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Stevan Kostoski
Stevan Kostoski

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The transition from full time in office to fully remote

Previous thoughts about working from home

Each of us knows somebody who works from home, Π΅ven with unusual working hours, typically for some foreign client. If you think about it, you feel like it's uncomfortable. You believe that your daily tasks and routines associated with your private life will not allow that. Also, you think that working from home will decrease your productivity because of all the distractions at home. Even the employers who do not permit working from home think the same. They are afraid that you will not sit in front of your computer all the time and you won't complete all the tasks because there is nobody to "control" or "watch" you. I was the same. I thought that I couldn't work from home. I will miss my colleagues, that I will have too many distractions, and that I already have too many meetings in person. I thought it was impossible to achieve that from home.
Then COVID 19 happened.

COVID19 strikes in March

We received the news about COVID 19 virus during January and February. But in Europe, there was not that much of a fuss until there was the first case in Italy. Then somehow, everything was different. It started with canceling events, closing kindergartens, and everything that followed. Our company told us that we should start working from home until the whole situation was settled. Nobody expected that it would continue for the next two years and counting.
Now, for something I thought that was impossible, I was forced to do. I need to work from home because there is no other option. The building my company was renting was closed. We were allowed to go there and pick up some equipment, but that was it. It would help if you found someplace at your apartment that will act as your office.
It's temporary, they said.
The first two weeks were chaos, at least for my family and me. My daughter was 10months old, and besides all her needs, she was sleeping 2-3 times a day. I needed to find somewhere to work and focus, have meetings, and not distract her while sleeping. And naturally, her room became my office.
It's temporary, they said.
But after a while, it all evolved naturally. Now I was able to see all the perks of working from home. Now I don't need to commute for 30-45min and rush to get back home in time. Now I need to get up, do the bathroom routine, and I'm ready to start working. I don't need to worry if the rush hour will hit me when I pick up my child from kindergarten. All the collaboration tools help when it comes to the professional aspect. Speaking from the perspective of a technical person, my team never encounters any communication problems of a technical kind. It would be best if you had proper equipment and place in your home (which none of us had planned before), where you could enter your working zone, and nobody will disturb you, and more importantly, you won't disturb anyone.
We had a situation when my wife and I worked from home. It's a home project to set up two working spaces in one apartment. It's not a small thing, to be honest.
As time goes by, I see more benefits of working from home. I used to commute to work, and now it's my free time. Whenever I need to run some errands at home, I can do them because I can sit on my PC later and finish what has been left.

Moving to my hometown for a while

My daughter is allergic to peanuts. So there was a birthday party in the kindergarten, and she ate some food with peanuts. It was a disaster for the entire following week. We gave her medicine for the next few days until everything got back to normal, but we needed to keep her at home for some time. When having both parents with a full-time job and a kid at home, the only way out was to go back to my hometown, where my parents could keep an eye on her while we worked. We packed, and we stayed there for a whole month. After working hours, I was able to meet my old friends.
It feels nice to be back in your hometown. It's yours.
Besides the whole situation, we see the benefit of working from home. You're no longer tied up to a geographic location, you need your laptop, and you're ready to work from any place. All you need is a good internet connection.

Taking a step ahead, try to compete on a world level.

After one month of working from my hometown, we went on vacation for several days. I had plenty of time to think about the whole situation and the advantages and disadvantages. Now I'm in a situation where I find it suitable working from home. I've managed to organize my professional and my personal/private time. I found ways how can I connect with my friends and my colleagues.
In the meantime, as with every other software engineer, I've got several offers on LinkedIn for full-time remote positions from different companies in Europe and one from New Zealand. At that point, I worked in my company for almost four years. But I've started considering taking another role in another company. Yet, this time fully remote, no middle management, no company in between that provides all the documentation and project communications. None of that, just direct collaboration with a company with its in-house project. Since all of the offers I received were from companies that act as a "middle man" by providing developers/engineers to companies that now need them, I decided to take a step ahead and try to find one.
Currently, there are tons of websites where companies/employers seek employees. I've tried several of them, but I didn't find many matches since I had some criteria. Until, one day, I spotted a job offer on StackOverflow. It had a nice and clean job description, so I applied. Remember, now the pool of applicants is way more significant than the one in a single city. No matter which city, now everybody can apply since the job is fully remote and doesn't require any physical presence.
We had several meetings. There was a technical assignment too. I liked the story they were telling of how they organized their work and what my day-to-day responsibilities would look like, and we reached an agreement. I was checking my email for their response first thing in the morning. When I got their email stating that they picked me over 200 applicants, I was over the moon. I was at the same time happy and excited. Now I need to resign from my current job and sign a contract. That's easy. It's not my first time. I've been in this industry for more than ten years, so I have done this part. But now, since the job is fully remote, that means I should take care of my taxes, insurances, etc. For that, I need to have a company and accountant and everything that follows. Now I need to start a company, find an accountant and a lawyer. There was plenty of info on internet forums about how you can do that, and honestly, it's pretty straightforward. But it takes some time and patience. That probably depends on the country you live in. As you read, you can notice that a whole lot of things are changing when you move from a full-time employee in a local company to a fully remote company. But it's new, it's exciting, and you're learning a new thing that you haven't even imagined previously.

Fully remote is not the same as freelancing.

There is often confusion between this two. Freelancing is more like a gig, something you do in the short term for a specific task. It can grow in a long-term collaboration, of course, but that's not the initial idea. You can check the definition . Fully remote describes a long-term collaboration intent. It understands that you will probably have onboarding and contract on a more extended period. You're not paid for how many tasks you complete or how much time you spend in front of your screens. There shouldn't be any time or click trackers. You should build trust and do what is expected in the correct timeframe, with no shortcuts. It should be a long-term commitment, which means you should take ownership of some parts of the solution as time goes by.

Dare to exit your comfort zone

Too much of anything is poison. The same applies to comfort, no matter which comfort you're referring to. In this context, I think of the comfort in your working environment. When you work on a project for a more extended period (I was on my last project for almost four years), you slowly get in your comfort zone. It's bliss in the beginning and as time goes by. You know the drill, the problems, the solutions, and the process, and you're comfortable. But if you stay there for a more extended period, you may enter the spiral where you're afraid to leave that comfort. You may start to get the feeling of missing out on technologies and modern solutions. The more you stay there, the more afraid you get and the less courage you will have to learn something new to get out of there. Let's get real to sharpen your portfolio and apply for a new job. You need to show some skills, usually some new technologies or technologies you haven't experienced, which never 100% match your current position. And that takes time and effort. The longer you stay in your comfort zone, the more time and effort it will require.

What once was a sporadic case that you heard of now is reality.

Like I said in the begging, each of us knows somebody or heard about someone working from their hometown for a company abroad, and they did all the paperwork and contracts over the internet. Now, try to explain to your parents or elder ones that you're going to quit your current job where you're well paid, you don't have any stress or pressure, and you will sign some online agreement with people who you never met in person. As mentioned, it's about mutual trust. The risks are on both sides. They have never met you in person also. Numerous things can go wrong for them too. It's not a one-way street. In my opinion, try your best and choose carefully, no matter which side you are, then build trust and have patience and understanding. If something goes wrong, most of the time, it can be resolved if communicated well. In the other cases, you're not back to square one. You have learned something, both of you.

Experience so far

I've been in this role for three months now. So far, everything is going smoothly. It looks like we aligned how we imagined the working day. After a few talks, it was clear that we share almost the same vision of how things should be done. We even admired the same product development philosophy. There was and still is a learning curve for me, but I hope to climb it slowly but with confidence.

Please note that this is only my point of view. It shouldn't be considered as a general rule. I just wanted to share my story and the process of going from a local office to a fully remote one. I hope some of you will find this inspiring or detect some uncertainty pinpoints.

About my fears of not working from an office, I was right for only one of them. I miss spending time with my colleagues, the "watercooler talk," and our lunches together.

Thanks for reading! If you like you can see my other blog posts on https://blog.kostoski.com/.

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