a desk to work at supplies me with a monitor that has 2560 resolution!

    Admittedly these monitors are not cheap, but 2560 x 1600 (or 1440) allows me to have side-by-side windows and still seeing as much information as I do in a full-screen window on a normal monitor.

  • 2. Ademar  |  April 24, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    Nice post! My two cents (I’ve been a remote Red Hatter for 1.5y+ now):

    – Invest in ergonomy: buy the best chair, desk, keyboard, monitor and mouse you can afford;
    – Force yourself to get out of home at least once a day (go to the bakery, walk your dog, go play outside with your kids, etc).
    – Have a schedule: resist the temptation of working without a proper breakfast or on your pijamas and avoid extra hours, specially at a time when you should be with your family.

    One of the best advantages of being a remote worker: you can travel and work anywhere. This is priceless: you can extend your “vacation” in a remote destination as long as you have an internet connection and a quiet place to work there. You can even leave a nomads life. 🙂

    BTW, (2) and (7) don’t apply to me: I’m a manager with a fully distributed team (from UTC-5 to UTC+8) and Red Hat hires through local offices, following labor laws.

  • 3. savago  |  April 24, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Kjetil: this is something that always puzzled me. In all companies that I’ve worked in the last 13 years, my home monitors were better than the ones available at office.

    Ademar: I totally agree with you on the ergonomics and the ‘pajamas rule’. I forgot to comment about it on the post, thanks for adding your 2cs.

  • 4. Richard Moore  |  April 24, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Beware that you don’t allow work to take over all your time – I worked for a company in San Francisco from Manchester UK and they started their day as I finished mine. This meant that it was all to easy to end up working their working day too. That’s fine for a while, but a 16 hour working day leads to diminishing returns in the long term.

  • 5. Joel Mandell  |  April 24, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    Home office, programming and part time position – I couldn’t dream about a better thing. I worked with it for 1 month before. I think the only problem for me was the breakfast thing. But I would accept a offer anyday. It made me more productive because lost quite a lot energy on travelling before.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


April 2013
« Nov    

Most Recent Posts

%d bloggers like this: