A remote day at work

posted by Jeff | Friday, April 8, 2016, 3:00 PM | comments: 0

At last weekend's Orlando Code Camp, we (as in, my employer) had a table in the common area set up to talk to people. One person asked what it was like to work remote, and the best I could describe is that it's "different." I think generally that there are more pros than cons, and as an employer, you aren't limited by geography to have the best people. Silly "command and control" environments are obsolete, and if anything, you are judged more fairly because you have nothing to show for your work other than the results. You don't get points for showing up if there isn't a place you're showing up. An entire book was written about why it's awesome.

But the question seemed to be more about how you work. I suppose it's different for everyone, but my routine goes something like this:

  • 7:30 a.m., roll into the home office, handle email, prepare for whatever is in store for the day.
  • 9 a.m., at some point during the hour, most of my projects have had our daily stand-up meeting. That's where each person on the team says what they did yesterday, what they will do today, and if they have impediments. This usually takes less than 10 minutes, and follow-up conversations happen after if necessary.
  • 10 a.m. - noon, somewhere in that window I typically shower if I didn't when I got up.
  • Lunch: Time and duration varies based on meetings. If I stay home to eat, most of the time I don't take a very long break, maybe 15 minutes. If things are slower, I may stream a show for background (The Daily Show is typical). If time permits, I'll go out for lunch, and it's not uncommon for Diana to come along. We've even gone into Walt Disney World a few times for lunch!
  • Afternoons tend to have the highest density of work, but they aren't without meetings.
  • I usually intend to wrap up by 5 p.m., but sometimes I don't realize what time it is and I go longer.

The weirdest thing about this is that it's not unusual to do actual work for more than 9 hours in a day, but it's also easier to fit in things like haircuts, a Christmas concert at school, or said Epcot for lunch. Since the job requires billing clients, I can see that total time, billable or otherwise, tends to average between 40 and 42 hours a week. All things considered, that works out consistently. Projects have budgets, so you can't usually arbitrarily work extra just because. I've put in longer weeks, but I don't think that has happened more than two or three times in two years.

My year working remote at Humana was pretty similar to this routine. The point of contrast is that I don't spend time in the car commuting. I'm not racing out of a building at 4:30 or getting in at the crack of dawn to avoid traffic. That time instead is spent working or having the flexibility to do life stuff. It's pretty fantastic.

We happen to have an Orlando office, so those of us who are Orlando based do try to come in Tuesdays and Thursdays. It varies, as I'll skip out when there are long meetings (in my case, sprint review and planning) or if I really need a little extra time out of the day. But it's a nice arrangement because I get to hang out with people and talk about work and be social. On those days, I tend to get there by 8:15 (beating traffic, mostly), and then leave in the afternoon whenever I'm at a logical stopping point. Then I finish at home until 5-something. I still tend to get a solid 8 hours of work done, no problem.

Can everyone work this way? I'm not sure. I don't think so. I find it very easy, and the collaboration tools and phones and screen sharing all make it work pretty well most of the time. It feels more efficient to me. I love "coming home" instantly and seeing my darling wife and child. Professionally, it's great to work with great people, all over the country.


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