A few days ago, I was talking to some family about what I do. It did not go over well.
Throughout my job at Clownfish Media and my membership at phpBB, I have had the pleasure of working remotely on flexible hours. Attempting to describe this style of work to others (in non-tech sectors) is often met with perplexed looks and questions such as, “But how are you suppose to keep a structure?” and, “How do your employers know that you’re working?” seem to proliferate during the discussion. Their continued apprehension and doubt about the subject seemed to suggest that they do not consider what I do a real job.
The Open Source projects I’ve worked in have more structure than some of the desk jobs I’ve had, and the FOSS projects get people to do it for free. If anything, structure plays a bigger role than in the office; often it’s all you have when working remotely. The only thing you need is self-discipline to keep yourself on track and keep yourself from overworking.
Next, if you don’t produce, you’re superiors will know, and some kind of action may be taken. Is it really any different if you have to be in an office from 9-5? Code is checked in through a repository where everything is visible to the team. Forums and group chat are logged forever, and available to the team. Your name and timestamps are attached to everything you do. When “getting shit done” is the company culture, those who fail to produce are often weeded out very quickly.
Productivity is often a huge problem in the office. Contrary to popular belief, large amounts of work cannot be completed at the office. Every 10 minutes, you might get tapped on shoulder, asked to fix something, or change this, or just to be chatted to about nothing in particular. Having to go to meetings about nothing detracts from one’s day as does having a manager constantly question everything you do. Especially with software development, workers need a distraction-free environment and collaboration time between developers.
Above all, one of my personal favorite aspects of remote work is the fact that I can now enjoy life when I am able to enjoy it the most. Being in a 9-5 job means you sold your time, Monday through Friday (except for 5 holidays and 5 vacation days per year) until you build up enough savings to live off of. 40 to 50 years of this rut will place you in your mid to late sixties when you retire. Why wait until then to do the things in life you want to do?
I am perusing happiness, and am not willing to waste away in an office building for 80% of my lifetime. I’ve given up telling anyone I work remotely, for now; I will just tell my family I make software and wave my hands because it’s just magic to them anyway.