(Left to right: Eric Satterwhite, Senior Backend Architect; Darin Spivey, Lead Backend Engineer; and Ryan Mottley, Backend Engineer)
Remote work. It’s one of the most popular work setups in the tech world, and more businesses and employees are trying to see if they should make the jump. At Help.com, we have a team of in-office and remote employees across the country who collaborate on projects together. We checked in with a few members of the remote team to discuss the pros and cons of working from home.
Eric Satterwhite lives in Wisconsin. Darin Spivey lives in Florida. Ryan Mottley lives in Mississippi. Together, along with other members of the team working across the country, these engineers have found a way to thrive in group settings while working remotely. Here’s why they love it:
- Eric Satterwhite: “I like working remote because I don’t have to go anywhere. A lot of people don’t realize just how much time is spent moving around to get to and from work. It could be anywhere from an hour to two hours and there are people here that sometimes travel three hours to get into the office. For me, I roll out of bed and I’m at work.”
- Darin Spivey: “The freedom that [comes] with it. You get to spend more time with your family. You get to feel more connected to your household on a day-to-day basis. Having my workspace right there all the time is helpful. When you’re in my kind of position and love the job the way I and the rest of the team do, we want to be working. We want to be solving problems. So even if it’s the weekend, I’ll be mulling over some algorithm, and if I’m really onto something I’ll want to go work on it. It’s nice to have your workspace available to you for that reason.
- Ryan Mottley: “I can set a schedule that works for me if I need to. If I need to take a brief break to help my wife with something, I can do that really quickly. I’m also able to work with my own machine at home, which is infinitely better than any laptop that I currently have. So that means I’m a lot more productive.”
Of course, there are challenges that accompany any type of workplace setup. One of the main issues is communication.
- Darin Spivey: “How do you communicate when you’re not in person? It requires an extra level of thought. You can no longer make assumptions about people’s schedules or being able to talk to someone. You have to set up meetings and you have to communicate out when you need help. People can’t read your body language and see if you’re frustrated sitting in your chair. A lot of people have to practice with that.”
Even digital platforms meant for communication, such as Slack and video calls, present their own issues.
- Eric Satterwhite: “Internet chats tend to be choppy, grainy. You tend to lose audio a lot so people are repeating themselves very frequently. The biggest hurdle is just remembering that you have to do it. It’s very easy when you’re in an office to just start talking with people and leave remote people out of that situation.”
- Darin Spivey: “Most of the time you’re talking on Slack, typing a text message, or typing an email. If you’re lucky enough to get a video call, it’s better, but still, communication issues exist… People have spotty internet. Microphones cut out. With a larger group video chat, only one person can talk on that microphone at a time. A lot of times, you’ll be talking and you’ll see someone’s mouth move, and you’ll know you just trampled over them. There are challenges like that to be aware of.”
Another obstacle of working remotely is self management. All three engineers agreed there’s a certain kind of discipline necessary for remote employment.
- Ryan Mottley: “The biggest challenge is staying on task. You have to be self motivated. Otherwise it’s very easy to get distracted if you’re not careful.”
So what do they do to ensure success? Each of them has their own rules that help them stay focused and on track.
- Eric Satterwhite: “You have to remember you’re going to work. Most of us who work remotely have a room designated as the office in our homes or apartments and when we go to work, we go to work. We don’t watch TV, we don’t leave at inopportune times. We don’t make personal phone calls. We go to work like everyone else; it just happens to be in our home.”
- Ryan Mottley: “My number one rule is during the day, I am always on booted to the Mac side of my machine. I have my machine partitioned into my Windows side and my Mac side. I like to play games, so being on the Mac side eliminates the temptation to take a break and play something.”
- Darin Spivey: “You have to get ready for the day. It’s very tempting to work in your pajamas. That may be fun for a time, but really I subscribe to the dress for success code. If you get ready for the day and you put on clothes, and you do your hair and brush your teeth and all that stuff we’re supposed to do as adults, you feel like you’re accomplishing something. That’s something I try to stick to. You have a wakeup routine, maybe do a little work, and then you get ready before your first call. You have lunch at a certain time. And stick to it. For me, that helps.”
In the end, the benefits of working remotely outweigh the challenges--as long as you’re the right fit.
- Ryan Mottley: “I enjoy working remotely. A lot. It suits my style. If you’re looking to hire, make sure their work environment suits the strengths of the people you’re trying to hire. Because not everyone does well working remotely.”
- Darin Spivey: “It really is a wonderful thing. You have to be ready for it though. You have to be at a maturity level that’s appropriate. I would not be able to do what I’m doing now when I was in my 20s… You have to want to be working because no one’s going to make you when you’re at home. If you have a passion for what you’re doing, and you don’t think you can be distracted by external influences, then it’s a great thing.”
- Eric Satterwhite: “It’s everything it’s cracked up to be. If you can maintain the discipline of treating your work as work, you get to save a lot of time and energy traveling and commuting. Plus you have the benefit of avoiding the stress of being in an office... It’s a very stress-free environment and I think that has a lot of value.”
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