My Reflections on Working Remotely
Many years ago, the idea of working remotely seemed unusual to most people. In the Philippines, where I am originally from, discussing remote work was a highly debatable topic. To be honest, I was not an advocate of remote work before joining the Bloom team. I couldn’t imagine working away from my colleagues whom I needed to communicate with everyday — especially in the software industry where communication is key to providing high-quality and engaging products.
At Bloom, we embrace remote work by using tools to increase our productivity and effectivity. We use Slack as our main tool for collaboration and Pivotal Tracker for managing our projects.
I used to work for companies with traditional practices where working remotely was not an option. Admittedly, I didn’t know that working outside the office was feasible due to the number of meetings I had to attend everyday. With that mindset, it was a huge surprise for me when I joined Bloom. As someone immersed in the practice of showing up at an office everyday, working remotely for Bloom was an entirely new challenge for me.
Personal and Professional Challenges
I was used to the environment and culture of traditional companies so being part of this new working arrangement pushed me out of my comfort zone. Working remotely forced me to be more organized. I started to write and record my activities and accomplishments no matter how trivial. Doing so helped me build a reliable system to work efficiently and effectively while juggling other pursuits like traveling and cycling.
Since I couldn’t easily walk up to an officemate to ask questions or make requests, I had to improve my writing skills. Most of our coordination within the team is done over Slack, so we have to be focused and clear on deliverables and expectations. I had to deliver results quickly and accurately, and be more careful when writing code.
So What Are The Benefits?
Working remotely for about 4 months now, I have learned so much about discipline and self-awareness. Listed below are some benefits I experienced from working remotely.
1. Increased Efficiency Using Different Tools
The tools you use are crucial to the success of a team working remotely. Without the proper tools, your productivity and growth are at risk. At Bloom, we use several tools such as Slack, Pivotal Tracker and RealTimeBoard. Slack is useful for communicating across teams, sharing files and documenting agreements. To manage our daily tasks effectively and provide an overview of work progress, we use Pivotal Tracker. When discussing ideas with the whole team, it helps to write notes and visuals on RealTimeBoard. It acts like an online whiteboard where we can collaborate. Without these tools, we would have a hard time prioritizing deliverables and coordinating work across the team.
2. Decreased Stress
Working remotely simplifies my daily routine. I no longer worry about what to wear to work since I can simply wear whatever I want. Furthermore, I no longer have to commute to work. For previous jobs, I spent an average of 3 to 4 hours everyday in transit — and I only live 20 kilometers from my old office!
The traffic situation in Manila is getting worse and there aren’t adequate, reliable options for public transportation. Commuting is a key pain point for many office workers and remote work removes this stress entirely.
3. Personal Growth
Since I no longer spend time commuting, I now have more free time. I can learn new things that spark my interest and work on my personal growth. I have more hours to dedicate towards other creative pursuits. For instance, I’m learning how to take better pictures so that I can capture better photos when I travel. This outlet for my creativity overflows into increased creativity in my work for Bloom. Developing new skills outside work is good for morale and mental health.
4. Increased Flexibility
When working in an office, you’re expected to be at your desk for at least 8 hours a day. As workers, it’s challenging to be productive for long, consecutive hours. Remote work allows us to manage our time better. As long as you deliver results, the amount of time you spend at your desk doesn’t matter.
What Are The Challenges?
Working remotely is not all fun and freedom. It comes with downsides as well — which may or may not apply to you. This type of work is not for everyone (yet) but I foresee the future where many companies will give employees the option for remote work. I’ve encountered a few challenges of working away from the office but these can be addressed with little effort.
There came a point when I missed talking to people face-to-face. Extroverts will especially find the isolation to be challenging. One way I worked around this dilemma was to make an effort to work outside. Most of the time, I would set up my workstation in a coffee shop. Making small efforts such as this fed my desire for human interaction.
During my first days of working remotely, I worked everywhere — on the couch, on my bed, or wherever I felt like settling. I soon learned that working this way made it hard to get things done. I was easily distracted and I was shifting to random areas of the house multiple times a day. My mind and body were not in a conducive position to work.
I solved this difficulty by setting up my home workspace. I made sure that there were no distractions nearby. It was located far from temptations like TV shows or my playful dogs. It was a clutter-free area where I could focus on my work. This designated workspace gave me the productivity boost that I needed.
What I Want To Try Next
I would like to spend a month moving from country to country to embrace the digital nomad lifestyle. I’d like to experience working in places that are in great contrast to the Philippine environment. I’d like to explore what it would be like working in a different timezone. How will it affect my productivity and communication with the team? Perhaps it will teach me new ways to work better.
Remote Work As The New Normal
Remote work is not applicable to everyone. Depending on your role, industry, and personality, remote working may not be ideal as face to face interaction is still required on a daily basis. But for many companies, especially those that embrace new technology, it is becoming easier to do things online. The benefits of remote work are significant in keeping employees productive and motivated to contribute to the company.
If you want to know more, I found this to be a good resource.
Remote Only work promotes: Hiring and working from all over the world instead of from a central location. Flexible…remoteonly.org
For digital nomads, this site is a must-visit. It shows detailed information about a city (eg. internet access, food, safety, cost-of-living, and many more!).