How we make working remotely work for us

By Kaitlyn Tierney

Happy Bear Software is a 100% remote organisation. Our team is globally distributed, and we're happy to be able to offer the kind of flexibility that allows any good developer and good communicator to be a productive member of the team, regardless of where they are in the world. We get a lot of questions about remote working, from prospective hires, clients, and other remote or distributed teams. So this week, we asked everyone to share some of the good and bad things they've discovered about remote working so far.

Esther Olatunde, Senior Developer:

I love remote work because it allows me to optimize my daily work routine for when I’m most productive.

I also like how the focus of remote work is much more about the work you’re able to produce than anything else - so it's quite effective.

I love the freedom and control remote work gives. It’s quite exciting that with a very good internet connection, a laptop and a workspace that's convenient for you, you can be a functioning part of an organization.

Working remotely has allowed me to travel and explore countries and cities I would otherwise have needed to take a holiday to be able to visit because, with adequate planning, I can work from anywhere.

One of the downsides is that sometimes, I might not even leave my apartment in a week. I just stay indoors buried in my laptop. As long as the fridge is stocked, I have no real reason to go out and socialize.

Another downside is dealing with some people who don't understand the remote work lifestyle, people who think that because you're home all the time, you must have time to indulge and entertain them. So, it's important to live around people who understand what you do and the barriers that although you do not leave the house to go to a physical office, you're actually doing real, important work that consumes your time and mental energy!

Lastly, on the plus side, remote work extends your network - I get to work with an amazing team of people I would otherwise might not have met physically so that's awesome!

Gabriel Hilal, Senior Developer:

I have been experiencing many benefits of remote work. Instead of 45 minutes driving, my office is now 30 seconds away from my bed. I can work from anywhere with internet connection. I can have lunch with my family every day. And more important, I can see my daughter growing up - I was at home when she started crawling, first words, first steps, and many other important moments.

However, working remotely is not all roses. It took me a lot of time to organise my routine and feel productive at work. At the beginning, I was wearing pyjamas all the day through, working more hours than I should, doing household duties while waiting for tests to run, not doing any exercise, and not leaving the house for days in a row.

Changing my routine and establishing the boundaries between work and home were crucial to my sanity. I've created a separate office space inside my house, and defined two mains rules: pyjamas can't be worn inside the office, and the laptop can't be used for work in any other room rather than the office.

Improving things at home was a good start, but loneliness and lack of exercise were still a huge problem for me. Nowadays, I work from a coffee shop with a few friends once or twice a month. I've also joined a running club, and I'm now training to complete a marathon next year. It took some time, but after two years working remotely I feel completely adapted and wouldn't change it for any in-office job.

Najaf Ali, Founder:

I started Happy Bear Software with the explicit goal of making a remote company. This doesn’t mean that I think that remote is intrinsically better or worse than working from a central office. We take the good and the bad that comes from working 100% remotely on purpose.

The good is that there’s no commute, and so I have a lot more time with my family, on hobbies, reading, and on work. I have two young children, and I like being involved in their lives, even if that’s just taking them to/from school or eating lunch with them. If I’m tired, I can have a quick nap. I have an office with a door that closes which makes it much easier for me to focus for long stretches. I also like being able to work with people from across the planet.

There’s a lot of bad too. If I’m not careful I can go two or three days in a row without leaving the house. I get very little exercise unless I make a point of visiting the gym. As we’re not quite profitable enough to go on company retreats yet, I’ve never met a lot of our team in person. It can also be difficult to separate work/home life, but I might feel this more acutely than the others as the founder.

Ultimately though I wouldn’t have it any other way. The benefits outweigh the costs. The team we’ve managed to assemble alone has been worth it.

Kriszta Matyi, Senior Developer:

One of the main benefits of working remotely, for me, is having full control over my schedule. As long as the work gets done no one really cares when where, and how I do the work. If I feel like sitting in a coffee shop and watching the world go by while I work? I can just work from a coffee shop! If I don't feel like putting on pants in the morning, I can work from the safety of my home and wear yoga pants all day. This also means I have more freedom when it comes to booking doctor appointments, staying home for deliveries, deciding when to go to the gym or scheduling any other activities that I need to do during the day as opposed to after work. Not to mention that if I really need a change of scenery I can just decamp to a completely new location without having to take precious holiday time off.

I get to work in a much calmer environment than in an office. If I know I need a quiet day to get some work done, I stay home where no one will bother me with loud phone calls, impromptu meetings, questions over my shoulders, and all the other trappings of office life.

One unexpected benefit I experienced when I started to work remotely is I started cooking more therefore eating better during the week. I'm also saving a lot of money on not spending money on a commute.

A consequence of all the above is that I get to interact with actual humans a lot less than in an office. I also have to make more effort to see people after work and socialise, I can't just roll up to the nearest pub with your co-workers anymore. On certain weeks I generally have to make the effort to leave the house, be it going on a walk or going to the gym. And of course I have to remember to shower on a daily basis :)

I do miss some of the perks that come with a tech office, like the fancy coffee machine or the occasional free lunches. On the other hand, having full control over my time and location at all times more than makes up the absence of the coffee machine.

Kaitlyn Tierney, Apprentice Developer:

As an extremely introverted person, I absolutely love remote working.

The best way I've heard to describe introverted people is that while more extroverted people "recharge," so to speak, by socialising with others, introverts conversely feel drained by socialisation and need some time alone before and after to recover. When my job involved working behind a bar all night or working in an office all day, I'd come home after work and be too exhausted to do anything else—no matter what kind of day I'd had.

I'm still exhausted from work occasionally, but it's more the exception than the rule these days. I have enough energy left to go out and see friends in the evening, or to help mentor new developers, or go to the occasional meet-up or conference. Having a flex working schedule also helps facilitate this. For example, I took a few hours off from work yesterday morning to assist a Mums in Tech course with building their first websites. It was great fun, and not something I could have fit in at a regular office without having to get permission ahead of time and explain to my colleagues where I would be and why.

I prefer my time spent around other humans to be mindful and intentional, so I can put my best self into those interactions instead of scraping the bottom of my energy reserves to get through a tea break and chat. Remote working allows me to be the best version of myself, in my work life and my personal life. I'm really grateful for that, and wouldn't have it any other way.