This guy started working from home, and you’ll never believe what happened next.
Click-bait headlines. Work every time. Now, on to the part that matters.
People who have never tried it get weird when they find out you’re going to start working from home. When I first told friends and family that I had accepted a 100% remote position at Creative Market last summer, I got reactions that spanned from jealousy to joy to indignation. My mom immediately started campaigning for me to move back to my hometown. (I haven’t.) Several of my coworkers said things like, “Oh, I would hate being home all day.” (I don’t.) Others said, “I would never get any work done.” (I do.) Most just asked, “How is that even going to work?” I had no idea.
But it’s been almost a year since I made the switch, and now I do know how it works. I can tell you what has been easy for me and what hasn’t, what went as expected and what caught me by surprise. Maybe you’re thinking about taking the leap into remote work (we’re hiring!), and if so, I hope this article will be helpful. I don’t know what it’s like for everybody at every remote job, but when a job-hunting friend asked me recently what’s it like working from home, really, here’s what I told him…more or less:
Nothing has been more cathartic than violently murdering my daily commute.
Oh man. Killing my commute has easily been my favorite thing about working from home. My last office job was only ten miles away, but with traffic, the trip took half-an-hour to an hour (uphill, barefoot, in the snow, of course) each way. On the conservative side, that’s an hour a day = five hours a week = 250 hours a year. Let that sink in. More than ten full days out of my year were spent traveling to and from an office. I mean, I love alone time as much as the next introvert, and I have an audiobook addiction that my commute enabled quite nicely, but good grief. For every year that I worked at that job, I spent 250+ hours alone in my car, 250 hours that could have been spent loving on my wife and kids or pursuing my creative interests.
Now, though, I spend my before work “commute time” writing, reading, or planning my next personal project. I eat lunch with my kids. And as soon as I’m done working for the day, I walk out of my office and start the evening routine—dinner, baths for kiddos, stories, bedtime, then mom-and-dad-drink-a-glass-of-wine-and-recover-our-sanity time—all with no risk of traffic delays to jumble up our plans and make mama unhappy. Let me tell you something: that recovered time is glorious.
It was a harder adjustment for my family than it was for me.
Maybe I’m naive, but I assumed I would be the only one adjusting to this new work environment. I thought my family would be thrilled to have me around all the time. (They weren’t.) It’s not that they resented having me here, but it was harder for them to adjust to it than any of us expected. It really hit home for me one morning when, a week into the new routine, my then-three-year-old told me, “Dad, it’s time for you to leave now. Go away,” and tried to shove me out the door.
But kids are resilient. They adjusted within the first month. My wife though…it was harder for her.
I am married to an amazing, hard-working, superhero of a stay-at-home mom/foster mom, and when I started this job, I invaded her lair/temple/HQ. My “office” is just one end of our master bedroom that we sectioned off with giant IKEA cube bookshelves. I don’t think either of us realized what having me in the bedroom all day every day would mean for her. Sure, I can hop out at lunch and watch the kids while she runs an errand, and I’m around longer in the mornings and evenings, but during the work day, I’m just there, taking up space, demanding quiet, and not helping.
The bedroom was my wife’s quiet sanctuary, the place she could go to hide from the monsters (ahem…children), pay bills, sort laundry, and make phone calls. Now, though, I’m in the way with my “meetings” and my “code things” and my “need for uninterrupted quiet so I can concentrate.” Psssh.
The hardest part for her was simply knowing that I was nearby but unavailable to help with the kids. If you’ve ever lived with three children under the age of five, you know that sometimes a three-to-one maniac-to-adult ratio ain’t gonna cut it. You need backup. And there I am, just out of reach, enjoying my solitude in the next room, cranking my music a little louder to drown out the melee going on outside my door, while my poor wife tries to reason with the tiny tyrants. To her, I’m like a lifeguard who is too busy taking selfies to notice she is drowning. Okay, maybe that’s a little melodramatic, but you get the idea.
We’ve worked through it, and most days, my there-but-not-there presence is no problem for her. When I’m at work, she and the kids just pretend I’m not home. And that works pretty well now, but it took a while for us to get to a place where she feels supported and I don’t worry about being offed for the life insurance money (the trick is to carry too little life insurance).
When your workplace is set up for it, working remotely is just as easy as working on site.
Need to ask a question? We have Slack for that. I don’t even have to cross the room to tap someone on the shoulder. Need to schedule a meeting or talk something out face-to-face? No problem. We have Zoom. Need to access a file? We have Dropbox and Github. Need help with code? We can screen share.
Before this job, it was hard for me to imagine how anybody could have a successful code review or work through a complex programming conundrum with a coworker over the internet, but it hasn’t been a problem. Not even once. As of right now, approximately two-thirds of Creative Market’s employees work remotely, including our CTO, so maintaining a successful remote workforce is vital to our success as a company. We’re not only tooled for remote access in the technical sense, our entire company culture is wired to make remote team members feel supported and included. In fact, I would say that the effort leadership puts into integrating those of us who are offsite makes Creative Market more effective at maintaining a positive and unified culture than any onsite employer I’ve ever seen.
It doesn’t feel “lonely” or “disconnected.”
I should preface this by saying that I am pretty content staying at home most of the time anyway. I’m not shy or afraid of crowds or anything, it’s just that going out and being social takes so much effort, and staying home is so easy. Plus I can pretty much guarantee there will always be enough chips and salsa in my house to get me through whatever life throws my way, so there’s that.
But I think that, even if I was more of an extravert, I’d be fine with this gig. I see my coworkers’ faces everyday. Yeah, it’s via video chat, but that only means that nobody has to know what I’m wearing (or not wearing) from the waist down. It’s still interaction with a team of friendly people who are dedicated to both working hard and bringing the fun. It feels more normal than I could ever have anticipated.
Beyond that, though, I keep busy outside of work. I’m involved in my church, I’m part of a writing club that meets semi-regularly, and I get together with some other middle-aged musicians/dads once a week (or at least, that’s our goal) to play rock and roll and pretend we’re still young.
When I started this job, a lot of people I knew seemed to worry that I would disconnect from society and become a grumpy old hermit. I suppose that, knowing me, it was a valid concern—I was more than halfway to “get off my lawn” already—but things just didn’t play out that way, despite my grumpy old man tendencies. YMMV.
Starting my day right is more vital than ever.
When I worked at an office, I could show up half-asleep, fire up the Keurig, work through emails for a bit, and know that eventually I would have to at least look like I was working. There was always the looming threat of somebody coming to peek over my shoulder to motivate me to just freaking start on that project already. That’s gone now.
For all my faults, I’m not the type to use that as an excuse to take it easy and slack off. But even so, without that accountability, it can be easy to let legitimate work-related distractions pile up and keep me from more important, more difficult tasks.
I suppose that more organized, type-A folks would either (A) not have this problem by the sheer virtue of their I’ve-got-my-crap-together-ness, or (B) they would eschew the temptation of sloth by making to-do lists or setting timers or engaging in a refreshing bout of self-flagellation or whatever. I’m not that guy.
For me, the key to a productive day involves satisfying my distractions before I start. It’s about having a few minutes to breathe and spend some time on one of my non-work-related me projects before I dive into the things I’m actually paid to do. If I can make space in my morning to write a few words or tune my guitar or something, then the part of my brain that nags me about such things will leave me alone to focus on work for the rest of the day. It’s like putting those Chewbacca floor mats in my Amazon wish list so I don’t have to deal with the Wookie voice in my head insisting over and over in growls and groans that I will never make the Kessel Run in under twelve parsecs if I don’t give in and impulse-buy the sort of vehicle accessories befitting a smuggler of my (imaginary) skill level. Once I’ve offered an acceptable sacrifice to the demon god of self-interest, it goes away, appeased for a while.
So my current best-case routine works like this: I get up with the kids at around 7:00, feed them breakfast, and send my oldest off to school while my wife has some downtime. Then, at around 8:00, she tags in, and I have an hour to shower, dress (yes, I do put on pants every day, thankyouverymuch—I am more productive when I dress as if I were going to be around people who could see my knees), and work on whatever the heck I want to work on until my work day starts at 9:00. This strategy doesn’t work if I use that time to catch up on sleep or piddle on Facebook or whatever; I have to be productive on something I want to do. But even with the best of intentions, it doesn’t always go perfectly, and when it falls apart, I can tell. It takes more effort than normal to get going on those days. When my morning comes together, though, it works. I feel centered and focused, and I get more work done.
I never have to worry about not being there for my family when they need me.
This is the thing that really matters. This is the reason I chose to make this leap of faith.
I know I said earlier that one of the pain points of working from home is that I’m often around but not available. And it’s true. Being within earshot of an epic tantrum but being unable to do my dad thing is tough sometimes. But if there is ever an actual emergency, I’m only a room away.
A couple of years ago, my wife had surgery. Tendons in her ankle were lengthened, and an external fixator was bolted on. This gave her increased mobility in the long term, but it left her immobile for about six months. During that time, she was unable to drive, unable to stand for very long, unable to cross the room and pick up our toddler or make herself some lunch. My employer at the time did what they could. I was allowed to work from home a couple of days a week so that I could help. I just had to get my work done and make up any lost time. But three days a week, my wife needed a babysitter. At least, that’s what she called it when we imposed on our (very gracious) friends. On those days, we all piled into the car an hour early so I could drop my family off with friends before going to the office, and after work, I would pick them all up and take them back home again. It was, frankly, miserable. Every minute that I was away from my family, I spent worrying about them and feeling guilty for having to rely on friends to step in where I couldn’t, and I spent what little time we had together doing all the chores and tasks I could have knocked out already if I hadn’t been driving all over creation.
I never want to be in that situation again.
Would it be tough if it happened now, while I have this job working from home? Absolutely. Situations like that are never easy. But the peace that comes from knowing I can do 100% of my job from wherever I need to be to care for my family is priceless.
That’s what I told my friend…slightly elaborated. It’s wonderful working from home. I absolutely love it, and I have no plans to go back to a normal office job anytime soon. Sure, there have been some challenges, but they’ve been easy to overcome, and the benefits so far outweigh the challenges that it’s not even a contest. This—working from home to empower creatives around world—this is my jam.
We’re always looking for amazing people to join the Creative Market team. We value our culture as much as we value our mission, so if helping creators turn passion into opportunity sounds like something you’d love to do with a group of folks who feel the same way, then check out our job openings and apply today!