As the world continues to grapple with the Covid-19 coronavirus through physical-isolation, social distancing, shutting down restaurants, businesses, and borders, companies like HubStor and many others must continue to move forward.
As a cloud data platform, our business lives in the cloud, so it should not be a surprise that our company also lives in the cloud. You see, HubStor is a remote company with no physical office. In light of this pandemic, the decision to be a work-from-home company allows us to operate without interruption. For us, it's business as usual, but I suspect for many employees who are now facing a new work paradigm, the transition can seem daunting. I want to offer the encouragement that it doesn't have to be.
Working from home is a game changer
When I joined HubStor, I was initially unsure of the concept - I would work at home, all by myself, constantly being distracted by my wife, my kids, my pets, and Netflix. I would have to collaborate with others via web conference and chat. Could I do this? Could I be productive? Would I lose my mind?
Well, I’m happy to say working from home is not only doable, it’s incredible!
It’s been a year for me. While it was a little hard getting started, I found my way, built a structure, a schedule, and an environment. Now, as I sit in one of two home offices, I could not imagine working in an office setting again.
Working remotely does take some discipline, and when the entire company is remote, it does alter how you collaborate and work with others. So, as I reflect on the past year, I'll share the good, the not so good, and some tips from a year working in a remote company.
Let’s start with the positives:
- Money in my pocket: I’ve easily saved $1,200 in gas and automotive wear and tear on my vehicle.
- No more frustrating commutes: I’ve saved two hours in commute time per day (on average) and for those lovely snowstorm days, I probably saved about 4 hours.
- Work/life balance anyone? I get to spend more time at home, which means I am present for my wife and kids - whether that means walking our dog, to doctor appointments, to just taking a break in the day and having a coffee with my wife to talk about the day’s events.
- Mucho productive: I’m so much more productive than I’ve ever been. When I need to talk to someone, it’s a text, chat, or a quick call. These chats rarely last more than a few minutes. No getting up from my desk and walking to another desk/cubicle, or take a pitstop in the kitchen to make a coffee or grab a snack. The entire company is at my fingertips.
It’s not all sunshine and lollipops.
- Isolation: If you are someone who loves to be with others, working from home all the time is going to be a challenge.
- Collaboration: while online tools like Microsoft Teams can help keep you and your co-workers connected, it's still collaboration through some interface. Sometimes, face to face meetings are extremely valuable. It's a small trade-off and for the most part, I feel like our collaboration at HubStor is more focused given the remote nature of the team.
- Distractions: dog, spouse, kids, TV. If you struggle with keeping a disciplined focus when no one is around, being at home does make it easier to take creative avoidance breaks which can become bad habits that destroy your productivity.
Let's be honest: working from home is not for everyone. If you are finding it hard to adjust, here are a few things I've implemented to help maximize the situation. I hope they help.
Create a workspace
I have two offices in my house. Being able to switch between offices gives me some variety in my workday. You can make any space in your home a viable office, so have fun with it as long as you can carry out your duties effectively. I spent several days last year in my backyard working by the pool. This is great for routine activities like email, presentations, and collaborating with my team but not very appropriate for calls with customers.
Ultimately, you need a quiet'ish space large enough to accommodate a laptop and optionally an external monitor, mouse, and keyboard with any other tech accessories you need to be productive. Also, consider having a sitting and standing area to mix it up throughout the day.
Limit your distractions
Focus is where it gets tricky and requires you to have some discipline. Remember, you're at work. Consider what interruptions are worth your attention. The home phone rings several times a day. It can probably go to voicemail. What about people coming to the door? Or your dog needs to go out? (You should stop and deal with that, or you will be dealing with a whole new distraction very shortly.)
Don’t stress too much about what you cannot change: working from home is a challenge, and it will take time to optimize your at-home space. Give yourself some runway to adapt and find solutions that work for you and your family.
Respect the status indicator
Most collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams (what we use at HubStor) have a status indicator to show if you are available, busy, out, etc. In a remote work environment, those little colored bubbles rule how I interact with my co-workers and how they interact with me. It's important to respect that everyone's day is a bit different throughout the company, and that will impact your access to others.
Create a routine and schedule
I find creating a program for myself and my family works well.
- Schedule time for specific tasks and divide projects into manageable blocks of time.
- Schedule your breaks. Take a break for lunch, a punishing workout, a tea or coffee break in the afternoon, an afternoon walk.
- Set the alarm for the end of your workday and leave your work there. It can be easy to work longer than you usually would with an office job.
If remote work is the new normal, take heart because many modern companies thrive in this paradigm. HubStor has been a work-from-home team for five years and counting, and we've been incredibly successful with it, both at the individual employee level and as a company overall.
You got this.