Considerations on home office
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.
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