My Road to Remote Work

The journey to becoming a remote employee

Ryan Vanbelkum
Jul 25 · 4 min read
Photo by Aditya Chinchure on Unsplash

My journey to becoming a remote employee started with my first job out of college. The city I lived in was far from a booming tech center.

I’d just graduated with a software degree and any job I was looking for involved either moving or buckling up for a commute. Dating my girlfriend (now wife) who was still in college, I decided to continue living in our town.

I accepted a job in Kansas City, an hour’s commute one-way. I was excited about my first job and the drive didn’t seem to phase me. So I drove, and drove, and drove.

Like any young and newly employed individual, I decided to buy a new car. Bad decision. Within a couple of years, I had already put 80 thousand miles on it.

My boss would let us work from home with good reason but the problem was that the company limited our remote work to 30 days per year. So I commuted until I could do so no longer.


New Job

Once I gained some experience, a friend at a company down the street from where I was working encouraged me to apply. This new place was very trendy. Offering a fully stocked kitchen, ability to work remotely, and promised interesting projects to work on.

I started out commuting to my new office. Mostly, because that was what I was used to. I was interacting with new colleagues and enjoying the perks of this new office.

Then, I started to work from home one day a week. Then two days. Before I knew it I was only going into the office twice a week. The guys on my team would joke about it, but spending two hours per day on the road was a huge productivity killer.

Not to mention the other costs associated with it. It never affected my work. The client I was reporting to was in a totally different city. My only interaction with those in the office was for the occasional lunch and maybe a ping pong game!


Remote Work Encouraged

When that job came to an end, I joined another company in the same area. Again, an hour from my house. Except, this company was different.

The CEO encouraged us to work remotely. As long as we were putting out quality work, he didn’t care where we sat during the day. What was this! There was no guilt in working from home. Our boss even paid for us to set up home offices.

The old adage that ‘butts in seats meant work being done’ was out the window. They did encourage Mondays in the office. This was for an occasional in-person meeting, but mostly, just to have lunch together.


Benefits of Working Remotely

  • Less time spent commuting.
  • Improved employee retention.
  • Access to a wider pool of applicants.
  • Increased productivity.
  • Happier work life.
  • Avoid hours in meeting rooms.
  • Having better control over your schedule.

Why Some Employers Might Not Offer Remote Work

I think there are several reasons:

  • Managers like to physically see you. They equate your physical presence with work being done. You couldn’t possibly slack off from work as you could at home... as long as you’ve put in your eight hours.
  • Some managers also like to have control over your day. Where you’re at, what you’re working on, etc. Working remotely makes that harder for them.
  • It can also be a trust issue. They don’t trust you to be a good employee on your own. If, as a manager, you have trouble trusting your employees, then you’re hiring the wrong employees.
  • Keep in mind that working remotely isn’t for everyone.
  • At the business level, many companies see the expensive office buildings they own or lease as a waste if you’re not there using them, instead of seeing the office as it really is, a sunken cost.
  • It is great if companies invest in nice offices for you to work from and collaborate with coworkers. Just don’t feel bad if your employees are happier and more productive elsewhere.

Back to the Office

I’d been working remotely for four years. About a year ago, a friend pitched the idea of getting an office in town. He owned his own business and was curious about splitting rent.

I turned him down for a while. Why would I go back to an office, especially one I had to pay for? Some things changed in my life. It was getting harder and harder to get work done at home.

So, one day I agreed. He was already looking at office space and was happy for me to join him in his workday. We moved in last fall and have been working there ever since.

This office is a bit different for me. My commute is five minutes, I can escape the house when my two-year-old is climbing all over me and I can turn off work when I get home.

I still stray from there on occasion, like today, where I’m sitting in a coffee shop.


Conclusion

Working remotely doesn’t work for every profession. If you work in manufacturing, I’m sure you have to physically be somewhere to manufacture.

If you’re a high school teacher, well, you get the picture.

My take away from this article — work how you want to work, if allowed. If you’re a manager, you’ll get a lot more out of your employees if they’re happy and productive.

Better Programming

Advice for programmers.

Ryan Vanbelkum

Written by

Front end engineer @ Grubhub. JS, HTML, CSS, ect. ect. ect. ryanvanbelkum.me

Better Programming

Advice for programmers.

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