WORKING REMOTE WILL BE COOL, RIGHT?
Seven months after joining DeveloperTown as a Developer my wife and I decided to move to Iowa so that she may pursue a really excellent job opportunity. Thankfully, DT happily allowed me to work remotely. At first remote life was grand; working in the comfort of my sweet new flat and easy access to the fridge.
However, two and a half months after leaving Indianapolis, the thrill of living life anew wore off, and a growing sense of isolation crept in. I’d assumed that Google Hangouts would always keep me connected to my team. Yet there was an undeniable sense of removal, and I felt as though relationships with my coworkers were beginning to diminish.
WAIT, ARE ALL REMOTE WORKERS DEALING WITH THIS?
Curious to know how this compares to others’ experience, I did some research, and turns out I’m not alone. In a 2014 poll of 11,383 workers across 24 countries, 62% of respondents said that they found telecommuting socially isolating, and 50% feared that telecommuting could harm their chances of promotion. Egad. Don’t get me wrong. I love what I do, and there’s no company I’d rather be part of. And while it’s terrific avoiding commutes and shared bathrooms, knowing what it’s like to be part of DT’s culture, and to then move away from it, is challenging.
Introspection yielded several root causes of these sentiments on my part.
- There’s no more cross pollination in the hallway or “about Town” run-ins. These little interactions during the day create camaraderie across the company, and I was missing out.
- It’s harder to be engaged in meetings. Often it is difficult to hear, especially if there are side conversations. The technology available today is helpful, but it’s not perfect yet.
- DeveloperTown employees love their tiny house offices. It’s a staple of the internal company culture. So, paradoxically, I feel homeless despite working from home.
- Lastly, direct feedback is a bit harder to come by. When you’re in person you can easily steal five minutes of someone’s time, but remotely, you’re always trying to get on your coworkers booked-up calendars.
Ultimately, I was confronted with the necessity of learning how to avoid these mental pitfalls and perceived deficiencies to keep myself from falling into despondency.
HOW DO I MAKE THIS BETTER?
I decided to really think about the issues I was having, and do my best to fix them. DeveloperTown is a place that’s worth the extra effort to me, and I wanted to make sure I did everything I could to avoid pitfalls.
Here’s what I did:
- Get In Sync. My life is an now hour behind the rest of the people I interact with. I find that starting at the same time as my co-workers is very helpful. It keeps me in sync with my team and prevents me from feeling late to work. It’s an easy adaptation...and I don’t mind lunch at 11.
- Have Face to Face Conversations. The most important component to remote life is my camera. It is my prime conduit into DeveloperTown. For co-workers on the other end, my appearance is my presence. I found that the ability to simply turn off the camera gave me a unique and unfortunate means to disengage from the rest of my team and almost literally just “phone it in”. No one else can become invisible in the middle of a meeting, why should I? More importantly, disabling my camera is like wearing a mask, thus creating the same barrier and sense of disconnect that I lamented.
- Wear Pants. I have resolved to maintain the same “I will wear pants to work” mentality that the on site employees must abide by. It’s important to feel professional during meetings, even if you are working out of your home.
- Make It Easy. I never wanted to become a burden on my team, so it’s important to take the time up-front to work together to get an easy set up. The DT crew went above and beyond in the office to fashion a mic/overhead-lighting apparatus for their area. That way, it’s easy for the team to talk to me whenever they need to. This makes an exponentially better situation for everyone involved.
- Reach Out. I feel it is essential to initiate contact with my co-workers more readily and more often. Simply tuning in for a meeting will not suffice for work-culture participation. I can’t get the full experience, but I can at least be part of the ongoing conversation of how we work, improve and innovate.
WEAR PANTS. IN HOUSE EMPLOYEES DO, YOU SHOULD TOO. IT'S IMPORTANT TO REMAIN PROFESSIONAL, EVEN WHEN AT HOME.
Working remote and staying engaged is challenging. Luckily, with a little effort and a great team to support you, remote-life can be just as rich and fulfilling as tiny-house-in-warehouse-life.