Remote transition

09 Mar 2016

Just on 10 months ago I joined Envato as a Site Reliability Engineer and took the plunge into full time remote work. While I’m far from having it all worked out, I’ve managed to stumble across some useful information along the way that I think is worth sharing.

What I love

Spending time with my wife and family

Prior to working remotely my commute was on a train for three hours a day. Yes, 3 hours a day. Crazy right? During this time I used to work on open source projects or tidy up loose ends for the day but it was no substitute for the time I wasn’t spending with my wife and family. Simple things like going out for dinner was a pain because even if I managed to leave the office on time at 5pm, run to the train station and get the 5:10 train, I still wouldn’t be at the dinner location before 7pm. These days, I’m able to knock off work around 5 and still leave plenty of time to do what I need to and make it to dinner reservations.

Freedom of working where you feel like

I hate office cubicles. I especially hate office cubicles that have the horrid grey coloured material on them. I’m not sure where or when I developed these feelings but working in a cubicle has always made me feel restricted and enclosed. Having the freedom to work from a space of my choice has allowed me to adjust my environment based on the type of work I’m doing. Got some heavy duty thinking stuff to do? Alright, let’s head to the office and shut the door. Oh, now you want to do something creative? Let’s take a step outside onto the patio or take a skate to the nearest coffee shop for a few hours.

Taking care of errands

In November last year, I got married and during the planning stage there were multiple times I had to run out to sign paperwork or collect an item on very short notice which just wouldn’t have been possible if I was still commuting everyday. These days, it’s handy to be able to do things like pick up a parcel from the post office without needing to wait until the weekend.

Space to think about a problem

Working in Site Reliability you have alot of “WTF?” moments so it helps being able to take a step back from the problem and look it from a different angle. In an office space this isn’t always possible and I’ve found huge benefits in just being able to step out for a few moments just to clear you mind before heading back to tackle the problem.

Not so good aspects

You miss out on (some) company gatherings.

Envato are really good when it comes to organising get togethers and they don’t care where you are based - if you want to go, they’ll make sure there is a spot reserved for you. Unfortunately for me it’s not always possible to jump on a plane for a few hours to enjoy a night at the Aquarium with my work colleagues.

“Switching off” is hard.

I realllllllyy enjoy what I do. I know it sounds stupidly cliche but I love the work I do around performance, security and reliability at Envato. I enjoy being able to work a problem where the end goal is that someone can do their job better because of changes or decisions you make. The downside to this is that I’ve sometimes found it hard to stop working at the end of the day and go do other things. Lucky enough though, I have a wife who knows what time I usually finish and she makes sure we go and do something so that I’m forced to disconnect for a while. :)

Tips for those looking at going full time remote

If you’re going to take away anything from this, take these points.

  • Find yourself an ‘office’ space. The kitchen table doesn’t always work.
  • Ensure that you have a way to mark the end of your work day. Try exercising, taking your dog for a walk or skating to the local park. Switching off allows your mind to recharge at the end of your busy day instead of continue spinning into your time.
  • Buy good gear. Just like a mechanic will buy good set of spanners, you too need to buy good gear to get your job done. Sometimes this comes in the form of a $1000 chair, other times it can be a new router. If you’re serious about remote work you need to invest in the right tools. I’ve seen alot of people start cheap and never update and it comes back to bite them in the long run.

If you’ve got some remote work tips, hit me up @jacobbednarz. I’d love to hear what has worked and hasn’t worked for you!