Some reflections on being a remote worker

Wearing pyjamas was not conducive to taking quality research notes

It’s been six months since I moved from London to Edinburgh and became a remote worker. A question I regularly get asked is, “What’s it like?” Or occasionally the more loaded question of, “Is it okay?” The answer I give gets different responses ranging from enthusiasm to an impassioned cry that, “I could never do that!” Different strokes for different folks.

I’m not the only permanent remote worker at dxw. My experience has been working remotely full time while working with teams on dxw projects, and also regularly travelling to be with those teams in person for ceremonies like show and tells. I wanted to share some reflections on what it’s been like since I started working remotely full time.

Respecting your working style

Being remote means you have to be especially conscious of how you like to work and what environment works best for you. For me, that means routine. I always get showered and dressed before starting, I work only at a desk in a designated workspace, and when it’s time to finish, I finish. These are repeatable things that draw a line between working and non-working time. As simple as they are, I learned the hard way. Wearing pyjamas was not conducive to taking quality research notes.

Variety is important

Routine is a good anchoring to have, but it can be stifling. I value the time I get to spend in Leeds, London, and client offices. The travel itself has never felt a burden because it changes up the routine. Oscillating between routine and the atypical keeps things at a sustainable pace and engaging.

Niall working at his laptop
Niall in our London office

Train working is a friend

This will be familiar to many of us. Being ferried up and down the country at 90mph while writing weeknotes is the pinnacle of low effort, high yield multitasking. But trains can sometimes not be a friend. I’ve learnt to savour and be grateful for every minute of working wifi.

The slow days are tough

We all have slow days when we’re not at our best and that’s okay. Remote working can be hard and for me, an informal face to face chat has always helped on days like this. I’ve found it helps to recognise and accept the slow days for what they are and not dwell on them. I’d say being remote has made me more aware about self-care and my wellbeing.

On those days where you’re able to bring the best of yourself, being a remote worker is great. It’s easier to filter out distractions and crack on. Probably the main reason many of us choose to have working from home days.

You’ll get to know your postie

Ours is extremely friendly and forgiving about the fact she has to walk up 3 flights of stairs to deliver the mail. Being remote from the office has connected me to the local community in lots of small but pleasant ways.

Tools to help stay in touch

This is one of the most important things. Tools that help teams communicate like Slack mean that I never feel out on a limb or disconnected. Being part of a community of practice that regularly catches up is essential as well. Pretty much all video conferencing products (and we use a lot of them across dxw) have their upsides and downsides but I’ve found that, provided that the people in the room communicate what’s going on, it works well enough.

You may find that much of what’s here isn’t that different from being a non-remote worker. I think that’s kind of the point. I’ve found being remote hasn’t changed my experience of working at dxw dramatically. I think that’s testament to us as an organisation that values and encourages remote working to suit everyone’s needs.