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[personal profile] cjwatson
[personal profile] emperor asked me to say something about working from home.

My first two proper jobs (Zeus then nCipher) were in conventional offices. I was never exactly the nine-to-five type, but only because mornings are hard and I usually sloped in somewhere between 10:30 and 11:00 and left about eight hours later. I always got a lot socially out of working in offices; I'm still in contact with friends I met at Zeus, and nCipher had the bridge-playing cabal as well as several SGO-type usual suspects. So when I went to work for Canonical it was quite a strange thing to be working at home all day. To start with we were of course a startup and were trying to get a product sorted out at all costs, so while I did try to keep vaguely reasonable hours I had largely unavoidable silly things like the 32 hours awake just before our preview release (followed by 16 hours of sleep), and basically got off to a bad start in terms of setting good work/life balance habits.

The social aspects have mostly been trade-offs. On the one hand, I really appreciate being able to concentrate without significant interruptions; certain kinds of programming activity require me to hold quite a bit of complicated and easily-disrupted state in my head. It's really noticeable now when I go and work in an office for a week that I feel I'm forever being interrupted about things that people could just as well have e-mailed me about, and I generally feel I don't get very much done. On the other hand, I do sometimes feel quite isolated and need to explicitly schedule time to go out and chat with a wider variety of people; I'm usually quite introverted, so I need to recharge after a while around lots of people, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy seeing them. Being able to spend time with my family as they grow up has been great, and I'd have missed an awful lot if I'd had a job with similar requirements in an office. At the same time, it's really difficult to keep a mental separation between work and not-work, particularly because my hobbies include Debian development which involves sitting in the same place doing something that is at least in the same general category and often overlaps directly. Over the years I've found it far too easy to slip into the habit of not really ever quite finishing up at work, or of hiding in my study any time I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed, and these are problems I very badly need to fix.

On the whole I think I would find it difficult to go back to working in an office nowadays. I've been working from home for over two-thirds of my post-university life, and readjusting back would be very hard in different ways. But I'm intending and hoping that the reset switch afforded by my change of rôle will give me a chance to set new and more functional habits without having to switch modes entirely.

If you're considering working from home, then I would say a few things. Certainly don't discard it out of hand, because it does work well for a lot of people, and even though I've had a number of problems it hasn't been one-sided either. If you're the sort of person who gets distracted very easily and needs to be surrounded by people in order to keep on the job, then it may not be for you; I've seen people who are very much at the other end of the scale from me and who just found themselves entirely unable to keep themselves motivated from home. It will probably help if you get some experience with a job that's a known quantity, rather than trying to switch jobs and modes at the same time. And take work/life balance seriously, even if you don't notice the problems at first, because otherwise you'll regret not paying attention earlier.

This post is part of my December days series. Please prompt me!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-10 05:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rysmiel.livejournal.com
That's interesting, thank you. From time to time I do bits of programming that fall under the "complicated and easily disrupted state" header; an office with a door I can close helps there, but I do not do that very often because it's a bit of a thing here to be available for the services side of what I am doing.

What I did at my last job, and would like to do again because it is what I am best at of plausible dayjob options, is run a development team of 3-5 people and do much more design and less coding, and the scale of feedback that's worked best for that for me really needs me to be on-site with the team. The closest I've come to working at home is writing the second half of a novel in the couple of weeks between the end of my previous job and the start of this one; I liked it, but [livejournal.com profile] papersky thinks us both working from the same living space is not feasibled.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-10 06:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rysmiel.livejournal.com
After eight years running that team I thought I wanted to be doing coding, but it turned out what I wanted was to do about two weeks of coding and then go back to running a team.

I am also very much not a morning person, and I suspect that dragging myself out of bed to do work at home would not be a plus; nor does it feel like having a strong work-type presence in my home space would help with ability to put work down and do something else when that is called for, it would have the potential failure mode of opening yet another front in the war on anxiety, for me. But I am very glad you've found something that clearly works so well for you.

How have you balanced not being interrupted at work with having small children around ?

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