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THE Lowly Peon


Working Remotely 
20 March 2012, 12:19pm

For the last week or so, I've gotten a taste of what it means to work remotely. Nothing I've learned is anything profound, but it's been a great time for me to try something out I've always been curious about.

Since mid last week full time, and for the coming weeks periodically, I've been working remotely by connecting to my old work station in Houston and going about business as usual. In a way I've been doing this for years — when I lived in China I supported remote offices all the time — but working on my own computer, on more or less my own hours, and in any location I want, has been amazing.

Awesomeness #1: Location

I knew on the first day of remote work that I probably wouldn't get much done if I worked from home, so a friend offered me access to his company's conference room on floor 56 of the AT&T building near the loop, a stunningly beautiful building with a great view. The wifi is fast and the coffee tastes good.

I worked there for the first two days of my little adventure, the first being unbelievably productive (more on that in a second) and the second being about as much as a waste of time as when I was in Houston, mostly spent fielding low level questions to high level people.

Friday I decided to work at home while I waited for my new iPad (!!). I was productive in the morning, but, well, I think you can guess what happened when I got my iPad. So I left home while my iPad finished syncing all its content and got some real work done in the afternoon.

And yesterday I bounced from coffee shop to coffee shop, even worked using AT&T's 4G LTE network on my iPad to work while I took the train downtown to meet some people for lunch. And now I'm at a neat little cafe in the suburbs, enjoying some amazing coffee and listening to good tunes.

Awesomeness #2: Focus & Productivity

I figured working from irregular places would result in pretty much being constantly distracted. I still think working at home can be distracting, mostly because my body seems conditioned to feel a certain way when I'm at home. But in almost all of the places above, I've been able to keenly focus on what I'm doing. In fact, because I'm not constantly fielding questions or pretending to be interested in little chit-chat with people who are asking me favors and want to feel like it's a friendly favor, I am vastly more productive. I can't stress this enough. I would guess that five hours of each day I've had so far would be about as productive as a full eight hour day back in the office. It's been great.

Not-so-awesomeness #1: Dependence on Internet

Due to the nature of my work, which is all on computers, I really need a good internet connection. Lots of coffee shops I've gone to have had 3-5Mbps (same as my parents' house), which can be pretty annoying for things that require lots of mouse point-and-clicks. Fast internet is generally a convenience, the sort of thing where you open up google and say "wow, that loaded fast! awesome!" but in this case, it's absolutely necessary.

The first day I did this, somehow the IP of my machine in Houston changed (it's static, so it shouldn't have). So it took about an hour for my guys back in Houston to get me up and running.

Not-so-awesomeness #2: The simple perks

Coffee costs a lot of money when you buy it at a coffee shop and sit for a while.

Conclusion:

I always thought I'd need to work in an office to be productive. But after this week (yes, I know it's only been a week, and my mind could change drastically with a bit more time), I'm strongly considering looking for work that allows me to be remote a good amount of the time. Imagine: I could go to China for a few weeks to see the in-laws and a bunch of my friends, and my work would mostly continue (see not-so-awesomeness #1 for reasons this may not work).

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