Working from Home

For the most part, I’ve been working from home since 2005. It started out innocently enough, I had a ‘real’ office in Boulder, but I was a startup and stupid enough to work insane hours with a 1-yr old son at home, so I started to bring my computer and display home on the weekends (this was before laptops were really viable in my industry). Bringing my work home on the weekend was a good way to still see him.

Then it became such a pain to move it all back and forth that I started to do three-day weekends, then four. Finally, I just begged out of my lease (incredibly nice landlord at the office park I was renting from) and moved home entirely. I tried other offices at different times when my kids were different ages, but I ended up back at home for one reason or another.

This was way before working remote was a thing; this was before Slack, Google Hangout, Screenhero, or any other form of reliable communication besides email and phone. I wanted so badly to be considered a “real company” that I fought it for a lot longer than I should have.

Fast forward to the days and weeks when my son starts school and I start watching him interact socially. At the advice of a friend, I read an article on introverts and extroverts, and not just my kid’s behavior, but my entire career started to make sense.

I’m a raging introvert, many of my problems from work were due to working at the traditional design studios. Put me in my dark little office with some music, a nice chair, a really big monitor, and I’m a happy camper. Put me in a brightly lit loft with two dozen other people, loud noises, meetings, and other distractions, and by the time I got home, I was a complete zombie and the only thing I was capable of was completely tuning out (usually with something 80 proof). I loved the work, but hated the process.

I never take working from home for granted (or I try not to). There are benefits besides the above that are just too big to lose.

  • I can drive my kids to school every morning. This is huge. It means that, no matter what, no matter how crazy life is, we have a few minutes alone every day where it’s just them and me.
  • I have time to run nearly every day. This keeps me sane and helps with the work-life balance, especially handy for someone like me who tends to have a hard time with balance and has, at times, definitely been off the deep end with how much I work.
  • A lot of the design studios now have some great perks, but I’ll bet mine are still better. I have a mini-gym with weights and a punching bag, a full-sized pool table, a fully-stocked kitchen, the best coffee and tea, and my office mates are the furry kind, who never want an impromptu meeting but also never mind if I want a break to hang out on the back porch for a while.
  • I can keep my own schedule. This means I can start work as early as I want (which is pretty early), work for a bit, then drive the kids to school, sneak in a quick run, then get back to work for the day.
  • There is no commute. This is not just a time saver (two hours a day if I worked in Boulder or Denver), but it saves gas and miles on my truck. When I worked full time in Boulder, I usually didn’t get home until 7 or 8. We’d eat a late dinner, then my kids would be off to sleep. Now I can see them as soon as they get home and I’m off (and home) by 5. It also means that I have time to catch the soccer games, the gymnastics, and the plays or concerts.
  • Slack is awesome. Screenhero is awesome. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still enjoy face-to-face meetings anymore, but they definitely aren’t the only way to communicate anymore.
  • Is it lonely? Not so much. I go to coffee shops at least once a week and still try to meet clients in person at least once a month. I also work with people via Screenhero and communicate all day via Slack.
  • Client meetings can be way more fun. I’ll still visit with clients and do the traditional meeting of course, but I also have clients I run with, some I meet at the climbing gym, quite a few I’ll meet for tapas and happy hour, and even some who have become close friends over the years and we’ll go camping with our kids for a weekend.

Would I work for a company in-house again? Sure, for the right project and the right place, it would be worth it. But more and more I’m seeing companies of all sizes shift toward remote options. Companies such as 37 Signals are proving that it’s not only possible to do as well as more traditional companies, but you can actually do better.