One Year of Remote Working

Over a year ago, when I joined GitHub I began working remotely for the first time in my career I had no idea what to expect. There were a lot of things I was cautiously optimistic about, and there were some I could have never have been prepared for.

Social Isolation

Top of the concern list was social isolation. Would I be able to cope mentally not having contact with other humans? I suspected I would be fine.

Oh how wrong I was.

The prospect of being able to stay home, open my laptop, compulsively work without distraction was very appealing to me. Too appealing.

But not talking to anyone all day, meant that it was easier to just continue not talking when my partner came home. It became steadily more difficult to go out with my friends. What about going out to places where there were strangers? Don’t even think about it. I found out pretty quickly that I was suffering from social isolation. I need other human beings around me.

Personally I have yet to find working in an office more productive than working at home. In general I find co-working spaces to be places where too many interesting, yet distracting conversations are occurring around me. I prefer working from coffee shops, it gives me the right amount of background noise to feel connected to other people, without the distractions.

I also find that after about 2 months of not seeing anyone I work with I start to feel disconnected. Making trips to SF, to summits help enormously with the sense of connection. My team (Desktop) meets for a video chat every Monday - we plan our week and share high fives for the week been. I also am lucky enough to have a manager who prioritises weekly 1-1’s with every member of our team. All of this has been super beneficial for managing social isolation and fighting that feeling of being disconnected from your team.

Thinking out loud

I was not prepared for the impact that remote working would have on my thought processes. I think aloud. I both form and solidify my thoughts as I speak. Not being able to think aloud and converse with others about the problems our team and our company are trying to solve was, on reflection, rather limiting.

At GitHub we communicate in issues or pull requests. Verbosity can kill a point or an idea very quickly - so thinking ‘a loud’ in pull request for example can not only waste other peoples time, but cause your ideas to appear loose, and ill thought out. While learning to be succinct in written communication, I have also had to start hone my skills to explore a problem without always needing to verbalise it. but that has come slowly and I am yet to master this.

The last 14 months has seen me transition from safe physical spaces where I verbally explore ideas (an office) to safe spaces to think out loud on line. Chat rooms, video chat, instant message have all become critical tools in my job. These are now the spaces where I formulate ideas and opinions. These are the spaces where I can think out loud, without being physically with my team.

Increased happiness

Not having to commute, being able to work from which ever environment suits my mood for the day and choosing when I work has caused me to feel more happy and relaxed in my day to day life.

I’m a night owl, so naturally, some mornings it takes me a few hours to warm up. I can take my time preparing for the day - eat a healthy breakfast, take a long shower. Not feeling rushed to be at my desk by 9am improves my mood dramatically. When I do sit down at my desk I feel relaxed and ready.

I am most happy being productive, but you can’t be productive all the time. I have found that having the freedom to take a couple hours break after banging your head against the wall, has been the key to my productivity. As a consequence I often work for a few hours in the evening, but again, when I do - I feel relaxed and ready.

Meeting a variety of people and seeing a variety of places when I travel for work has increased my happiness, and my motivation. I meet people who use GitHub. I hear their stories. The great, the good and the bad. I hear such a variety of perspectives, and ways they use our product. It drives me. I love it.


Copyright © 2015 Amy Palamountain