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Help me decide if my company should be remote only

We cut down on travel times and boosted our productivity, at the cost of morale.

I’ve been fascinated about working remotely. However, I’m still unsure if it is the best way to build culture.

We worked in an office space for 1 month

All our team members live within a 40 minute driving radius of each other. We decided to put up an office somewhere in the center. It was a flat my brother owns, so we didn’t have to pay rent — atleast, for now. We worked out of the office for a month. Last week I decided it was not working out and we should move back to working remotely.

I hate traffic. I know everyone hates it, but on the list of things that give me stress, traffic is right up there. So, for this new office we’d all assemble before the peak traffic hours and leave before the evening traffic picks up.

We had fixed working hours

We’d come in at 9 am and leave at 5 pm. This was a major problem for any schedule. For me, my morning looks like the follows

  • 7.30–8 Freshen up, have tea, reading
  • 8–8.30 Some yoga or exercise, reading
  • 8.30–9 Plan while making/having breakfast.
  • 9.30–10 Start work

But now, to reach my office at 9 am, I had to leave by 8.30. I need to mentally prepare to face the drive about 15 minutes in advance. I drop everything else. Now I’m hurrying up with my tea, dropping exercise, having a shitty breakfast.

Once I reach office, I’m a little tired, little stressed. I take about 30 minutes to come back into a working mental zone.

I just lost one and a half hour in the morning. The same holds for the evening.

Additionally I’d never pick up a task after 4, because I don’t like breaks in my work.

All in all I was wasting 3–4 hours every day just in coming into and getting out of the working zone.

The day is over

When we leave office at 5 pm, and head home, it’s 5.30 by the time we reach. However hard I try to be disciplined, it’s hard to get back immediately to what I was doing when I left office. I slack off. I make some snack, stroll around or read scoops. It feels like the day is over. This is my leisure time. But actually, it isn’t. Not for another 3 hours. By the time I pick myself up and hit my home desk, it’s going to be dinner time in an hour. So I don’t pick up the bigger tasks.

So practically, I found myself doing only busy work in the evenings. Nothing productive.

It’s hard to quantify how much time I lose, but my guess is another 3 hours.

My days are 6 hours shorter!

We decided to work from home. On slack

The team now tries to make sure we all pick up mutually independent tasks. It took us a few days to get that going. But I think we’ve got a hang of it now. We use slack as our office space. All conversations happen there. We do 3 scrums a day over a video call. We use google docs for collaboration.

We aren’t around for celebrations

The biggest down side has been we aren’t around to celebrate small wins. We can’t hi-5 each other when we do something good.

We try to work around this with a #cheer channel on slack. We show appreciation for one another’s work. But it’s still not the same as a hi-5.

We aren’t around to pick each other up

We have bad days. A lot of them. It drains morale. And now, we have to deal with it ourselves.

This has been the hardest part to do in working remotely. Again, we use slack to connect with team mates, but it isn’t the same as having someone to talk to.

This is one of the reason why we do 3 video calls a day. We do a 10 minute scrum followed by an open ended discussion.

No water cooler talks

I’m still trying to wrap my head around whether this is actually good or bad.

On one side, we don’t have insightful conversations that just take off. On the other, we don’t have the unproductive banter either.

I don’t have an opinion on this yet.

Self motivation

We have to be self motivated to do what we need to do.

We do 3 scrums and hold each other accountable.

But, in our case, the team members are self motivated and disciplined. We don’t really face this problem too often. We do slack. All of us do, but that isn’t because we’re working from home.

I think the trade-offs are worthwhile. At the cost of morale, I’m building 6 hours of productivity.

I would love to hear from you if you’ve had a better solution to working as a team, with milder trade-offs

I’m writing a weekly blog about how I’m running my company in real life. Please do help me out if you think I can do something better! I’d love to discuss.
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