On Working Remotely

Some more thoughts on telecommuting, from the guy who built Stack Overflow.


-- jra

Maybe I have a different personality, but I find it much easier to work
from home (provided home is empty). I think "networking" from home, which
I do periodically during the week is different from coding from home which
I do on the weekends. It does take some getting used to. I find I'm much
more productive from home. (again as long as home is empty) I spend less
time talking about sports (professional, college and little league) TV, the
opposite sex, hunting... etc. etc. I also tend to make healthier choices
since the coffee and cigarettes aren't free and no one invites me to order
pizza for lunch when I'm at home. To each his own though.

This pretty much says it all, I think:


Same here. I like isolation just fine and work much more productively and
usually for a longer time at home. I don't have kids and my wife has learned
when she is home if I say I will be working, don't bother me.

It actually works quite well. I like socializing but not when my mind is on
work. I can code very effectively for hours without breaking because I get in
the zone easily at home.

I do have to say to anyone planning to work from home, make sure you have a
proper work space. I have a computer room. It contains a dozen systems,
electronics gear and parts (I used to have time for that hobby), and
comfortable and ergonomic work spaces. There is no TV. No reason for one
because this is the work room. The mind set should be "I am now in the work
room, so I am at work." Really works for me.

What the heck...

I've been working on a project for the last three years at home and
mostly by myself. It has been one of the more productive times of my
life codingwise precisely because I am at home and can juggle life's
responsibilities as needed all without really having one. When you go
into the office day-in day-out you have artificial bounds of work/life
-- even though we all know they're blurry these days. I don't know...
I really don't relish those bounds all that much anymore because
inspirations hit when they do, not when you happen to be in the
office (like, oh say, after the morning shower).

The downside is not having somebody to bounce ideas off of, even
if it's mostly a soliloquy. I've worked around that by having a weekly
meeting with others working on the project which works ok, but it's
not always adequate. On the other hand given that my project is
related to skiing, the lift conversations are terrifyingly geeky for the
poor souls riding with us :slight_smile:


I can not agree with this more. I have been working from home for two years now and unfortunately live in a small apartment where I do not have a dedicated space to assign for "work". My "workstation" is also my gaming machine and my servers sit right next to my game consoles. It's impossible to get entirely in to a work mindset when your bed is literally two feet from where you sit. This one's hard to solve when you don't have the space, I can certainly say there's a reason I have the most time put in to Skyrim out of all of my friends.

Another thing you might not think about is how much it can interfere with anything you consider part of a morning routine. Where you used to get up at 8, shower, eat breakfast, get dressed, etc. before heading in to start work at 9 it doesn't take long before you realize you can instead wake up at 8:59, put on whatever pants might be within arm's reach, and sit down at your chair. Next thing you know it's 6 PM and you haven't eaten or showered yet. I've started setting an alarm and trying to work out in the morning to counter this and it works pretty well, but it took some effort.

tl;dr version: Working in an office provides structure that you may depend on without realizing it. Be prepared to replicate as much of that structure as needed to remain productive and not turn in to a slob.

For whatever it's worth:

I have been working from home for the last 3.5 years. I live in
Manhattan in a one-bedroom with a 4 year and now a 2 months old
daughter, meaning I work on my laptop in the middle of the livingroom
with all my life around me.

I context-switch a lot; I put down the laptop to read my daughters a
story or play for a few minutes, I go shopping, cook etc. But: when I
go to visit the office (about once a quarter or so), I wonder how on
earth my colleagues get any work done. They are constantly interrupted,
asked to have coffee, lunch, breakfast, a snack, go for a walk and just
chew the fat.

Yes, I work a lot at night and on the weekends. That is the one thing
that people who do not work from home are not aware of: you have no more
distinction between "home" and "office", which usually means that when
I'm home, I'm working.

I could see how having a "home office" with a closed door could create
this impression of "going to the office" and "coming home", but I don't
find it either desirable nor (in Manhattan) practical.


I have been working from my home on a regular basis for almost 4 years
now. I visit clients and routinely travel for projects. However, I work
80% out of my home office. I have instant messenger for clients who want
to ask a quick question. Sometimes we just end up chewing the fat, which
is a nice distraction.

I agree with a dedicated workspace as much as possible. Doesn't have to
be a separate room or whatever. Just a place set aside where you can keep
work things separate from everything else. Even if you have 2 desks side
by side. Buddy of mine lives in a small flat and has 2 small desks side
by side. The second desk is for gaming and other activities. This way he
can just "walk away" from work and not have to move things out of the way.
When he returns things are right where they were.

My breaks consist of going downstairs and playing a round of some online
game for 10 minutes or so. I find myself much more productive as well.
No more hour long commute one way. I can use that hour much more
productive or simply sleep in because I was up late working on a router.


Reading this thread, is encouraging to me. My whole team are remote
workers and for myself, I've asked to maintain a cube in a nearby POP.
I have small ones at home who don't understand why dad can't be as
available to them as they wish. For me, I can't focus well with these
kind of distractions especially if I'm on a call or can't drop what
I'm doing, but I admire those who can. Also, at this point, I don't
have a dedicated "office" area at home and find myself huddled over a
work bench in the garage next to my server rack. Not the most ergo

That said, unlike my co-workers, I don't get a home office stipend, I
spend more in gas and my days are longer when I add the commute time
into the mix. Ideally, I would like to transition to working more at
home. I also perceive it's going to take some time for me to change
the paradigm of 9-5, (6-4) and transition to a model where I can work
the same amount of hours and be just as productive by logging in these
hours in non-contiguous chunks. Having the ability to "context-switch"
as Jan has labeled it, I believe is key here. This is a helpful
thread, thanks you all for sharing.


Yes, it is easier (I think) if you have the space to dedicate a work room. My
game system is in my computer room but I only game twice a week and only with
my friends. I have no doubt I might be diagnosed with a little OCD (or
something) but

Q: Game?

I know many people who can work as you and we all adjust to our setting. I
just also know people who gravitate to their distractions and need the wall to
define work. It's best for me even though I will work as effectively at
midnight as in the middle of the day.

I have to say I am impressed. Working with a 4 year old and 2 month old
around. Wow.

the problem w/ working from home is that not everyone appreciates "Those Darned Accordians" or
"Insane Clown Posse" or "Donny and Marie Osmand" at 0330 local cranked up to 11...

Much easier to pull off in a remote, mostly empty office building.

And no one complains about my singing off key.


Being a forced office worker, I can honestly say that I still get more done at home at night than I do during the day at the office. I'm most productive when I have scheduled maintenance, as I'm permitted to sleep in, which puts me working during my comfortable time frames (I hate getting up early).

When I was younger, I did my best work at the applebee's bar. Even had my own brass plate on the bar. C++ and tequila worked well together.

For the record, my home schooling son does more work late at night as well.


Nope, Manning; sorry: if you're gonna cop to Donny and Marie, you gotta spell
their last name right. :slight_smile:

-- jr 'at least he didn't spell it Donnie' a

That's one of the reasons that I don't work from home very much at this point - I don't have a proper office, however I'm hoping to fix that some time next year. The other reasons I don't work from home very much are that my job still has a lot of hands-on responsibilities (which I don't mind - pulling cable or racking equipment is a nice break from staring at a screen for long periods of time), and, unfortunately, upper managements'
perceptions of things like teleworking and flex/comp time have not caught up with the times :frowning:


I teleworked for a few years back in the '90s. I would share a couple
of thoughts:

1. You have to have the disposition for it. For a coder, you have to
be the kind of person who sits down at a computer and writes code,
just because. If it would "require discipline" for you to work from a
home office, telework may not be right for you.

2. If most of the team works in an office, full time telework for any
member of the team is hard. Folks working together in an office
develop a social dynamic. Folks who aren't there aren't a part of that
dynamic. Teleworking is most likely to work out when most or all of
the team teleworks, not just particular members.

2a. You can still telework two days a week and spend the other three
in an office. But not Monday or Friday. Especially not Friday -- after
the rest of the week working in the office, you just won't do it. Your
brain will turn off if you try to work from home Friday after Thursday
in the office.

3. Beware tracking hours. Try to select work which is goal and
deadline based. Your supervisor won't see you in your seat; he can
only judge your performance on what you actually accomplish. When I
teleworked, I found myself taking breaks to mow the lawn, ride a bike
on a nice day or tinker with a personal server. Tracking hours under
such circumstances is almost impossibly hard. Measuring progress
towards a goal is less so.


Agree, I get more work done at home as well, be it at night
or during the day, than I do during office hours as the a
good chunk of the week normally ends up being full of face-
to-face meetings, and then it's over.

It is harder to work at home becuse of the distractions, but
when I can, it is more effective.


This thread reminded me of a The Oatmeal comic I saw not too long ago.
This explains the *good* and *horrible* about working from home.


Beware the office with an Internet connection too:


Don't forget to 'mouseover' the graphic.