In July last year, I started working full-time for my company, Zenutech Inc. I knew working from home would be a bit of an adjustment, but I couldn’t have predicted the challenges.
At first it was great. Get up around 9am, shower, eat, and install myself at my desk for the day. Then after a couple weeks of this, I started to miss certain parts of my days when I worked in an office.
When telling people that I work from home, I was surprised how many people said that they didn’t think they could do it. They didn’t think that they would get any work done. I found quite the opposite.
With no meetings, disruptions, or distractions that an office environment brings with it, I was able to focus on my tasks and get a lot done. Often the hard part was making sure I break for lunch and not work too late. However, I started to miss the productivity-thwarting social quirks that come with an office environment. Like the nerdtastic excitement of a new Apple release, kicking the plush soccer balls around at lunch time, and the Friday “Beer O’clock” Guitar Hero sessions.
Doing lunch with old colleages and going to Meetup events helped. Pierre kept me company as best one possibly could over IM. But with only myself and my bobble head Jesus, most days were still quite lonely.
It is said that over 90% of communication is non-verbal. Which means that by collaborating over the phone and IM, much of the communication is lost. I really missed gauging people’s reactions to ideas through their body language, how quickly and intensely they respond, etc.
I remember before starting our company, Pierre and I shared an apartment with a few others. He had a room upstairs and I was downstairs. We would chat on IM, but whenever the conversation got interesting, we would always convene to discuss in person. I think as a conversation becomes more dynamic, people have a natural urge to speak face-to-face to utilize all of our communication abilities. In any case, there is definitely something to be said about face-to-face collaboration, bouncing quick ideas off people, and brainstorming.
I used to cycle 20 minutes to and from work every day, all year round, rain or shine. It was a great way to kick off the day and get the blood flowing before that morning shower. I really missed it. Since I was working from home, I couldn’t very well cycle to work. Or could I?
I managed to map out a nice route that did a 40 minute loop into Kitsilano and back to my apartment. I started cycling this loop every morning and it seemed to work out. Problem solved. Sort of.
As much as I’d like to say I cycled to work purely for exercise, I really cycled because I had to get to work somehow and I didn’t enjoy riding a crowded bus or train. As an added benefit, it was great exercise. Two birds, one stone. You can imagine how difficult it was to convince myself to go out into cold, rainy weather to cycle in a circle for the exercise. Although it was much tougher, I still managed to make it out mostly every day and it was still a great way to start to the day.
Realizing I needed to make some changes, I read a few articles about working from home and asked advice from friends as well. I received lots of suggestions like try working from a coffee shop now and then, set a time to stop working every night, and join a co-operative work place like WorkSpace. Unfortunately, some of the suggestions seemed to only remedy a small part of my problem with working from home and others just didn’t suit me. So, after some careful deliberation, I started looking for a new job.
New Job, Same Old
A few weeks ago, I started working for Fjord Interactive + Marketing as a Web Developer here in Vancouver. I am pleased to say I love cycling to work again and Friday afternoon I even shared a couple of beers with the gang and played some Guitar Hero. Feels good to be in a bustling environment again.
As for Zenutech, I’m back to working part-time again, as I was prior to July last year. I highly doubt I will be working full-time for Zenutech again until we have a proper office. Probably in a year or two.
This whole experience has taught me that working from home really isn’t for me. At least not right now. But it was worth a try.