Calling all remoties

tl;dr: If you are a remotie…or if you work with someone who is a remotie… I’d love to hear from you.

Whenever “remoties” come up in discussion, I continue to be surprised by the level of interest people have about this.

Its not just a polite “oh, that’s interesting”. Its a suddenly intense outpouring of personal war stories – “oh really? Let me tell you about the time when…”. Some of those stories were told as validation (“yes, we did what you do, and we’re happy it worked for us also” or “we didn’t do what you do, and it ended badly“). Some of these stories were told in denial (“we tried that once, it didn’t work out, which proves it is not ever possible“). Some of these stories were told in despair (“…so now my company wont hire any remoties“). But all of these stories were told with intense personal fervor, sometimes years after the fact!

This shouldn’t have surprised me. As Homa Bahrami pointed out when I met her in Mozilla Summit 2011, and again in meetings this summer, working with remoties is a hard people-organizational problem, not a software-organization problem. Homa also pointed out the intense, long term impact this can have on someone’s personal life and entire career, which explained some of the passionate responses I’ve received so far.

Stepping back, I realized that while most of the people I’ve talked with so far are in the computer business, I’ve also heard similar stories from university lecturers, book publishers, public relations people, medical doctors and traveling sales reps.

This got me thinking about how to contact even more people who work remotely… hence this blog post.

If you are a remotie…or if you work with someone who is a remotie… I’d be really interested to hear from you.

  • Do you have examples of things that did (or did not!) work for you?
  • Do you have ideas of things you haven’t tried, but which you think might help?

As usual, you can post comments below. I do also understand this is a personal thing, especially if you are still working in the situation. Therefore, if you want to email me privately instead, please email me, and put “remoties” somewhere in the subject. I will, of course, honor any requests to keep feedback anonymous, all I ask that you give me any working email address in case something is unclear, and I want to contact you with any followup questions.


Meanwhile, here’s a collection of useful links I’ve found about working remotely. If you know of others, please let me know.

(UPDATED: added another link, joduinn 16mar2014, 09nov2014)

7 thoughts on “Calling all remoties

  1. My main observation comes from being a remotie in an awkward timezone. My feeling is that being in an awkward timezone is a bigger disadvantage than being a remotie.

    For example, during the southern hemisphere summer I’m only 5 hours behind MV which makes things much better than the southern hemisphere winter when I’m 7 hours behind. E.g. in the southern summer when I start work at 9am it’s 2pm in MV instead of 4pm, which gives me two hours of extra overlap with North Americans. This makes lots of things easier, in particular attending meetings (though there are still plenty that I can’t) and getting answers to questions on IRC.

    Similarly, IRC is pretty dead on my Mondays (North American Sundays).

  2. Probably the single most important thing for remote workers is that they have to believe strongly in the mission of the company. When I tell people I work from home they always say, “Oh I could never do that – I wouldn’t get any work done.” I usually think to myself, “Wow, then you must not like your job very much.” 🙂 I frequently put in 50+ hours of work a week simply because I strongly believe in Mozilla’s mission.

    As a coder, one practice I’ve taken up is to leave my editor open all the time. (vim doesn’t take many system resources) “We just have to come in every morning and somehow, launch the editor.” It helps me start focusing on work in the morning instead of being distracted all day. In an office there are other people around that will notice if you spend all day on distractions.

  3. I used to work remotely as a software developer and liked it a lot. I worked for a small company, so I was constantly communicating with my boss and coworkers via IM and email throughout my work day. I had very few problems separating “work time” from “home time”, even though I was usually working from home. It helped to designate specific work hours and keep track of them.

    I think the hardest part was training my family and roommates to respect my work time. For example, sometimes my sister would ask me to babysit while I was working, but that never really worked and I’d always wind up taking part of the day off. Maybe some people can multi-task like that, but for me, writing code requires all of my focus.

    Sometimes I would go to nearby coffee shops to work, but that starts to feel awkward after a few hours of sitting there by yourself. The library was an enticing idea, but it wasn’t an option for me because I needed to take calls sometimes. Occasionally I’d wish for access to a communal office-type space, but the pricing for those spaces was a bit out of my range.

    Overall though, I think that working from home can be a good fit for the right person and the right job.

  4. The best thing I did was join a coworking space. Before that I worked from home and would go to a cafe occasionally just to get out of the house and not go stir-crazy, but my schedule was haphazard and I didn’t spend much time with other people. Joining a coworking space gave me a community to spend the day with, and a place to go that was not home but was a comfortable, external place to work. I didn’t have a dedicated desk there, just picked a seat at one of the the open tables. Some days I’d work from there, and other days I’d work from home, and occasionally I’d travel to an office somewhere to work with someone in person for a few days. And that worked for me.

  5. These days, working at home isn’t just a pipe dream — it’s an economic necessity. The Great Recession forced more than 300,000 stay-at-home moms to return to work. And in a recent retirement poll commissioned by Allstate, nearly 70% of near-retirees said they plan to continue working past age 65. ,

    My own webpage

  6. I am a remote release engineer for one of the biggest software company in the industry. Actually I do have my cube in office however all of my team members they are working in other countries, so initially I had to work from home sometimes to support them in different timezones. After that I get used to work from home and work from home mainly.

    As a release engineer, I have to work late sometimes or work over night. Like resuming a halt flow (pipeline), fixing any build errors, integrated issues, and supporting other developers from different timezones. I am not 100% sure whether working from home is good to other teams like Dev & QA (Recently Yahoo! has cancelled its working-from-home policy), but for RE, working from home is good for the pipelines.

    Here is my question, in your post ‘Release Engineering as a Force Multiplier’, you mentioned that as release engineers we have to talk with dev & qa frequently to get their feeling so that our work can make them more effective. Given that we work from home, how could we achieve that?

    I strongly agree with Russ S.’ comment ‘working from home can be a good fit for the right person and the right job.’ Working from home means ppl have to work harder and contribute more to avoid any eye rolling from other employees who have to work from office. Fortunately I could gain 5-outstanding in my yearly appraisals 🙂