Kasperian Moving Parts

kinda like Batman, but with a wife and 3 kids

Remote-Working Geeks, Unite!

| 10 Comments

I just sent off an e-mail about some of the challenges and surprises that I’ve hit as a Remote-Working Geek and it occurred to me that not only have I not blogged as of late (I suck, what can I say–but I have a list of like 10 things I need to blog about), but that the contents of my e-mail were downright blog-worthy. Here it is, minor edits notwithstanding:

So… I’m not sure what your background is, but I came from 10+ years of in-corporate-office worker-ville. And there’s some things that I didn’t expect to be challenging that turned out to be, and there’s things that I didn’t even think of that have surprised me. And there’s things that you’d expect to be challenging that are. =:)

I live in MA, currently, so there’s a timezone difference of 3 hours with my team in CA. If you’re used to a routine of getting up and to work by 9, and being home by 6-ish every day, it throws things way off when there are times you need to talk to someone before you can go further with something and you can’t get a conversation going until 9 at night, EST. And that happens lots.

It’s also definitely a bummer when you know that if you were in-office with your team, you could easily walk into their cube/office and have a half-hour conversation that would get things all squared away and get you being productive again. I can’t tell you how much time I’ve wasted trying to construct e-mails (or IM conversations) to people that communicate clearly. It’s just maddening wasting 5 hours trying to get something resolved when if you were in-office, you’d have it nailed in a half hour.

After 10+ years of working in an office, there’s structure and physical demarcations that exist that keep your work life at work and your home life at home. Take driving or traveling to/from an office building away and it’s really hard to feel good about when you start work, when you end, and having time to transition between the two. I don’t know if that makes sense, but that’s something that I never even thought of. So I find myself feeling much more stressed out about work than I ever did working in an office. And my “work mind” doesn’t shut off when I walk downstairs. I find myself thinking far more about work than I ever did working in-office. I’ve reasoned that I should drive around the neighborhood or something before I start work and when the clock says it’s time to quit, but the hacker side of my brain insists that I could get so much more work done if I didn’t do that. =:)

Another thing I never thought of… the importance of physical and visual feedback from your managers and peers. In an office setting, you get constant feedback through conversations, meetings, facial expressions, body language, etc., that help you gauge how you’re doing as an employee. You get little attaboy’s, etc., and it’s pretty easy to know what other people are thinking of you without even having to explicitly ask. That’s another one I never really thought about. Working at home, there’s none of that. You can only picture in your mind what the people are doing when you’re talking on a phone call. I’ve been in plenty of phone conferences, being one of the in-office folks, and I know what goes on when the guy on the other end of the line can’t see you. =:) It’s much more difficult to feel good about yourself as an employee when you don’t have that feedback.

Probably as a means of compensating for some of the above, I find myself feeling guilty for putting in the same hours that I would be putting in if I were physically in-office. I find myself putting in crazy-long hours some days, feeling like I need to leave no doubt about my being a good worker. And the frustrating thing is again that there’s no feedback loop that helps you feel good about your status as an employee, even having done that.

I also find myself completely unmotivated to do any Open Source work as of late, owing mostly to the above, which is a frustrating side effect that I hope will even out over time.

So… heh… Most of what I’ve described is a function of my personality (over the top type-A), my personal climate (married with 3 teenage children), my age and previous work experience, etc., etc. I don’t know enough fellow remote worker geeks to poll as to whether what I’ve described is common or if I’m just nuts. And maybe none of what I’ve said would apply to you. =:)

However (in big, bold, flashing neon letters), I have absolutely no doubts that I made the right move in coming to work for VMware. I absolutely LOVE the company, LOVE the technology, LOVE my team, LOVE the work I’m doing, and LOVE being able to work from home and see my wife and kiddos more. I have never seen a more friendly place to work nor a more brilliant set of people than my team at VMware. I love Linux (especially on the desktop) and I am truly excited to be finally able to get paid to write software that allows Linux on the desktop to continue to grow market share. And I mean that with absolute sincerity. I’m a KDE hacker by heart and I am thrilled about getting to learn C/C++ better than I’ve had a chance to before as part of my day-time job. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere other than where I am right now. And I’ve honestly never been happier about what I do for a living than right now–and that feels _really_ good. =:)

So… is there anyone else out there in Remote-Working Geekland that identifies with my thoughts here?

Author: Jason 'vanRijn' Kasper

My name is Jason 'vanRijn' Kasper. I am the ring leader of the amazing Kasper family. I am unashamedly a Christian Nerd. These are our stories....

10 Comments

  1. I’ve recently started to work from home and while there are some advantages (very few interruptions, for example), I like it better to work at the office: it’s funnier (never underestimate the social power of a coffee machine), you get feedback from everybody and sorting issues out is generally easier than using telephone/e-mail.

    So, yes, I definitely identify with your thoughts (even more if you take in account I’m currently developing VMWare-like webapp software for servers 🙂

  2. I also work from home and live in MA, I feel your pain.

  3. Hi Pau! =:)

    Yeah, I totally know what you mean!! And I’m really curious what you mean by what you’re working on?? =:)

  4. @Jason: it’s essentially the same web-based console VMWare Server 2.0 and VMWare Infrastructure use but for using libvirt (i. e. with support for qemu, KVM, Xen, OpenVZ) and Wt (http://www.webtoolkit.eu/) 🙂

  5. currently, i am a university student- online- add computer science is my major, and i know it is sort of the same thing, i also live in MA and love seeing my little ones grow up- and also end up working all sorts of hours. however, i am hoping that i get the opportunity to work in this manner once university is finished.

  6. @nathan: I agree about being able to see my kids growing up – have a 4y/o and 2y/o. I think working all hours tends to come with the work from home lifestyle. The office never really closes for the day. You don’t actually “see” you colleagues, so there’s no “normal” office schedule. I’ve actually been working for my group for about 2 years and I’ve never met my boss in person – he’s based out of VA and we only communicate over irc or phone. I’ve met his boss (the VP) once (he’s based in CA) and he was the one that hired me. Crazy, eh?

  7. Hey Nathan!! =:) WOW! Yeah, you’ve got a lot on your plate! =:) Here’s hoping you can find balance, sanity, and peace amongst the hecticness!! =:)

  8. It doesn’t really _seem_ like that much at all, but then again maybe it is. Since we just moved to Cambridge and don’t really have many friends here, it would be really cool to be able to meet some people around here.

  9. Hi Jason,

    Only just stumbled on this while doing my regular trawl for remote worker stuff. I totally agree with most of your points.

    “I don’t know enough fellow remote worker geeks to poll as to whether what I’ve described is common or if I’m just nuts.”

    It’s OK you’re not nuts! I’d say the whole overworking to compensate for not being there thing is very normal. I find myself doing stuff late at night – something I would never do before I was set up at home.

    Anyway here’s my blog on remote working where I try to scribble down lots of these thoughts:

    http://remoteworker.wordpress.com/

    Thanks

    Marieke

  10. Hello,

    I have read your blog and you bring up several great issues regarding employees who work from home. I am conducting an academic research study with the University of Phoenix about job satisfaction and employee-supervisor relationships of persons who work from home most of the time. I would like to invite you, and others who work from home most of the time, to be part of my research.

    Participants must work for an organization, as opposed to being self-employed. The telephone interview for the research will take about 30 minutes. The results of the research can help current and future managers understand job satisfaction and employee-supervisor relationship issues of remote workers better.

    My research is one of the first studies that concentrate specifically on employees who work almost exclusively at home. If you are interested, please send me an email at pbuz31@gmail.com. I will send you complete details of the research.

    Thanks.

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