Remote Work – The New Wild West

Don’t be alarmed by the title of this article as this is not another blog post bashing remote work. The title is the feeling that I have had, lately, as I have been discussing with colleagues that I will be working from home.

I’ve had the opportunity to share with co-workers, colleagues, and friends about the opportunity that lies ahead and how I’ll be joining a team of distributed designers and developers. As I start talking about what I’ll be doing and my new career, the support seems high and the congrats flow freely. Then there is the point where I mention that I’ll be working from home. This is the point in the conversation where the weird looks happen, confusion seems to set in, and comments take place. This reaction is the reaction that I would expect from someone outside of the design/development community, especially the people who are working in the 9 to 5 office environment.

One of the most outlandish comments that I heard was “Working from home just doesn’t work!”. My immediate reaction was “Why doesn’t it work?”. I watched the person for a minute and you could see the wheels literally turning in their head as they were trying to give a good reasoning. That good reasoning was “Well, it doesn’t work for me. I have a hard time not being distracted.”.

The reason I feel this is such an outlandish comment is because distractions don’t happen just at home, they happen no matter where you work. This can be in the office setting or sitting on your couch in your underwear (a reference to “A Year Without Pants” by Scott Berkun). Distractions are all around us, it’s learning how to manage those distractions that will set you apart. This isn’t limited to remote work as it spans across any work environment.

While, I do understand that there are pros and cons to remote work, the pros definitely outweigh the cons. This isn’t something that I’m new to anyways. Prior to working at NC State University, I was self employed and spent the majority of my work days (or nights) working from home or a local coffee shop. I did maintain an office but it was used primarily to meet with clients. I would say that going from remote work to an office environment was harder than I ever imagined.

It seems as if there is a disconnect somewhere in the corporate environment in regards to remote workers. With today’s ability for live interactive sharing, video conferencing, and cloud computing, you would think that companies would be leaving their offices behind and allowing their employees to work from home, but the case isn’t so. Remote work is still seen as something that is on the bleeding edge of the cutting edge.

Needless to say, I will not miss my 25 minute commute each way to work everyday. I’m excited to be trading that in for a 15 second walk to my home office.