The Pros and Cons of Working From Home

It’s now been over a year and half since I started working remotely as a senior software engineer for Red Hat. A large portion of Red Hat engineering is remote and the company embraces the setup. It’s certainly my dream gig and I love the work. However, working remotely, full-time, has been simultaneously incredible and difficult. Thoughts:

Pros

  • You get to identify the types of environments that increase your productivity, rather than having a setting forced upon you.  For me, this started out primarily at home.  But, that has transitioned into a combo of a new co-working space (more on that later) and coffee shops.  I’ve learned that my productivity skyrockets when out of the home and in an area with white/background noise.  The point is that you have the ability to choose where to work, driven by your characteristics and the given day.
  • Your schedule is typically flexible.  I’m most productive in the morning and late at night, rather than a normal 8-hour chunk.  Paired with a wife and her odd work schedule (nurse), outdoor hobbies, and restlessness, this has been by far the biggest plus.
  • The amount of b.s. distractions, such as pointless meetings, has been nearly eradicated.  I’m able to spend the majority of my time doing real work.
  • Commuting time is either removed or diminished, the auto wear-and-tear reduced, and the gasoline budget obliterated.
  • At my previous job, I had a lot of health issues come up that were almost all related to stress levels.  Working remotely changed that almost immediately.  I feel healthier, happier, and excited about my vocation.

Cons

  • When I worked primarily from home, I found it was much harder to pull myself away and relax at night.  Not having physical separation between an office and home became a big problem.
  • Although typical distractions are reduced, others are increased.  Obviously, the family, the dog (“You’re home.  Why aren’t you playing with me?”), the TV, etc. become an issue.  I also find that I’m more apt to goof off online at home.
  • Probably the most obnoxious con is the received perception from others.  I frequently hear how I don’t have a “real job”, I “sleep in till noon” (well, that’s sometimes true…), and the only daily decision is whether or not to wear pants.  Some of this is certainly a generational outlook, but I think the understanding is slowly changing.
  • Important parts of communication (facial expressions, cues, etc.) sometimes make discussions difficult over chat or email.  Complex decisions often benefit from an occasional face-to-face meeting.
  • In previous jobs, it was easy to discover new tools and workflows by conversations, co-working, and watching someone over their shoulder (in a good way…).  This is obviously a lot harder remotely.  To maintain the growth pace, you really have to actively look for new utilities and ideas through multiple sources.

The bottom line: the pros heavily outweigh the cons.  In addition, most of the cons can be mitigated by experimenting with environmental factors.  However, it’s definitely not for everyone!

Have any other tips?  I’d love to hear them!

5 Replies to “The Pros and Cons of Working From Home”

  1. I sometimes do better work when I can “screw around” on the internet a little bit, especially when I am at a sort of road block. Obviously this isn’t 100% of the time, but sometimes surfing other things allows my brain to process what I was working on, while stubbornly pushing it to stay focused on that single block would leave me frustrated and without result.

    Related: Trying to do this at the office raises my anxiety levels because I feel like people won’t believe me.

  2. Ryan, definitely a good point. Breaks are important, period, regardless of what that looks like for the individual. For me, getting up and doing something else works better than staying in front of the computer and goofing off for a few.

  3. Hi Brett,
    I initially also enjoyed the “white noise” benefits of working from coffeeshops, but it’s a double edged sword. I’ve realised now that most of its productivity boost is an illusion, e perception bias, or only fit for a specific kind of tasks. I still go as it’s *required* to get out of the house often but I make sure to work at least 4h a day from a quiet room.
    And as you say to communicate appropriately sometimes email/chat do fail dramatically, having for long enjoyed pair programming the asynchronous feedback on stuff that we’re supposed to work on “together” does worry me.. not on a daily basis of course as I’m happy to code in fully focused and relaxed mode for long nights, but I’d really love to “just work” more “together”.. when we do have face to face meetings we usually have too much to discuss to actually have some coding fun.

    1. Thanks Sanne! For me, I seem to get a lot more done out of the house, but that could certainly be an illusion. I’m sure it depends on the day and other contexts.

      We need to add a week to our meetings ;)

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