1 Nov 2016
The biggest perk of working remotely is the freedom to choose where you work from. As an introvert I usually prefer working from home, it's where I'm most focused and have everything set up the way I need it.
That said, working from home can be incredibly isolating. Hours often go by before I realise I haven't spoken to anybody except my cat all day. The worst part is I don't even have a cat. It's so easy to 'forget' to socialise and let work time bleed into personal time. A common myth is that this is just something you have to accept when working remote.
One solution to this is coworking. It's like working in an office but with the added benefit of choosing who you spend time with, and how often. An office without politics. An office whose existence relies on members wanting to spend time there, or they'd go out of business. One of the best things about coworking is the diversity of people that turn up. While there's still an overwhelmingly techie demographic, designers, artists, musicians and businesspeople find a home in these spaces too. There's no incumbent shared company mindset, because everybody works for different institutions, or often, just for themselves.
Last year, I spent most of my time working from a converted garage, under a house in an inner city suburb of Tokyo. Over the course of the year, it came to feel like my second home. From day one, everybody was incredibly friendly and welcoming and I formed some great friendships with like-minded people.
I'm back in Tokyo again for one short week, and I can genuinely say I'm glad to spend time at Open Source Cafe again. It's a place where I can actually look forward to going to work, which is hard to say about a dreary grey office with sterile fluorescent lighting or a noisy open plan echo chamber.
Working remotely doesn't have to mean isolating yourself from people. For those with families, it can mean spending more time with the kids, or being able to take them to school. It can mean taking an extra long lunch break to catch up with friends visiting town, or working from somewhere far from home. It can mean cranking out some work on the plane or train, then taking a break at the destination. As with anything else there are of course challenges. Keeping track of where you spend your time and how effective you are becomes far more important for keeping a good work life balance. Overall though, I think the benefits are more than worth facing the challenges.
I'm not sure why so many information-age companies are still hesitant to allow remote work. As far as I can tell, it's a win-win. Introverts get their time alone to block off distractions and focus, while extroverts can mingle where and when they want, and share ideas with a huge range of people they wouldn't otherwise meet. Organisations can hire from anywhere in the world, have happier and more productive employees, and are forced to focus on performance via actual output instead of ass-in-seat-duration. Whether or not today's companies can accept it, it's the future of work.
By the way, we're hiring.