I’m currently in a transitional phase. I’ve recently graduated from college and trying to figure out where I want to take my career. Trying to decide where I want to go and what I want to do has felt overwhelming, but I’ve come to a conclusion.
My previous job was with a local web development studio in Seattle. It was a fantastic job with great coworkers. The work was engaging – PHP, jQuery, and MySQL, but something still felt off. Every day of the week I busted my butt to head into work and got home burned out and exhausted. Something just wasn’t adding up considering everything I sincerely enjoyed about my job.
It was the commute. There’s no getting around it, thanks to the local geography with Seattle being surrounded by big lakes. My commute took 1.5 hours each way to work. I was dumping 3 hours of my day, unpaid, traveling to and from work. It was putting such an awful amount of stress onto me since there was little else I could do but read my phone or a book. Reading is entertaining and good on its own merits, but there was so much else I wanted out of my life that I simply could not do on a bus.
I tried taking my laptop on the bus, but it’s a horrible work environment – noisy, crowded, cramped. Even still I persevered until I hit a breaking point and realized I just could not keep this up.
I have to admit that part of the stress is due to a life choice I made years ago. I’ve got a large breed dog that demands hours of exercise every day. On top of the crazy commute I made sure to walk my big pup for two hours every morning. It’s great for me too, keeps me in shape and is a good stress reliever.
Unfortunately this walk meant I was waking up at 4:30 am and out the door by 5:00. That way I was home by 7:00 to feed myself, feed my dog, and be on the way to work by 7:30. Yeah. thirty minutes to do my entire morning routine.
I’d return home by 6:30, tired. Eat some dinner, do an evening walk since he’s been inside all day, then get to bed by 8:30 so I could at least have 7 to 8 hours of sleep and do it all again.
Whether this is in my control or not is up for debate. Sure, I could re-home my dog, but why? Why would I make such a big change in my life, especially something I love about my life (having a dog), just to have a slightly better work experience?
I could move closer to work, but to be honest I’m not a fan of urban centers and have no desire to move down.
Ultimately, this means saying goodbye to my cushy, nice job and out into the wind.
I got a little lost during my high-stress period at work. I had high hopes and thoughts of becoming a graphics programmer or a technical artist. I tried desperately to make games on the bus, but it was a horribly frustrating experience.
After leaving my job, I tried to push this further and made good progress on my first real commercial game attempt – Hyperwolf
As time went by, I visited PAX, and tried looking around for new employment. Given the time to reflect on the real cause of stress at my last job (the commute) I decided I only wanted remote work.
This meant that graphics development or technical art weren’t feasible career options at this time since they’re often in-office jobs only. Even if I wasn’t traveling to Seattle but a closer suburb, I’d still be missing out on several remote-working perks that I have come to love.
Working remotely means – no traffic, a more normal work-life cycle, and spending the day with my dog (even if it’s just to let him in and out).
My last job had me working occasionally from home, and these were some of my most productive days. I had easy access to good food (didn’t have to prepare and package anything), could take a break and walk my dog, when work was done I am already home – no traffic to fight through.
All of my work was done remotely anyway. Even in the office I would connect to our remote server to do our work. Our office communication was primarily through Slack, even for coworkers right next to you (which I personally hated, I’d rather talk to people in person if we’re there anyway).
The only real downsides to remote work was being unable to directly communicate with the non-developers to get their thoughts on UI design choices. Company meetings were in-person too, but they could be done remotely.
Because it’s where I am most productive. I live a happier, more balanced life. I can do the work, and do it well.
Not because I have poor social skills (I get commendations for this everywhere I go), I’m lazy (I’m up and out the door every day by 6am), nor because I think it’s easier.
I believe remote work is the future for tech work as the internet continues to grow. There’s less reason to have a formal office now than ever before. Especially for web development. Our work is only on servers. Even still, we can download local repositories to work offline if needed, then push new work up.