Working Remotely (Part 1)

Posted on 2018-09-18

As of next week I will be full-time working remotely again, after having worked on-site for almost two years now. This weekend I will be moving from London back to what they call Europe or the continent here in London, specifically Amsterdam. Even though it does play a minor role, this is not directly due to Brexit and more a personal lifestyle choice. As I worked full-time remotely before, two years ago, I have some experience and I want to lay out my ideas and plans to make this a successful endeavour. Part two will be published in a few weeks and give an update on how things are going once I settled in.

How This Came to Happen

As I mentioned above, I am moving for non-work related reasons, but part of me is also looking forward to not having to commute or spending days inside an open-plan office. Over the last couple of months I have transitioned to work usually one day per week from home, so this is definitely a benefit in my book. I also have to thank my current employer, Ostmodern, for being really accommodating in this regard. When I approached them about moving countries, but still wanting to stay with them, they were directly on board. We wrote up a special agreement that states modifies my normal contract and defines the parameters of our new employment relationship.

Difficulties I Expect and Prevention Strategies

When I moved to London to work on-site, I did so not only because it was significantly easier, at least at the time, to find a job on-site rather then remotely, but also because I felt quite disconnected from my colleagues who I only got to meet in person every couple of months. From time to time I would also feel a bit lonely, working all by myself.

To circumvent these issues, we have agreed upon not only daily video conferences, but also for me to come in once a month for two days to spend some time with the rest of the team, have face-to-face meetings and catch ups and just feel more involved. This should also help the rest of the team to not just see me as an entity reachable via Slack or email.

In addition to that, I am actually not moving by myself, but I am taking a good friend and my closest team member with me, so I will have someone physically present most of the time to bounce ideas off.

Another problem I experienced before was having a hard time separating work and private life, which can have negative impacts on both. The solution for these I think is quite simple and obvious, I will rent a coworking space and artificially commute there at least most of the time. This way I can focus on getting work done while there and also leave work behind once I get home. Because I get total freedom in this, I can still work from home if the weather is terrible or I do not feel like going outside, and I get to pick the exact length of commute I want.

Lastly I am foreseeing a new problem I have not faced in this way before, and this is related to the fact that I now lead a small team and own several products, one of them being our core backend platform. This makes me the central entry point for a lot of people from other teams, and I am usually the person invited to meetings where some platform knowledge is required. We decided that I am going to keep both of these responsibilities, but we are going to install an ambassador who is going to be working on-site and will be easier to talk to. This ambassador is a fellow senior backend engineer who I will catch up with regularly to make sure we are both on top of things.

Where to Go from Here

I will be moving this upcoming weekend, as of time of posting, and resume working as soon as possible next week. As mentioned in the beginning, there will be a follow-up post in a couple of weeks, once the dust (and I) has settled, where I will draw some conclusions on the predictions I made above and write about what works and what does not.