At NuRelm, we recently started a three day per week telecommuting schedule. It has been a little over one full year of Skyping, Google Chat, Mikogo, Google Plus hangouts and the occasional coffee shop collaborating.
The concept wasn’t new and we didn’t just jump into it blindfolded. When I started as a contractor in July of 2010, there already was a Friday work from home day in place for a few years and I was working remotely most evenings after my old 9-5. We also had a couple of employees working nearly 100% remote, so it was really the production team that needed to work out the telecommuting process. The other thing to note here is that our office is over an hour and up to 90 minutes away for most of us so we don’t have the luxury of being able to ride buses, bicycles or trains to work like the real city dwellers north of Uniontown.
The first step I took toward telecommuting happiness was to move. It wasn’t a difficult decision to move out of my cramped northeastern Pittsburgh apartment where my office doubled as my bedroom. Staring at your bed for 8 1/2 hours a day can drive anyone a bit crazy. To keep my sanity I spent roughly twenty hours per week in coffee shops. Having previously labeled myself as a freelancer, I was used to this practice. I now live in a larger apartment , northwest of the city, with a separate office from my living space. My Keurig is my best friend and I am within walking distance from three very unique locally owned coffee shops (Affogato, Muddy Cup, Acoustic Mouse). My average coffee shop time has now dwindled to 4-8 hours per week. I occasionally pop in for lunch if I’m craving human contact.
Earphones are your best friends in a coffee shop to avoid discussion and interruptions and to give yourself a proper lunch break. It’s also a good way to break up the day. My secret here is that I actually spend less than 20% of my time listening to anything and they’re just a discreet “go away” statement.
Tools we use:
Google. Almost enough said. We rely on Google apps for business, using our domain, Google chat to communicate, calendars to schedule meetings and calls, docs for our spreadsheets and organization, and sites for some of our how-to material. Most recently, NuRelm staff has taken a liking to using Google Plus hang-outs for meetings. For phone calls, I use Google Voice through my laptop and also conference in with Skype. It doesn’t sound any worse than the majority of clients voices when they have us on speaker phone.
- Less commute time (3hrs round trip per office visit)
-I save money on gas, car maintenance, wear and tear on my car
- More sleep on telecommute days
- There’s daylight left at the end of telecommute days
- Eating healthier is easier to do at home
- Office time becomes more valuable
- Less time away from my dog (dog friendly office helps too, though)
- Choosing a new work space for a day is always an option
- Being able to pick up slack while on vacation is an option; our projects and timelines are sometimes unpredictable
- Being a remote employee, it’s easier to sync email to my mobile devices to manage everything. It’s now a habit to check/peek at my email anytime I pull out my phone for personal use. On the upside, I know what’s in my inbox for Monday and we go above and beyond to resolve any troubles for our clients (like New Years eve, 2010 9:30pm – praise Google Email for allowing me to find the exact date and time of this server outage with ease).
- We don’t get as much real face to face time but, we still IM each other from our cubes on office days
- No more cycling to work
- Less happy hours with work people
We recommend starting off with a single work from home day and or collaborating in a cafe of sorts. When we’re in our office, we migrate to a Panera Bread or cafe whenever we lose power, Internet or coffee. On a side note, why are Web developers so addicted to coffee? A lot of bars have WiFi, too.