Working remotely can work

I spent last year freelancing, but received a great opportunity to work at Joe Public n (now known as Next) on a full-time basis this year.

I worked with them (previously Knnktr) on a few freelance projects last year and I was well aware of their attitude towards work, web design and development, as well as their dealings with clients. Naturally I saw eye-to-eye on the majority of these things, but the most important thing to me was the respect they showed to their existing staff.

No longer were you just an employee number, or a resource. You had a name. A face. And feelings. Feelings which they actually give a damn about. One of which revolves around giving you, the employee, the responsibility to produce great work, regardless of where you are working.

Whilst working with them on a freelance basis last year, I was fortunate enough to be allowed to work in their office space quite regularly, but it was by no means a requirement. This year, as a permanent employee at Next, things are no different.

If anything, they are better. They’ve started using Slack for all internal communications, even allowing clients to join in on the conversation occasionally. As a result, the only emails I get are the occasional notice from HR in Johannesburg and GitHub notifications (which I choose to receive). I also get the odd Bugsnag email, but usually those errors aren’t as a result of my dodgy code.

Other than that, as long as you’re connected to the Internet, somewhere, somehow, you can work.

Why does remote working work for me?

  • I can wake up, make coffee, turn on my laptop and start working. Before I know it, an hour has flown by and I’ve been productive. Really productive. A fresh, well-rested mind first thing in the morning is a powerful thing.
  • No (few) disruptions. I decide when I want to be interrupted. It’s a lot easier saying you’re busy and will chat later if you’re by yourself.
  • Battling to solve a problem? No problem, get up and go outside for some fresh air. Heck, go for a run if you need to (or are that way inclined like I am). There’s no point sitting at your desk staring at the wall whilst trying to solve the same problem in the same way without success. Sometimes you just need to walk away and approach it from a different angle later.
  • Chores. Sure, put on a load of washing, fetch the mail, pop out to do your grocery shopping. No stressing about those things when you get home in the evening and realise you’re out of milk. Or clean socks.

With that being said, I cannot stress the fact enough that “face time” and well-structured meetings with the relevant (read: essential) stakeholders are invaluable. However, it’s not necessary to have to sit and work with your colleagues in the same room to produce great work. As long as you have a common goal, a decent process in terms of workflow and a clear set of tasks to complete, you really can work anywhere.

It is definitely a lot easier if you have some form of relationship and understanding with your colleagues. Reading moods and reactions via instant message isn’t always the easiest if you don’t know who you’re dealing with. So try and get to know who you’re working with while you’re doing your job. It’ll help a lot.