When I chat with friends about work they often wonder what it is like to work remotely on a day-to-day basis, so I thought I would give a quick rundown of my typical day.
Setting the Stage
I work on the design team for Fullstack, which employs a full staff of remote workers. We create sites and apps that range from WordPress to Rails and iOS.
At the time, there are 14 members of the team whose titles include Project Manager, Product Manager, Software Developer, Office Manager and Product Designer. I work alongside three other Product Designers from my home in Iowa City, Iowa (soon to be Kansas City!).
How It Goes Down
Once I punch the clock, time flies. Our agile workflow is fast paced and the next thing I know I will have spent 8-plus hours in a chair.
Knowing this, I like to get up a little before 7:00, head downstairs to my desk (without waking everybody up) and put in some ‘Ryan’ time. I typically spend 30-45 minutes either sketching, painting, reading RSS feeds or working on a Dribbble shot. Prior to working here, this little bit of free time would have been consumed commuting downtown and circling the streets for a parking spot.
After this mental cleansing is through, I make my presence known on Skype where we interact through a variety of group chats–one for each project I’m on, a designer chat, an entire Fullstack team chat and other miscellaneous topical workgroups (UX, writing, agile, etc.).
We are not a large team, yet we span the U.S. from coast to coast with people representing three of the four time zones. This means there is occasionally some activity after I sign off in the evening, but nothing that a quick five minute scan can’t absorb.
Getting Down to Business
At that point I turn on my Harvest timer and begin working on my assignments (aka stories) in Pivotal Tracker. This makes up the bulk of my day and its really no different than if I were working in an office. Same tools, same meetings, occasional chats with coworkers… pretty routine stuff less the unwanted office chatter about your favorite style of cottage cheese.
I typically peek upstairs at some point during the morning, spending just enough time to say ‘hi’ to the family and inhale a piece of peanut butter and jelly toast. Then I’m right back at it.
After a few hours of grinding in Coda, Xcode or Photoshop its time to grab a quick bite with the family (homecooking #ftw!). Lunch for me used to be an escape from a dreadful cubicle, taking the long way to lunch and eating too much in order to relieve the environmental stress. Now I get to see my family and eat real food, what a concept!
The afternoon moves quick. I’ll share progress shots with my teammates via Skype, process feedback and push code to our company github account. If I need more info or get stuck, help is only a quick chat or call away.
Feeling like I need a change of pace, I may bounce to a coffee shop or simply stand and work at a taller surface in the house… better yet, if the weather is nice I can grab a seat on the porch!
Between 4:30 and 5:00 I let everybody know I’m signing off, scratch down a few notes, walk upstairs and catch up with the family.
After writing this post, it is even more apparent to me where exactly remote working is paying off. Time spent driving and parking is now spent with my family and on personal projects.
It’s also more apparent to me that there are some aspects I could improve upon. For starters, I should get out of the house (or chair*) more–work in a regular run, poach wireless from a local coffee joint, or attend a Meetup.
From a career perspective, I’m happier than ever largely because I work remotely with a great group of people. Communication is more efficient, I am more productive and my quality of life has improved. How can you argue with that?
My advice: Just say ‘no’ to cubicle life.
* Do you sit all day too? You should stop that–Sitting Down Infographic