Before you go and find your dream remote job you need to be aware of what working in a remote environment is like to get a better sense of whether that will work out for you. A good starting point is weighing the advantages and disadvantages. Classifying something like a plus or minus is subjective though and hence could be misleading.
So instead of a list of pros and cons, I will show you different angles behind several fundamental remote work aspects, so that you can make your own evaluation. Everyone has different habits, work rhythm, household chores, family responsibilities, etc. which impact their work environment, so you are the best judge for yourself.
Let’s start with time. If you’re able to work literally from home, then skipping the daily commute to the office probably becomes the number one benefit for you. That’s what many developers find pretty appealing. Time is just precious and less commuting means more time for your family, hobby, side projects, and so on.
However, if you have limited experience working from home, don’t rule out the possibility that it might not work for you due to various factors. Maybe, you’re short on space and can’t create your office corner or maybe there are too many distractions at home that you can’t seem to distance from or maybe it just doesn’t feel like getting work done.
Regardless of what the reason is you might need an office somewhere else like a co-working space for example and thus still spend time on the road, that is my case as well. I work out of a shared office 90% of the time and the rest from my apartment.
Most remote jobs assume that you can work asynchronously which means your work schedule can be very flexible. You can choose when to start your workday, pick up a delivery when it’s convenient for you, go for a run in the afternoon and so on.
That can only go to a certain extent though as your work depends on your colleagues and vice versa and not everything can be done completely asynchronously. You need to set up calls to align on many things like design discussions, deployments, retrospectives, reviews, etc. which implicitly requires overlap between everyone’s workday.
I mention this as the internet is full of articles depicting people with laptops on yachts, beaches, or other exotic places suggesting remote work gives unlimited flexibility. While that might be possible (skeptical about productivity though) for freelancers who work on projects by themselves, it’s not the case for full-time developers with teams that count on them.
When it comes to communication you’ll find that people who think it’s problematic are just as many as those that feel it’s no obstacle. And I think both are right. I’ve been part of remote teams where communication was a challenge in one and a breeze in the other.
To be clear we are not talking about the quality of the video calls, internet speed, or anything of the sort, but the ease of team members communicating from distance.
For example, how easy is it to reach someone for a quick call to align on a merge request, how easy is it to reach an agreement on the approach for a new feature, do you feel like you always have to repeat everything “just in case”, do you know when all team members are available at any time, etc.
That depends almost entirely on two factors - how clear the company’s remote work policy is and if all team members perceive communication as a potential risk that can hurt team performance. Based on my observations the latter one also has to do with how caring, responsible, and empathetic a person is.
This is something you definitely need to think about beforehand. Especially if you come from the traditional office environment with all colleagues being around you all the time. Think about how important that is to you, how much comfort that brings you, how it makes you feel when you wish a colleague a happy birthday, what about the casual chats in the kitchen.
Think about how much the social factor attributes to your happiness and productivity at work. Up to what extent would you give it up to other potential benefits like flexibility and the chance to skip commuting. Take your time and reflect on your priorities.
For me, it’s essential to be quiet around me to stay focused and prolific. I often dive into problems for hours and when I do I don’t want to be distracted, so being by myself works just fine in those cases.
Human interaction feels irreplaceable though. That’s why I prefer working from a very small shared office that only a few people use. So I can meet people and at the same time it still feels peaceful - this is where I’ve found my balance and feel happy.
I really hope that the abovementioned angles will help you get a better sense of what you can expect from a remote environment and determine whether it will work for you.