Small Talk Episode 5: How Has Work Flexibility Impacted Your Life
By Pat Schaber
Our Intertech Small Talk series dishes out questions around a current software development topic to a group of our Developers and then hands them the mic to share their opinions, thoughts, or whatever else comes to mind.
This episode’s topic revolves around work flexibility and the ability to work from a home office. Given the weather we saw here in Minnesota this February we thought it would be timely to hear from our team about the impact of being able to work from home as well as some of their favorite office tech.
How has the ability to work from home impacted your life?
Better work life balance. Commute and settling in for the work day typically consume 75 to 90 minutes of my day, sometimes more, when I’m working on site. When telecommuting I can use that time productively for both personal and work related stuff.
Working from home has enabled me to put in more work hours since I’ve avoided snow commutes. Also, it’s enabled me to take less time to address family issues (doctor appointments, eldercare, etc.) It’s had a positive impact.
While I really prefer to have most discussions face to face, being able to work remotely is great when the weather makes for terrible commuting conditions or you need to take care of an errand or appointments close to home or help a family member out in times of illness.
Similar answer to others, less time on commute means more time for other things whether it’s getting more work done or having more time with my kids.
It’s nice to have the flexibility to run errands during the day. When I worked on-site all the time (like I did most of my career), anything I did during the day usually cost me vacation time. So more vacation time is the biggest impact for me.
It’s provided a decent amount of time back in my life that would otherwise have been spent sitting in traffic. For me it’s about an hour and a half I get back every day I get to work from home, and that time really adds up.
It’s my favorite perk for a lot of reasons. Personally, I have a very comfortable and focused work setup at home with peripherals I have invested in over the years to improve screen retail and ergonomics. Being able to cut the commute and just get right to work with my own coffee and my own music without headphones does well to allow me to set the tone of my day right from the start.
It has provided a work-life balance that is unmatched. Being able to not waste time sitting in a car on a snowy commute day makes me more productive. I also feel safer for it.
What tips do you have for those that are trying a work-from-home arrangement for the first time?
Designate a space at home that is “your home work space”. It needs to be comfortable, secure and as free of distraction as possible. I’m lucky enough to have a room with a decent desk and chair, plus a door that I can close when there’s non-work related activity going on around the house.
For those trying to set up an office: upgrade your broadband connection if you can and get the best chair you can afford.
- Make sure you have fast, reliable internet.
- Know how you will communicate with team member.
- If the client has a VPN, set it up and test it remotely before you plan on spending the day working remotely.
- Figure out what resources you will and won’t have access to remotely. Even with VPNs, sometimes you can’t remotely do everything you can do in the office.
- Stay engaged with the client/team members. Even if you are head-down, focusing on a tough problem, don’t go silent and make them wonder too much about what you’re working on.
- Unless remote work is a big part of the corporate culture, use the opportunity sparingly, with frequency on par with the rest of your team.
I’d echo the other comments and add make sure you have a place you can concentrate without being distracted. If you have kids a lock on your office space can be very helpful.
Establish rules with the family before starting like “Don’t talk to me if my headphones are in” — for me that means I’m in a meeting. Also, have a way to keep the kids away during work hours (if possible), I have a gate at the top of the stairs since my kids are still young.
Communication with your team is vital. If you are not pro-active with your communication it can seem like you are committing code from an island. Be sure to have a way for the team to know when you are and are not working, as well as what it is you are actively working on.
Respect the luxury! It’s a privilege, not a right, to be able to work from home, so it is important that you approach your work with the same professionalism and focus that you would provide if your supervisor or client was sitting in the room with you.
I think being able to communicate is the most important bit. Be always on slack, skype, or whatever the IM tool of choice is. To expand on that be ready to move to a *video* chat very quickly to keep the face to face interactions high. I highlight video here because it provides a level of connection that even simple phone calls cannot. I turn on my camera any time I’m remote.
What are a couple of your favorite home office items?
I really appreciate my USB docking station with multiple video and USB ports available. I attach one USB cable to my laptop and I’m ready to go for the day.
And my favorite item right now is my wireless noise-cancelling headphones.
- Nice nearfield speakers (no headphones when I’m at home)
- A dedicated office with a door that can be closed whenever family members are around
My ergonomic chair and powered standing desk totally worth the expense.
I agree that a standing desk is key. Mine at home is automatic and the whole desk goes up and down. My other key piece of equipment is my gamer keyboard. Working at home I tend to punish my keyboard (rubbing the letters off of a cheaper keyboard) so having a quality one was important to me.
A docking station with dual monitors is key for me. It’s a similar setup to a typical office and allows me to immerse myself in the work, without any distractions.
This last Black Friday, I managed to pick up an ultrawide curved monitor that I am absolutely in love with. Between this monitor and my standing desk, my home office setup is very easy on my eyes and allows me to sit or stand as I please throughout the day without having to sacrifice as much time away from development.
My favorite home office item is my very loud and very clacky mechanical keyboard. Something I’d never be able to get away with in an office environment.
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