In the wake of the Coronavirus crisis, I see new "how to work remote" articles pop up every day, so I thought maybe someone is interested in my two cents.
This isn't one of those articles that try to help you to do remote work successfully, well maybe a bit :D, it's mostly the story of how I became a remote worker and what I learned along the way.
As the title suggests, I didn't start working remotely because of the virus, but some time ago.
At the end of 2013, I just powered through crunch time. I felt burned out and talked to my manager about what I had to expect in the future. Was there a raise? A better position? Anything?
Well, turned out, all my overtime was for nothing. The company wasn't doing good lately, and after a new investor replaced the management, it was geared into conservative mode. The startup party was over.
So I quit and started a sabbatical in 2014.
During that sabbatical, I worked on my master's degree at a remote university. Since the university was remote, I learned to work in geographically spread teams.
I found it really helpful to stay awake until late at night and sleep until noon. Then, without the need for an alarm, wake up, get a coffee, and do my thing, whether in be working on university projects, riding my bike, or play the guitar.
At the end of 2013, I also started a new relationship. Since I had enough of doing monogamy for various reasons, it was from the start defined as polyamory, and I got my second relationship in 2014.
There I was at the end of 2014. Multiple time filling hobbies, two relationships, and no time to work.
I liked that time so much that I wished it would never stop.
But well, I wasn't rich, so I had to do something for my money, but I didn't want to cut down on my private life.
Since I did all the remote university work in 2014, I wanted to try remote work. I signed up at AngelList in 2015 and interviewed with a few companies. After 2 months, I got a job at a startup that would let me work from home.
I worked there for 1 1/2 years and learned a lot about things I didn't like about work, that didn't have anything to do with offices.
People were calling me at 8 am and panicking via phone or chat. The company always wanted me to be "on-site" and even tried to bait me with a better job if I just wold move to their city and work in an office again.
But I couldn't.
In the last years, I learned that my life is more important than my career. Sure, I wouldn't drop every work-related task for my personal problems; after all, I want to be a reliable co-worker, but I knew my boundaries. I knew that my relationships would suffer if I moved to another city. I knew I would be miserable, so I didn't take that offer.
Well, things went on for half a year, investors came and threw out remote workers, and I had to go.
I didn't want to work as a freelancer at that time; I saw it mostly as a temporary arrangement until I'd finally get a permanent position.
But after that job, I thought about embracing freelancing 100%.
When you are seen as an employee, you're seen as an asset of the company you're working for, not a partner, and more often than not, management starts to treat you just like that, an asset.
As a freelancer, you are seen as a partner that brings in external knowledge, another company to buy skills from, that led to a much better work environment for me.
I started to search for "projects" and not "jobs", so I wouldn't get "hired" by a company but "sold" something to a customer.
People would treat me differently.
They'd ask politely for a meeting.
They would wait a few hours or days for an answer to an email.
They wouldn't tell me "what to do" but instead ask "how much I'd take" for a specific task.
I felt valued, and I could finally structure my work so it would fit my life and not the other way around.
I also got into blogging in 2017, years after I started working remotely. It was a new year's resolution, one of the few I kept doing. Blogging helped me to put the word out and find new opportunities.
If non-recruiters search for someone to help them, you should make it easy for them to find you. I was astonished to see the offerings I got after starting to blog. I got a book deal, paid blogging gigs, and even got asked by a university to teach development for them. Things you wouldn't usually get offered by a recruiter.
Not having to commute every day and getting my work hours down left me with much time to think about how to improve my life even further. This wasn't a noticeable change I expected when starting working remotely.
What I can say is, there are many opportunities you can get by reinvesting your new won free time to get even more out of remote work than "not wearing pants" :D
Look how you want to structure your life and see if remote work brings benefits to that. Find hobbies, like sports, music, tabletop games, or whatnot, something that lets you meet independently of your job. With that attitude, you won't wake up one day, sitting alone at home asking yourself how you should have a social life if you don't meet your co-workers every day.