Working Remotely - My Experience

I've been working remotely since 2016, and this is my experience.

Life stuff

Posted on Aug 01, 2020

With the Coronavirus pandemic hitting everyone, more and more businesses are ditching the idea of office in favour of going fully remotely. I've been working remotely since early 2016, and to be honest - that was the best thing that happened to me.

To give you some context, between 2011 and 2016 I was a full time software engineer working on Energy Management Information System. It was my first job in Canada, and being an immigrant making decent money, thinking about changing jobs was not an option. I was very comfortable where I was in life at the time, and coming from a country where having the same job for 20+ years is considered normal, I wasn't really planning on leaving anytime soon.

But, life had different plans. I got laid off due to lack of work, alongside a few of other coworkers. I was scared, didn't know what to do. I had doubts in my knowledge and skills because I've been doing the same thing for over 4 years, while new technologies kept popping up.

I've decided to start learning and investing in myself, and I've decided not to look for a traditional office job. Instead, I wanted to do my own thing, build my own business and be my own boss. This would mean that I'll have to work from my home office (home office = a small desk in the corner and my laptop).

After over 4 years of working from my home office, I can't see myself working differently. It comes with a lot of challenges, but it can be very rewarding. At the same time, working remotely from home isn't for everyone. If you are an extrovert and love being around people - it will take a lot of effort to adjust, or you will absolutely hate it. I didn't had that problem because I'm not really a social person. I love working with people, but when I work - I focus on work and nothing else exists around me.

Here's a list of what I found challenging and how I managed to solve it.

You work where you sleep
This one is a dangerous one. If you don't have a dedicated room that you can call office, this can be a problem. I caught myself waking up, getting some coffee and going straight to work. In my underwear, skipping breakfast and not talking to anyone for the entire day. When I was done, I would get some fast food and go to sleep. The next day is the same. This caused a very unhealthy work-life balance for me, and I started burning out more often. Burning out often led to a minor depression. I had a 7 days work week, with 12 hours a day on average of nothing but work.

I've started working out, watching Netflix, hanging out more with my family. I tried not to work on the weekends, but this one is hard for me. I'm still trying though.

You eat where you work
When you start introducing food into your "office" corner - you know you are in trouble. For me, since I also worked where I slept, this meant that now I was eating in my bedroom. This is not good because I was eating while working. Not only that I was trying to work while eating, but I didn't make any meaningful breaks to allow my brain to rest and enjoy the food. I was gaining weight so fast, that after a short period of time I couldn't fit into my jeans anymore. But hey - that was OK since I was working in my underwear and wearing sweatpants all the time.

I started taking breaks, and focusing on one thing at the time. Launch time meant no work thoughts, not reading articles about code or going through some GitHub repos. Instead, I was reading sport articles or watching funny YouTube videos. And it helped. A lot.

You start missing out on life
All these steps above lead to a one way street - you start isolating yourself and stop seeing friends and family. I started prioritizing work over everything, because I had panic attacks if I wasn't in front of my laptop. All the fun things I loved - I stopped doing because I convinced myself that instead of lifting weights at the gym for 2 hours I could be working. So many life events I missed just because of prioritizing work over life.

For me, this one was a hard one to snap out of. Even today I would get occasional panic attacks, but I have to remind myself that doing other things in life matters.

Great thing about working remotely is definitely the freedom you have. Freedom working in your underwear. Freedom of eating at home. Freedom of taking your dog out for a walk if you need to take a longer break. But it comes with a price.