Working Remotely and Getting Weird

Boiled down, the Big Idea of this Post is this: working remotely is awesome because it lets you be much weirder than if you were working in an office, and this makes you happier and more productive.

I’ve spoken before about how working remotely means you lack certain social signals in your day — however, working remotely also means that you don’t have to worry so much about what folks around you think of your behavior — since there are likely only folks around you when you choose to have them around, be it in a cafe or a coworking space or whatever.

Something I have come to deeply appreciate in the remote work environment is the opportunity to run experiments on myself and the way that I work, to become happier, more productive, and a bigger impact agent within Automattic.

I don’t think of myself as a particularly anxious person, but I do think that I’d struggle to pull off some of the things I’ve tried in a more traditional office setting.

When I was working with the Terms of Service team, each day was a bit of a roller coaster — you never knew what you’d run into (but lots of golden cucumber derived medications, oddly), but it wasn’t always the sort of thing that weighed lightly on the conscience. I would often take 2–3 breaks during the day to lay quietly on the floor inShavasana to still my mind and listen to my own breathing.

When I was first working with a live chat team, I tried working a number of different hourly and daily configurations — four long days, three long days and a few hours here and there the other four days, six shorter days, etc.

Working remotely also allows you to see how other activities can impact your day — for a long time I’d take a break in the middle of my day to go to the gym. I eventually found that my day before the gym tended to be less focused, less productive, so now I get to my local Y at 5AM on gym days — that way I’m home before Mango or the Doc wake up, and I usually get some quiet work done in that post-gym, pre-breakfast window.

The best part of working remotely for a company that understands the import of results over butts-in-seats is you’re able to fit your work to your own ebbs and flows, rather than trying to fit yourself into someone else’s understanding of what The Work should be or look like.

My current schedule would absolutely get me in trouble in most traditional workplaces — a lot of the work that I do doesn’t look like work — it looks like going for walks or staring at a whiteboard or reading a book. It also doesn’t look like a regular work schedule — can you imagine pitching this during a job interview?

Well, I’ll put in an hour, maybe 45 minutes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 6AM and 730AM. Tuesdays and Thursdays it’ll be a little more. I break for breakfast and picture books every day for about two hours.
I’ll be around-ish for most of the day until maybe 4:30, 5PM, although I won’t be at my computer or even really available for some unpredictable amounts of time.
I’ll also work on the weekends sometimes, but not always. But sometimes.

It would be a hard sell! But, this setup isn’t random or the result of whim; it’s the result of literally years of experimenting on the way I work, the times I work, when and how I approach each part of my day and each of my responsibilities.

Whether you work remotely or in a more traditional workspace, give some experimentation a try — you never know what might help you make a leap forward.

This piece originally appeared on my blog, s12k.com , where I write about remote work, leadership, and small data. If you like this, you can sign up for a weekly digest of my posts here.