It is said that challenges are what makes life interesting, and overcoming these challenges is what makes life meaningful. Mid last year, I took a leap into an interesting new world of remote software development. As I got my first contract letter – I signed this electronically and if felt weird – I was filled with both excitement and uncertainty. How could I possibly contribute to a team without personal/physical contact with team members? How I assure them of my work output from miles away? Will they pay me on time? What happens if they do not pay me? How do I complain? All these questions, though some were silly, bothered me.
With all these uncertainties, I knew it was the right step. Working in Lagos, Nigeria has been a stressful experience where I got up by 4am, left my house by 5pm to beat traffic (I worked at Lekki before), and came back at 10pm. At some point, I felt extremely indifferent working because of the stress of commute. One day, I told myself “Enough is enough”, or as my Yoruba friends will say “Otoge”. Also, I realized that I could accomplish far more than I currently was and, without limiting myself to location, I could grasp those opportunities. So with many job applications and interviews, I finally landed my first remote gig!
On my first day of remote work, I realized that I did not need to take a bath, or dress up, or step outside my room. That feeling was weird and oddly satisfying. I could put on a T-shirt and my underwear and I’m ready for work? Cool!. As the first few days of onboarding passed, I had to pick a work schedule that was comfortable for me. I worked from 8am to 5pm with an hour break at noon. This schedule works perfectly for me because I can wake up, say my prayer, exercise, go for mass and start my work by 8am, and by 5pm, I can rewind, relax and get personal work done afterward. Once I got used to this schedule, everything else went smoothly. The norm of working late and overtime in my previous work-place disappeared and I always found myself wrapping up my work by 5pm regardless of whether I accomplished the tasks for the day or not – face it, things can always be done the next day after a much-deserved rest.
Working remotely also has its challenges. My main challenge was to maintain the discipline to work at my specified time period. For me, there is this temptation to say “the work doesn’t matter”, or “it’s not worth it”, or ” I can make up for lost time”, and most times, giving in to this temptation ruins my whole week because my work either gets negatively impacted, or creeps into my personal life and affects it. Also, I noticed that due to a lack of physical activity, I started to gain weight. Since I did not spend hours trekking, or jumping buses to get to and from work, I wasn’t burning the calories that I should have been burning. Trying to counteract this effect with exercise has been difficult though, well, because I’m a lazy human being. But still, I try!
Arguably one of the most frustrating parts of working remotely is that you get to interact with your teammates in an asynchronous manner. This means that there is no guarantee that you will get a reply from your request at the moment you make it. I work with developers across different time-zones and great care has to be taken to plan communication so that it does not affect your work output. There was a time I needed help fixing a bug and no one, literally no one, responded to my requests. It was a hair-pulling situation, and with time I got to understand that eventually, they would reply and I had to be patient. The virtue of patience is key. So, these days, whenever I get stuck in communication, I just move on to some other thing and then switch back when I get the reply. Another thing I am still getting used to is the over-dependence on KPIs and metrics. Although I understand this quite perfectly – there needs to be a way the company knows you are really working – I still find measuring the output of work with Jira tickets, clocking out and clocking in, and daily status reports to be cumbersome.
It has been a crazy ride for me, and personally, I am loving working remotely. For those thinking of making this leap, I say, life is too short, just do it!