Working remotely, or working from home, is the dream of many of us … especially if you have a 9-5 job and often find yourself unproductive in the classic office setting.
And I know the feeling… In the last two years, first I did most of my work either from home, or from a pub, cafe, etc. Then, in May 2016, I decided to move myself in-office with the rest of the team.
Some time ago, I used to work from the office, with a fixed schedule: come in the morning and leave in the evening. I have to say that, despite the nice vibe and the good chatting with my colleagues, I was wasting a lot of time in fact. It took me around 1 hour and 10 minutes every day to arrive at work and then go back home. Each day, five days a week. I’m saying “wasted” because, if you ask me, all this time is a dead time, you can’t do anything useful (professional or personal) since you’re stuck in traffic. And, by the way, time was not the only thing I was losing because the car doesn’t work without gas, which is pretty expensive too.
So since now I have some first-hand experience on both sides of the barricade – working remotely vs working from the office, I’d like to share it with you today. Here are the differences between the two scenarios, the pros and cons of each, and ultimately, my attempt to answer the question of which is best for you – working from home or working from the office.
Working remotely / from home
When I started working with CodeinWP three years ago, I opted immediately for the work-from-home model, and I was very excited about that!
Sorry about my drawing skills, but you get the point. This was basically my mindset at the beginning.
I thought that working from home would be very relaxing, that it would be easy to focus, motivate myself and overall get a lot of stuff done.
The reality, though, was a bit different. The hardest part had actually just started.
At first, I worked only four hours a day and spent another two to three learning to code. (As I already wrote in another post, I learned programming all on my own, at home. You can find more details about that here.)
Everything was okay at first, but I quickly realized that my no.1 enemy were the many distractions at home. Even when I tried to create my own little workspace, the real problem was the things that I had around me. Things like the TV, a console, etc. The party was literally just within hand’s reach.
After a short while, I realized that doing so many different things each day doesn’t really help me – even worse, it lowers my productivity a lot. Because of that, I decided to work more consciously and focus on my learning process.
At the beginning it was hard … handling these changes made me uncomfortable, but I succeeded eventually. And immediately before coming to Bucharest to rejoin the team, my daily agenda was:
- wake up at 6 AM
- read news until 7 AM
- gym until 8 AM
- breakfast until 8:30 AM
- learning (Treehouse courses) until 10 AM
- work until 1 PM
- brake until 2 PM
- work until 6-7 PM
- do whatever I want until 9:30 PM
- and then read until I fall asleep
Working from home surely has its difficulties. I’m not trying to hide that. At times, it will be all too easy to lose focus, and distractions will certainly happen. But at the same time, I assure you that if you really want to do it, you’ll succeed. I mean, I managed to succeed, so there’s no reason for you not to.
I think that the main “work-hacks” that really helped me were (1) doing things step by step, and (2) trying to be gradually more organized every day.
For instance, when working on my bigger tasks, I use a standard agenda / to-do list. Each day, I add everything that needs to be taken care of the next day (I always prepare my hourly agenda at least one day in advance – sometimes one week in advance if possible). For smaller, one-off tasks (things that can be taken care of quickly), I just set basic reminders via online tools or on my phone.
The trick is to always break down larger projects into more manageable – and less intimidating – chunks, then to take your time and don’t try to rush through things.
And this works even for the kinds of tasks that don’t seem like the most obvious thing to break into chunks. For example, let’s say you want to learn to wake up at 5:30 AM, but right now you usually wake up at 11 AM. You cannot achieve a goal like that overnight. I mean, sure you can do it once (like if you need to catch a plane or something), but if you really want to learn how to stick to waking up at dawn, you need to introduce changes gradually. Start by waking up at 10 for a week. Then at 9. And so on. After a while, waking up at 5:30 is not going to be such a problem. I’ve been using this strategy for basically all of my bigger and more significant goals, and it hasn’t failed me yet.
Working from the office
In May 2016, as I came to Bucharest, I entered a new office-work environment. It was a different and certainly a new thing for me.
I was a little nervous the first day I came in. Over the previous period, I had grown a lot of comfort working from home, but I had to abandon it all when entering the office. I was no longer alone in my workspace. There were plenty of people around me. Behind me. People interested in what I was doing at the moment.
It took me some weeks to adapt and get familiar with that, but I managed to get more excited about the whole scenario day after day.
Eventually, I grew to love the environment and appreciate a number of “small things” that are obvious in an office scenario. For instance, I started to love the fact that I have my colleagues around me. The best part is that you can talk with everybody and make a genuine connection.
For example, when you need help with something or some quick information, they are only a few steps from you. You don’t have to wait for a reply on Slack or via email. That is awesome!
On the other hand, this is also kind of a double-edged sword. The main problem with the office scenario is that it can be harder to focus on your work and remain productive for longer periods of time.
In my case, once I started working in an open office, I was noticeably less productive and I could only focus on the tasks at hand for a minimal period of time. It took me few months to figure out what was going on and how to fix it.
Productivity-wise, I’m better now. But I still have this feeling that I’m not exactly where I want to be, and that I haven’t reached my maximum productivity potential, so to speak.
The pros and cons of working from home vs working from the office
It’s clear that no matter what your work environment is, it will have its pros and cons. At the same time, let me assure you that, at the end of this post, I will give you my honest opinion and it won’t be a cop out like “depends on what you want more.” Until then, let’s talk pros and cons:
- When I worked from home, I was more productive and more focused. This, I believe, was because I had no distractions (after I managed to get organized), and I could decide what my day plan was to the nearest minute. It was only up to me when to take a break and what to do.
- Another big plus when working remotely is that you can combine your work and travel. For instance, how about working from home today, and then catching a flight to another country tomorrow without missing a beat at work? There are probably few better ways to combine your work, doing what you love, and living your life.
- At the office, and even though the situation has improved for me, I still don’t feel that I give it my 100% because I have distractions, and sometimes I’m the distraction. As I said earlier, having the possibility to discuss with the others, even if it’s work-related, can sometimes be a problem.
And don’t get me wrong, I know that being around other people and talking with them has a huge impact on you as a human. But, at the same time, I think that you can effectively keep your work time and social time separate.
When it comes to me personally, I am still more comfortable working from home. I can remain more productive and more focused. Working remotely does have its challenges, trust me, but it also gives you more opportunities to organize your time more efficiently.
And when I’m talking about my comfort of work, I don’t mean that I’m constantly sitting on my couch. This is more about how I feel when I’m doing my job.
Right now, I’ve been back to working from home since January 2017 and I feel that I’m on the right track. While I really do miss my colleagues from the office and the atmosphere overall, at the same time, I know that working remotely is the better arrangement for me personally and for my productivity.
And, in the end, we still do meet every once in a while to have fun together, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on the social aspect.
But what do you think? Have you found yourself in a similar situation? Do you prefer working from home or working from the office?