Having both worked in office and remotely (aka working from home), I find myself preferring the latter much more. In this post, I will detail on how much the benefits of remote work mean to me as well as why I don’t view its drawbacks much of problems.
No need to commute
“No need to commute” doesn’t sound much; “no need to commute in congestion” would be more telling about the advantage of remote work. Most jobs start and end at around the same time windows and as a result, we have a thing called “rush hours”, where we have abnormally high number of people being outside on the road. By simply not having to go outside around these time, I would save up to 3 hours a day! Being stuck around a bunch of cars also contribute to my daily stress. Even when I don’t have to travel during these time windows, it would still take me half that time, as most tech companies in my city are located around that place.
Not only do I save time, I also save fuel, thereby saving more money as well as reducing gasoline consumption and pollution. By working from home, I would save more than 3 L of gasoline and avoid exhausting 4 m3 of CO2 per week. Speaking of exhaustion, breathing it continuously in high concentration for 3 hours a day is not exactly healthy.
The saved time and money can be spent on more meaningful things, such as doing daily workouts or sleeping a bit more, both of which I am lacking. This means that remote work is the only way for me to live healthily.
More freedom overall
When I work at home, I can wear whatever I want and no one is gonna judge it. Some workplaces require strict dress code like tugged button-up shirts and shoes. Fortunately, I never worked in a workplace like that, but I am still required to wear uniform on Monday and employee card. There are also implicit dress codes like no slip-slops, shorts or sleeveless shirts in the office, which is no problem if you’re at home. There are also no surveillance camera, (unless you’re not already covering your laptop’s).
I can slack off from time to time: I can do small talk with friends and read new updates from my RSS feed without disapproval eyes from other coworkers—not that this is strictly forbidden, but some people seems to have this weird idea that you have to spend 100% of your time to work. Well, you can’t constantly focus for 4 hours long; at least people I know of don’t have such attention span. Temporary procrastination can actually help with productivity.
While some people complain about constant distractions from home working, my experience is on the contrary. Each job differs from another, but in one of my job, my coworkers constantly need to ask me for help. By distancing myself from my coworkers constantly asking for support, I can actually focus on my work. This also means that I cannot ask others instantly, but I also find that not being able to do that force me to figure out the problems myself, which in effect help me understand the issue more profoundly.
Less land required
If you’re working remotely, you won’t use that 3 m2 office lot and a parking lot (assuming you’re not using public transport). If your entire company work remotely, you won’t need a whole building. Well, you probably still need some office somehow, but from an employer’s point of view, shouldn’t this be a tremendous advantage?
As many people point out, it can be hard to communicate when you’re working remotely. This is very true at the beginning of the forced remote-work (i.e. the COVID pandemic). Since then, video conferencing and other communication methods have improved, but network failure is a problem that always persist. Nonetheless, as I mentioned above, low and unintrusive communication can be and advantage.
To address the above problem, some people resort to over-communicate. We have daily meetings, weekly meetings, fortnightly meetings, monthly meetings—you name it—that are supposed to be 5-minute sync, but can creep up to an hour or even more. This is not to mention random checkup meetings for some urgency. This is the very same problem that would happens with in-office working that I mentioned above.
Over-communication can in turn lead to work-life imbalance.
There is a reason many people have a self-policy of not bringing work home. This includes not working at home and not discussing work at home. I am such person. Learning from my past internship, I know how distressing being contacted from work can be1, so I don’t install any work-related apps on my own devices, and if I do, the notification is always turned off.
Nonetheless, some people seem to have this notion that as you can do work outside your working time, you should (or worse, have to) do it. I had a coworker who brought her laptop home. Yes she did work at home in the evening, and when the temporary remote work period ended, she still kept that habit, even went so far as checking messages/doing meeting on her train. Now, I’m no one to judge her work-life boundaries, but it’s extremely annoying that she expected me to be able to contact in some way outside my working time.
Of course, if you have clear boundaries and principles, this shouldn’t be a problem.
Network are not to be trusted, especially when it goes out of your local one. From an employer’s standpoint, remote work can be undesirable because a malicious employee can leak data to an opponent, which is a valid concerns, except that, they’re using cloud services to host their data, communication, and even software substitution. They’re already sending data outside to a third party! Not to mention that, there are already plenty of ways to send information out of the office without network, such as copying files to an USB, paper, or just remembering the information.
On that note, blocking internet in a software development environment, unless you’re developing internal software and host your own servers, software and documentation, which include, but not limited to:
- operating systems
- software package mirrors
- language and libraries documentation
- version control server
- database servers
- email servers
- instant messaging servers
that are required in doing software development, or other kind of office works, because as soon as you leak data to the external internet, that false shield has been broken. Well, disclaimer, I’m not a security expert.
No, I don’t think remote work is for everyone, but I insist that allowing it is a must. Obviously, there are jobs where remote work doesn’t make sense, but for me particularly, remote work is a step forwards in maintaining a healthy mind (well, at least if you’re already principled enough not to bring work home) as well as contributing to environment preservation. If I’m to found a company, I’d encourage my coworkers to work from home, because I believe that’s a win for both parties.
While I wasn’t directly contacted during my internship, I was in a chat group at work, and them constantly discussing work even after midnight gives me unintended pressure. ↩︎