Remote Work: Year Two

Today marks the second anniversary of my gig at Glitch (formerly Fog Creek Software). Last year, I wrote a retrospective on what the first year of working remotely was like; I thought it’d be fun to see how that’s evolved.

What’s scary about working remotely?

Last year, I said that there wasn’t very much that I found to be scary about working remotely. That’s still true! I do still find that I can go days without leaving the house for social interaction or physical activity, but I have been better about that too. I tend to work on personal projects from coffee shops every so often; this year, I’ve been toying with the idea of using a co-working space once in a while to get away from my home office, too. That will probably only happen once the weather improves.

What’s good about working remotely?

Last year, I talked about the ability to focus and the commute (or lack thereof). That’s still very true, and now that I’m in a more flexible role, I am (as I mentioned above) kind of liking the idea of working from wherever, whenever. I’ve been identifying peak hours for my own productivity, and while I still need to have a pretty good 9-to-5 overlap, it’s really nice to be able to step away to handle personal affairs and catch up later in the day.

Let’s talk about career development.

I still haven’t taken advantage of things like conference budgets, so that’s not great. There’s been a lot of change at Glitch over the last few months, so things like the mentorship program have been put on hold for a bit. I miss that, but I’ve been doing a lot of courses (mostly from Wes Bos) to level-up my web development game.

How do you learn from your colleagues remotely?

We’ve got #learning and #codereview channels in Slack for posting things you’re learning and requesting feedback on your code, respectively, and these are pretty great; we also have a standing daily hour-long video hangout where you can jump in to work on projects with others. It sometimes happens that I’m in there alone, though.

How do you stay plugged into spontaneous conversations around the office?

Slack. To quote Anne Helen Petersen’s comment the Hurry Slowly podcast, it’s like LARPing your workday. There’s also a policy of posting notes whenever two or more people have a meeting; these are available for anyone in the company to read, so if there’s a spontaneous conversation of some consequence to the product or business, you can learn more.

How do you have idle/watercooler discussions?

There’s no change in this from last year, though we didn’t continue with Donut after all; it was great for pairing a small group of people, but it was hard to get one person to take charge and schedule something.

What happens if you spend a week stuck on a problem?

Things are a little different with my new gig as a solutions engineer as there isn’t exactly somewhere to escalate, but talking about your blockers in a 1:1 or in weekly team check-ins usually gets things moving in the right direction. These days, “getting stuck” can go one of two ways: being stuck technically (not being sure how to implement a feature or solve a bug), or being stuck in a conversation (not being sure how to answer a partner’s question, for example).

And of course, there’s always the #ask channel (or team-specific channels) in Slack to ask questions. That’s really the most important thing: instead of getting frustrated by spinning your wheels when trying to solve a problem, ask questions and seek advice. It helps that I get to work with phenomenally talented people, too.

What’s the setup like for meetings with people in the office, and does it work well?

There’s no change here over last year. I really like that even with a good chunk of the Glitch team working at HQ in NYC, meetings are still conducted with each person at their computer. It’s never a conference room full of people and a couple of lonely remote folks, which is great.

How do you stay productive and also separate work/life at home?

Staying productive hasn’t changed, though I tend to spend more time thinking in my day job than I used to. I also tend to spend a bit more time in my home office these days, to either work on the podcast or practice guitar, but I still try to define pretty rigid start and end times to my day. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t pop into Slack every so often outside of my normal working hours, but usually that’s to check out what’s happening in #food, #pets, #fitness, or #offtopic. If I have an idea for work, I tend to dump it into OmniFocus for consideration at the start of the next workday. You can’t help when you’ll have an idea, but you can protect the time you’ve defined for your life outside of work.

Angelo Stavrow

Montreal, Canada
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Tinkerer with a strong interest for development, of both the personal and software persuasion; easily defeated with spatulas. Equal measures enthusiasm and concern for tech's effect on the world. He/him.