Working from home

Home office with guitar I used to have a list of “Things I Will Never Do In My Job” when I was at university. Looking back at the 7 years since I graduated I realise I’ve done almost all of them.

I always vowed I’d never work from home but yet I’ve found myself doing it (pretty much) exclusively for the last 5.5 years. First, the reasons why:

  • It means I can work for companies that are doing things that interest me more than just those in the city I’m currently based in.
  • I get dramatically more work done; I find I’m anywhere between 25-50% more productive working from home than in an office (even with headphones in).
  • My wife and I can decide where we want to live while pretty much ignoring where my employer is based.
  • I can live somewhere with far lower cost-of-living and different culture to e.g. London or the Bay Area where many of the tech jobs that interest me are.
  • I don’t waste time commuting.
  • My puppy can sleep here:

Puppy sleeping on my lap

Now that remote working is becoming more widely available various guides keep popping up about all the things you must ensure you always/never do if you want to work from home successfully. I tend to nod along with about half of each article and strongly disagree with the other half. With that caveat; here are the things I’ve found that help me work from home successfully:

  • Some days you’ll achieve almost nothing. You tried some third-party API out and it’s awful, you realised the approach you have taken won’t scale, etc. Have enough faith in your coworkers/boss that they will believe you and don’t frantically overwork to try and prove you were productive on a day when you weren’t.
  • Remove all snacks from your house so you need to go outside if you want to eat some junk food. This works even better if you live somewhere with bad weather.
  • Get a dedicated room in your house for an office and a good monitor, desk and chair. Do your work there. Feel free to go there when you aren’t working but resist the temptation to sit on your laptop in bed or the sofa doing work.
  • If you aren’t getting work done because you are either not in the right frame of mind or blocked waiting for something: relax properly. Play computer games, your guitar, call a friend, whatever. Make the most of the fact that you aren’t in an office so don’t need to “look like you’re working”.
  • Get some exercise. It’s easy to be extremely lazy so go to the gym/for a run/whatever. Do it regularly. Sit up straight and make sure you have some vaguely sane ergonomic setup before you hurt yourself.
  • Get off your computer and go see your friends. You’re basically getting no social interaction at work so you’ll need to double-up in your free time on making sure you don’t turn too weird.
  • Make use of flexibility. If you’re on your computer and a coworker asks you something late at night you can take some time to help them but then take the same amount of time off the next day.
  • Get some friends on instant messengers (Facebook, Skype, whatever) and chat to them about the random stuff you might chat with your coworkers about. This will also stop you bouncing off the walls.

So, that’s what works for me. You may note the absence of coffee shops and coworking spaces as those things don’t work for me; I get distracted extremely easily and begrudge paying money to sit at a worse desk than I have at home.

I’d really recommend trying working from home for a while if you have the chance; even if you hate it it’ll probably give you some insights into what you need to be productive and happy at work.