My thoughts on remote working

I am an advocate for remote working flexibility in companies where it makes sense. I think there are huge benefits for both employers and employees when it comes down to offering this style of working. Here is why I think that this is the case:

Quality of life improvements

Remote workers get more free time in a typical working day where they work from home. No commute to worry about means that they can spend more time with family in the morning before work, or the evening after work.

Alternatively, they get more personal time to do things that they would like to do, but couldn’t really do if they were otherwise commuting.

I personally spend time early in the morning or in the evenings after work sharing it between family time and personal time. For example here are some of the activities I like to use the extra time for:

  • Helping with kids breakfast time
  • School readiness / transport
  • Meditation
  • Spend 30 minutes working on personal projects
  • Go to the gym or go for a quick run

Employers benefit from the positive effects that remote working has on employees

In my experience and opinion, remote workers that don’t have to deal with the monotonous cycle of commuting every day to their jobs tend to approach their work with extra enthusiasm and drive.

Employers benefit from more efficient and energetic employees.

In my case I personally don’t mind throwing in an extra hour or two of work on top of my usual hours when I work remotely. A typical commute for me in and out of work would take around 3 to 4 hours.

If I find myself making good headway on a project and want to continue the momentum I’ve picked up during the day to get good work done, I’ll gladly spend extra time after hours to do so. I count the time spent less commuting as credit toward extra overtime.

Balancing remote work on-site work

Of course too much one thing can have its drawbacks. My personal preference is a bias of more remote work in a typical work week than on-site work.

I think having 1 or 2 days or work on-site during a work week is plenty to balance things out.

There are definite benefits to seeing colleagues in person and having those face to face conversations. Pairing work is also good to get done in person.

When I’m on-site, I will make extra effort to:

  • Catch up with colleagues in the mornings
  • Grab a coffee or two with colleagues for personal or work related conversations at random break intervals during the day, or between meetings
  • Go out for lunch with team members
  • See if there is work we can pair on – e.g. pair programming or problem solving

In addition to the above, I also try to plan my on-site work days to coincide with days where there are meetings scheduled. For example, sprint planning or retrospective meetings.

In summary

I think there are some clear benefits to working remotely. These mainly come in the form of the positive effects on employee lives being passed on to their work and outlook on their work.

My workspace and hardware zen

Everyone has their own relax or zen area where they like to spend time getting away from reality and de-stressing. One of mine just happens to be the same place where I get a lot of work done – my main gaming platform and home office area! Since we moved into our new flat, I found that there wasn’t much space to set up my PC. Last weekend I whipped out the old jigsaw and sliced a couple of inches off the side of my PC desk in order to get it to fit into this corner.

I then decided to neaten up and organise everything a bit to enhance my working conditions when I do work from home. I made a “ghetto” iPhone dock out of the packaging the phone came in, using the plastic dish the phone is cradled in. I cut out a small area at the bottom for the iPhone connector to fit in, then routed the cabling into the box itself, which sits diagonally in the lid of the box, flipped upside down. The cable then comes out the back and plugs in to the power socket behind my desk. This keeps the cabling nice and neat and I just plonk the phone down into the dock when I get home for a charge. I don’t need a USB connection to the PC as I have SSH enabled via a jailbreak – I therefore use Wifi access and WinSCP or SCP from Putty to transfer files between PC and phone.

Behind this is my touch sensitive desk lamp, in front of the dock is my work IP phone which connects up to our VOIP server. Then we have my main PC which consists of the following: Asus P45 P5Q motherboard, E8400 3.0GHz Core2Duo CPU overclocked to 3.6GHz in Summer and 4.0GHz in Winter. 4GB OCZ DDR800 RAM running at DDR1000 speeds and an ATI HD 4870 graphics card which has a custom flashed bios which overvolts the GPU and applies a generous overclock. I used to have a nice quiet watercooling loop in the PC, but sold it recently and went back to air cooling. I plan on doing another Watercooling build soon and will hopefully post the process and worklog here when I do. The other peripherals consist of a Dell 24″ LCD (1920×1200), G15 Keyboard and Logitech MX518 mouse.

I use this PC for just about everything – all my PC gaming, Web browsing, a little bit of programming and Virtualisation (On top of Windows 7 Professional it is running VMWare Server 2.0) with a variety of guest VMs that I use for testing and practising various Windows and Linux server technologies.

Other hardware I have lying around is an old Dell Poweredge 2U server which I run VMWare ESX 3.5 and a Dell Optiplex machine running uBuntu 8.04, with VMWare Server 2.0 for linux and a guest VM operating system running on top of that which runs uBuntu Server 9.04 and this very website.

Anyway here are a few photos of my nice clean new workspace.