So I’ve been here working remotely from a spare room in our new house for a little while now (just around 6 to 7 weeks)… After the move to Devon in the UK, we’re settling into our new village life, my wife is slowly getting to know people, I’ve tried out the local pub quiz, taken up running (crawling), our 3 year old has started at her pre-school today and life is all pretty rosey really (when not missing our old local friends).
The surf on the local beach has been flat for the past 2 weeks so it’s been a lot easier to keep up with hours on the day job producing corporate animation without begrudging my work for stealing me away from the sea. I’ve also been putting a good amount of time into a new indie game idea in the evenings (more on that in another post).
Working from home has presented a few challenges and unsurprisingly requires a certain disciplined approach to push myself to work as well as forcing myself to stop work. I thought I’d share my thoughts on this in the hope that it might help others about to change to working from home / working remotely.
Cabin Fever – Coping with seeing the same 4 walls with little to no human interaction for days.
- I attempting to beat Cabin Fever by thinking of a daily reason to go outside, either on a trip to the beach, to a supermarket, a run/walk/jog, head outside to take photos (for a game or for arts sake). I should probably meet up with some other local ‘remote workers/freelancers’ to engage with other humans beings (other than my wife and kids). Also even though it can easily sap time out of a day, social networks (i.e. Facebook) or a work related online forum (i.e. Game software developers forum) can give you some indirect contact with friends and other like minded individuals, that your mind will no doubt be craving for.
The office is always open – Any minute of any day you can be at work.
- I’ve set myself semi-flexible working hours, I start 30 minutes earlier than I used to when going into the office and end later if required. This gives me a bit more time with the family at lunch, or time for tackling ‘Cabin Fever’. Then at night and in the morning before my work hours I’m free to do my game projects, this blog, watch Breaking Bad or make a pillow camp for the kids. I’m trying (failing) to not check my work email until I’m in these work hours. The email lock down is helped a little by setting up my work email on a separate bit of software ‘Sparrow’ and using ‘Apple Mail’ for everything else. It still doesn’t stop me though as I have my trusty iPhone with email always at hand, but it’s a start.
Teleportation – How to ensure you take everything work based with you, when you travel.
- I was gonna call this section ‘mobility’ but that just seemed incredibly dull.
The problem is I’m now really well setup in my small room with a view, I’ve got all my needed computer software running, 2 monitors, a keyboard and mouse I like, a pin-board with notes, a phone on my desk, music, comfy spinning chair. However at times I’ll need to head back to the office near London or work remotely from other locations.
- My solution: Put the exact same software setup on my laptop as on my Mac Pro (including lots of 3rd party visual effect plugins), plus put any current projects on a portable hard-drive. Then I leave the mother ship ‘Mac Pro’ (desktop computer) at home switched on, so when I work out what it is I’ve no doubt forgotten to copy over I can use ‘LogMeIn’ to connect and send myself the files via the inter-web from my desktop computer to my laptop. Not very energy efficient I know, but it’s the closest I can find to Teleportation at the moment. You can also get a ‘LogMeIn’ app for your phone, so in theory I could check to see how my animation renders are going from the the pub and their free wifi, which could make for some varied lunchtimes.
Dealing with home working guilt and paranoia
- At times I feel guilty for being at home and paranoid that others think I’m not putting my needed hours in. As a result of this I often put more time in than is needed and end up producing better looking or more thorough work as a result. This doesn’t really seem like much of a pitfall (whether you work for a company or your self-employed) as it encourages better work which only goes to help tackling this and other challenges. It may mean I’m putting more time in, but as long as it’s time I’m happy to use then why not. Hopefully over time the paranoia will fade away and I’ll be a much more confident, safe in the knowledge that I already do the work and put the hours in.
Distraction – ‘With great surf comes great responsibility’
- There are a million jobs and exciting things to do and there’s no one to see what I’m doing. So it is obviously tempting to make the most of the opportunity and do some of the ‘just jobs’ around the house, write a blog entry ( Eeek!) or head out to play in this brave new world of day time hours that has opened up before me. This is where I think real discipline is called for, one of the great benefits of being at home is that I can go and do these exciting things or help out at home when called for, so I’m certainly not gonna ban myself from them. As long as I do all the work that is required and put the expected time in by the end of the day. then it’s fair game. With that said, the surf on the local beach here has been flat for weeks and I’m really loving my attempts at becoming a better surfer. So when it does finally pickup I’m going to either have to book a day off to go and play in the sea, pray the waves hold out till the weekend, go for an evenings surf or be miserable at my desk until I give myself an extended lunch break.