The World-Wide Pandemic Is Showing Us Working Remote Works - Getting More Work Done

For a long time, I have worked remotely and have learned all the positive things that happen when working remotely, including getting more work done! So, when the COVID-19 pandemic started to hit America, one of the positive things I hoped would come out of it is that it will force companies to learn how this works for people in the same career as myself.
 
I live in southern California and feel that remote work is not embraced as much in the tech industry as it could be. I know this because when I am looking for a new contract position, it’s very difficult to find one who embraces this way of working. It’s almost impossible to find one that will allow working remotely for a permanent position. That’s why I only do contracting now, it’s easier for me to demand this.
 
While preparing for this article, I ran a Twitter poll on how companies embrace remote work. As you can see, 60% allow remote work before the pandemic. I’m not sure what countries some of these developers live in, but where I live, it’s very far from 60%.
 
The World-Wide Pandemic Is Showing Us Working Remote Works - Getting More Work Done
 
When most of the companies shut down in California, the company I am currently contracting with allowed all their employees to work from home and might do it permanently for software developers like Facebook and other large tech companies have already done. So, when the lead developer on my team said to me “I think we are getting more work done from home!”, I was really happy he now realizes this! As a matter of fact, the project we are working on will be done on time and even maybe early! Before the pandemic, I had serious doubts we would get it done on time.
 
For the rest of these articles, I’d like to share what the benefits are for software engineering teams and some of the downsides.
 

I Get More Work Done

 
The following is the first of the upsides I see allowing tech workers to work remotely. If you want to work remotely, I hope you show this to your managers. I believe the number one upside to working remotely is in my experience, I (and others in my team) get more work done! I’m not sure why many companies don’t understand this, so I hope the pandemic is changing this. Here are just a few of my stories.
 
Back in the early 2000s, I started working for a small contracting company here in San Diego. The very first task I was assigned was to write two chapters for a new Microsoft Press book on security for the “new” Microsoft .NET Windows Server. Because of this, they just let me work from home, which they did for most of the projects I worked on. I think I went to work for one day or afternoon a week. I was grateful for this since not long after I started, I became a single parent. Not that my kids enjoyed me being around more, but I did!
 
After the first month of working from home, I figured out that I was getting 5 days of work done in 2 days! I think the biggest reason is there are a lot fewer distractions. No phones ringing, no one to talk to you about non-work related issues, fewer meetings, and much more! The phone meetings we had back then were quick and to the point. No more wasting time in endless, unproductive meetings. When I worked at Mitchell International, I called our meetings “merry-go-round meetings”, since they would last for hours, we would go around and around and at the end, very little got done, if anything at all. Once I, along with an architect, walked out of one of these meetings.
 
Another big time waster is context switching when working on a task. I have heard for a long time that if a software engineer is working on a problem and someone interrupts them, it can take 20 minutes to get back to the original thought process. In this article, the author states it takes him 5 – 30 minutes. As an older developer, I can tell you that my time keeps getting longer and longer. Just think if that happens 4 times in one day. That means up to two hours of lost productivity on the project, each day! That adds up and working remote dramatically lowers the number of times per day that this might happen.
 
Once, while I was working at Mitchell International, I argued with a manager about how much time a day I could code since I was doing 90% of the code for a new project. I wrote on a whiteboard all the things I’m expected to do each day, which included meetings and mentoring, and I was left with about 2 hours a day. He didn’t like that answer and that was when I had an office! Not long after that, Mitchell moved to a different location that was just a big open space with the tiniest cubes I’ve ever seen. Before that, I warned them that our production would be seriously hampered. They, of course, did not believe me. Guess what happened? Well, I can’t talk for others, but my production went down to about 20%. Not good at all. This “one size fits all” mentality they had, as many other companies do, just does not work for our profession.
 
Also, when Mitchell International moved to their new location, they were already at around 90% capacity and 100% parking capacity! I begged them for a long time to let my teamwork from home. Finally, when we ran out of cubes, they relented. They told me that my team would be the “test case” and they would be keeping a close eye on us to ensure we worked at the same level. Well, we got more work done there too! Then they laid us all off by sending us a letter via FedEx! Classic mistake and is why that product has been in trouble ever since.
 
At another company I worked at before Mitchell International, I worked on a small team of three. There were two developers and one database analyst. This was a new company and we delivered in production websites, using .NET beta, in a short amount of time. None of us even worked in the same city. The CTO lived where the company was located in Chicago, I worked from San Diego, California, the DBA lived in Utah and the other developer lived on the east coast. Not one time while I was working there did I even visit the actual company location!
 
Working from home allows me to control my environment. I can make it very quiet when I need to concentrate. When I’m cranking out code, I can play music or listen to the television. If I need to think, I can take a walk around my neighborhood or even read down by the pool. My home is very bright inside, so I don’t need to turn on lights. Fluorescent lighting is very bad for the workplace and workers. It can cause headaches, eye strain, agitation, and is even banned in the workplace and prisons in some countries.
 
Now that I have been working remote for a while and know how much more productive I am, I have a very hard time working in an office or what I call “cube land”. As a matter of fact, my last few attempts to work in an office, the last just 2 years ago, failed miserably.
 
After all that, I will admit that I am a loner. I don’t mind being or working alone. Of course, I do like seeing my friends and co-workers, but I don’t need that all the time to get my work done. Also, I live alone, and my kids are older now, so I don’t have any worries that my family will be a distraction. But like I said before, I worked remotely as a single dad when my kids lived with me when they were teenagers. My kids living with me helped me to become more disciplined while working remotely.
 

Summary

 
Years ago, I wanted to create a new website about working remote, I even came up with a logo for it, but since I already have three, I put it on the back burner. So, this series of articles will have to do.
 
What do you think? If you have anything positive or negative about working remotely, please comment below. Make sure to check back here soon for the next article!