How working remotely helps me evolve?

There are a lot of people writing and talking about remote work. However, each path is unique in its own way because of the conditions, the moment in life and the career are different. I want to share mine for those who’re thinking of embracing this adventure.

August 7, 2018
Reading time 7 – 10 minutes

Last month I celebrated my four-year anniversary of remote working as a customer support fellow at Pixelgrade, and I want to share what I’ve learned along the way and more than that, how remote working helped me become a professional. Please keep in mind that my case might be quite different from what you’ve heard before because I’m the only person from the entire team who works fully remote. The rest of the team is working in the same building, about 700 km away from me.

Remote doesn’t work for any kind of jobs, that’s true. But when it does it can bring huge results. I’m a customer support agent and I think the best way I can do my job is actually working remote. Let me tell you more about the why behind the scenes.

Why remote work fits my style?

Before everything, I’m a family man—being a parent and a husband, I always wanted to spend more time with my wife and my little son. Working remotely gives me this opportunity and it’s awesome. I don’t spend time in traffic, I don’t lose time with commuting and almost every day in about ten minutes after I finish the job I’m already away with my son riding our bikes.

Even if it wasn’t a remote company, Pixelgrade gave me a shot and I began working from home from day one. Since then I enjoy every single day and I’m full of gratitude for that. Over time, there were other teammates who experienced remote working for limited timeframes and they all enjoyed it in their particular way.

I always encourage them to repeat the experience because working alone, away from your teammates, at least from time to time, makes you become more aware of the importance of communication and helps you develop important skills like proactiveness, self-motivation, organization.

One of the things that help me be productive is having a specific environment. Even if remote allows me to work literally from anywhere, more than 80% of the time I’m working from home.

I created my workspace exactly as I wanted. It’s a small room, with limited furniture, placed far enough from the living room and the children playground, the space offers me the perfect playground to be effective. All I can hear every day are the birds singing in the garden and at the window. I could even say that my latest friend is a woodpecker who regularly visits the trees nearby. It might sound fairy-like, but this is the habitat that makes me productive for years now and I can have access to it only by working from home.

This is what I need to get the job done

Takeaway: Choose wisely the reasons why you want starting to work from home, because that will determine your path. It might be flexible schedule, ability to travel, being next to the dear ones, the work environment. I just wanted to be able to spend more time with my family.

How does remote work impact me?

If so far everything sounds like a beautiful story, there are things that have changed quite a lot since I work remotely. In fact, this way of getting things done impacted me in different ways.

The good is that I learned a lot about me, about others and about working. Before working remote I thought that I’m a communicative person and I have good communication skills. But when non-verbal gestures and emotions cannot be used in a conversation, you find that it’s not so easy to express exactly what you have in mind.

Losing micro-moments, not being in the middle of the action every time, not being able to celebrate small wins with the teammates, sometimes make me feel lonely.

Most of my communication with my teammates is written, and all I have is a keyboard and maybe some emojis to use. This was a big challenge for me. Also, I learned that I have to be more proactive in my relationships with colleagues.

Wandering around before WordCamp Europe 2018 in Belgrade

To be honest, you must know that you will lose some moments in which you have the opportunity to get involved in something, just because you can’t take part in some micro-moments, for example. You need to stay in the attention of others, they need to know that you are still involved and you’re continuously working to find solutions and improvements.

The nasty part about working remote (yes, there is a nasty one, too), is that you can feel isolated sometimes. Losing micro-moments, not being in the middle of the action every time, not being able to celebrate small wins with the teammates, sometimes make me feel lonely. That’s true and I don’t want to hide it.

Remember that it’s up to you to make yourself heard and seen, so try to be proactive and always look for initiatives.

This is why I decided to meet my teammates several times a year. I don’t have a prepared schedule, simply when I miss them, I get on the plane and reach out to them. Most of the time I spend around a week at the office and then I get back to my place. However, as a sincere advice for those who’re thinking about working remote, you need to make sure that periods, when you feel alone, don’t affect your productivity.

I’m a lucky person because the office where my teammates work is one hour of flying away. If your teammates are farther than that and it’s quite difficult to visit them often, my advice is trying to connect with them from time to time via Skype and talk about nothing. I had a time, in the past, when I initiated non-job related talks via Skype with every single colleague, just to know better each other and stay connected.

Takeaway: Remember that it’s up to you to make yourself heard and seen, so try to be proactive and always look for initiatives through which you can bring value and results to your team’s work.

What you need to know if you want to join

Working from home doesn’t mean you can work whenever you want. In all these years, I tried different working methods — in the beginning, I didn’t have a fixed schedule. For example, I used to work around two hours early in the morning, some hours later, and some hours before the end of the day. I thought that if I’m working from home, I can mix my job tasks with family or personal activities, but it didn’t work.

You need to find your best way to work, depending on the configuration of your team. At the end of the day, you’re not alone, you work in a team.

Two years ago I visited Canada and I stayed there for three months. I worked in a different time zone than my teammates, there were 7 hours between us, and it didn’t work very well, either. Finally, I found that if I work exactly when my other teammates work, we collaborate easier, we can communicate faster and everything’s better.

Always a pleasure to work from Pixelgrade’s office as well

As I said previously, all my teammates are working from the same building, so actually, they all have almost the same working program. I highly encourage you to find your best way to work, depending on the configuration of your team. At the end of the day, you work in a team, you’re not alone.

Be prepared for unpredictability. For instance, it’s good to know that Wi-Fi can make or break the day. It might happen, especially when you work from new places. In that case, I encourage you to be honest with your teammates and let them know that you cannot work. Don’t try to trick the system.

Takeaway: Working remote requires extra effort to stay motivated and involved. If you’re not a self-driven or self-disciplined person, working remotely it’s not for you. I discovered that I am more productive when I work alone, even if I’m virtually connected with my colleagues.

In this part of the world, especially in my country (Romania), working remotely wasn’t something popular a few years ago. Even my relatives were sceptical when I told them I was going to work remotely. That didn’t stop me from trying to find a company that values the remote working and I’m grateful that I’ve found it.

There is so many info nowadays about remote working and I’m not going to make an exhaustive list of recommended books or articles. However, there are two specific books that impacted and motivated me over time —  “Remote – Office not Required” and “The Year Without Pants”. If you plan to start working remotely, you should consider reading these two books before.

Find a company that values the remote working. Only then you will begin to understand how many things you didn’t know about you, about others and about work itself.

If you ask me if I’d like to work again from an office on a daily basis, my definitive answer would be no. Working from home is already part of my life and it continuously helps me become better.

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