The Remote Worker Guilt Trip

Guilt features a lot in my working life. I’m thinking maybe guilt features a lot in remote worker’s lives generally. So there’s guilt that you don’t have to get in a car and drive somewhere everyday, guilt that your day is more flexible, guilt if you take a few minutes off to load the washing machine, guilt if you spend time paying a bill online during work hours, guilt if you eat lunch at the computer, guilt if you eat lunch…

guilt

Guilt if you are not working and you should be, guilt if you are working and you shouldn’t be.

Guilt, guilt, GUILT, GUILT!!!!

Add to the mix parental guilt, 3 frisky children, end of term activities and the summer holidays looming – you can see that I am becoming a guilty wreck. The Summer is going to be a guilt-fest!

In his article Being a Remote Worker Sucks – Long Live the Remote Worker Scott Hanselman argues that remote workers:

work at least as hard, if not more so, than their local counterparts. This is fueled in no small part by guilt and fear. We DO feel guilty working at home. We assume you all think we’re just hanging out without pants on. We assume you think we’re just at the mall tweeting. We fear that you think we aren’t putting in a solid 40 hours (or 50, or 60).”

Because of this, we tend to work late, we work after the kids are down, and we work weekends. We may take an afternoon off to see a kid’s play, but then the guilt will send us right back in to make up the time. In my anecdotal experience, remote workers are more likely to feel they are “taking time from the company” and pay it back more than others.”

Mobile technology doesn’t help either. A recent survey of 3,500 professionals conducted in the U.S. and five other countries found at least 58% said they have feelings of guilt in this hyper-connected world.

So how do we deal with these feelings of guilt?

I don’t have an easy answer but here are a few thoughts I have.

  • One of the top tips psychology gives for dealing with guilt is that you need to recognise the kind of guilt you have and its purpose. You feel guilty because you want to be an effective and dedicated member of staff. Just feeling the guilt means that you are already on the right track. Joe Bloggs next door doesn’t feel guilt because he lounges on the sofa all day picking his feet, he doesn’t care, you do.
  • When my children were very found I remember a health visitor telling me that I need to think about the food they eat in terms of a week, rather than a day. I try to apply the same approach to remote working. There are busy days and there are not so busy days, it’s give and take, but overall my organisation gets more than enough out of me.The old remote worker adage about clear boundaries really applies here. Don’t be answering emails while putting your kids in the bath, and don’t be watching YouTube when you are working. Set up time boundaries and things will be easier.
  • Keep brief notes on what you do all day. You needn’t share these with anyone but they will help you see how productive you’ve been.
  • Reward yourself for completing tasks – when I’ve finished working on that spreadsheet I’m going to have a cup of tea and a 10 minute read of a book. It’s a well deserved treat – so no guilt there.

I’d like to end with some wise words from Natali Vlatko on recognising your true value.

Don’t let the guilt of working from home eat away at your deserved free time, unless you’re just watching animated gifs all day. Make yourself heard and your presence felt, then the proverbial wall between you and your team will come down. Your value shouldn’t be undermined just because you’re not sharing a cubicle with someone.”

The Work We Want

If you haven’t seen it yet you need to check out the Work We Want web site. The site has been created by the Glasshouse Collective (which “was formed to meaningful throw stones at the Glass Houses people build using the Internet”) and commissioned by the Space.

We face a radically different future of work, which is being shaped by the web. The days of the steady 9-5 are over, as workers around the world come online. Competiton for jobs is global, work is bought and sold on demand, and the price of labour is falling. How should we respond as a global workforce? How can we prepare for a different future of work? Are we going to compete, co-operate or exploit our fellow workers? The Work We Want explores these questions through a series of creative processes:

The site has some great resources: videos, graphics, games, a blog and real-life stories. Take a look!

www

Skill share Intro to Github and Jekyll

At Open Knowledge we’ve started running our (internal) skill share sessions again. Today’s was a very useful introduction to Github and Jekyll. GitHub is a web-based Git repository hosting service that we use a lot at Open Knowledge, Jekyll is a “simple, blog-aware, static site generator” and has recently been used to create our revamped Open Data Handbook.

The full video of the session is available on YouTube and embedded below.

Our host (Paul Walsh) took us through what a content management system on the web is, the limitations of some services like WordPress (limited control of presentation and data, security, maintenance and cost) and the benefits of using Git (open by default, zero maintenance costs, lots of scope to customise) for static sites. His slides are available here.

Key terms in Git hub

Key terms in Git hub

We then had a go at creating some Mark up (i.e. content) and a pull request and using some Jekyl metadata.

markup

I am using Git hub to create pages to store the data visualisations I am creating for the PASTEUR4OA project – so all very useful.

Thanks to Paul Walsh and Mor Rubinstein for organising and running the session.

Useful links

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 12.18.44

Take a Remote Year!

Flicking through the weekend papers I found this interesting article in the Independent on a new company offers you to keep your job while you travel around the world.

Remote Year is “a one year program where you travel around the world with 100 interesting people while working remotely.“. Remote Year will go to 12 different locations, 1 month each. There will be 3 legs of the trip:

  • Europe: 1) Prague, Czech Republic 2) Ljubljana, Slovenia 3) Dubrovnik, Croatia 4) Istanbul, Turkey
  • Asia: 5) Penang, Malaysia 6) Ko Tao, Thailand 7) Hanoi, Vietnam 8) Kyoto, Japan
  • South America: 9) Buenos Aires, Argentina 10) Mendoza, Argentina 11) Santiago, Chile 12) Lima, Peru
By Giorgio Montersino, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

By Giorgio Montersino, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Sound like exciting stuff, doesn’t it!!?

The Independent article explains that Remote Year costs participants “around £18,000 for the year – £2,000 paid upfront, and then £1,300 each month” and then follows the story of Cassie Utt who will leave her job in the hydraulics division Eaton and travel for a year.

Travelling and working remotely is on a lot of people’s wish list but few have done it. Over the years I’ve enjoyed reading about Lea Woodward’s travels – she writes on Location Independent and tweets her tales. I’m not sure I could work from anywhere long term…but a year does sound good! Now what to do about that Mortgage, those kids and that husband of mine….??? ;-)

Want to Help Stop Climate Change? Start Working Remotely

In November representatives from 200 countries will gather in Paris to hash out a plan of action to reduce climate change. Some see this as a ‘last chance’ for action as the the amount of human produced CO2 in our atmosphere is on the rise. Population growth, deforestation and increased consumption of fossil fuels are all to blame.

Eric at the Falls - smallerFor many modern companies with a social conscience working in a distributed way is well aligned with reducing environmental impact. Eric Bieller argues that working remotely could be an important factor in reducing climate change and makes a call for companies to seriously think about changing the way they work.

Eric is the co-founder of Speak, a tool that provides instant communication and presence for remote teams. His team’s goal is to enable a future where the office is no longer a necessity and people are free to work from anywhere in the world. You can find Eric on Twitter (@ericbieller).

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Over the last century, motor vehicles have become commonplace in our society, becoming a hefty contributor to this increase in CO2 emissions.

Increase in registered vehicles on the road since 1975

Increase in registered vehicles on the road since 1975
(IHS Global Insight and Wells Fargo Securities, LLC)

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Increase in CO2 emissions since over the last century
(Source: http://www.epa.gov/)

In fact, transportation is estimated to account for as much as 31% of human emissions.

Meanwhile, deforestation has reduced the planet’s ability to filter CO2 out of the atmosphere.

Continuing on this path could mean devastating consequences for future generations, including rising global temperatures and shrinking of polar ice.

And while the financial crisis of 2008 may have reduced car ownership, subsequently reducing the amount of human produced CO2 in the atmosphere, in the last few years this number has started to creep back up towards pre 2008 levels.

Unfortunately there is no single solution to this problem. If we are going to solve climate change and help dial back CO2 emissions, we’re going to need to attack the problem from multiple angles, starting with our reliance on motor vehicles.

The death of the commute

One of the biggest reasons for increased car ownership, and the subsequent rise in CO2 emissions, is that commuting has become commonplace over the last century.

Cars have made it possible to live in the suburbs but work in the city center. And while this has afforded many people the freedom to live and work where they want, it has also made commuting a way of life for our culture.

In fact, a commuter spends an average of one work week in traffic over the course of a year.

All this time adds up to literally tons of extra CO2 building up in the atmosphere. This also adds up to years of collective productivity that is being lost as we sit in traffic on our way to work.

Ditch the commute and start working remotely

Knowledge workers are in an especially unique position to ditch the commute and start working remotely, as their jobs can typically be done from anywhere. The only requirements are a solid internet connection and the right tools.

In fact, several large remote teams have managed to build extremely successful products, despite being separated by distance and time zones:

Automattic has created a celebrated culture of remote work, with hundreds of employees scattered across 28 countries.

Github is another great success story, with approximately 75% of their employees working remotely.

Buffer has also managed to build a fun and unique culture by embracing remote work.

Taking real steps toward working remotely

I’m not saying that your entire workforce should become remote tomorrow. After all, you can’t just flip a switch and suddenly have a happy and productive remote team.

But why not dip your toes in the water by allowing employees work from home one or two days out of the week? Even a modest remote work policy can give workers a greater sense of freedom and lead to increased productivity. It’ll also show them that you trust them to be autonomous and self managing.

These are certainly small steps, but on a global scale this can really add up! Every minute spent working instead of commuting equates to less CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere and more time spent being productive.

Conclusion

Climate change is a serious matter that’s going to call for serious action if we’re to solve it. But this means that society’s old habits are going to have to change.

Technology has made it possible for us to stay connected to each other even when we’re working on opposite sides of the planet. We’re no longer shackled to the office and doomed to spend hours of our lives stuck in traffic. But it’s up to us to make a change. It’s time for us to cut our ties to this old way of life and start embracing the future of work.

What do you think? Can working remotely make a serious dent in reducing climate change? Let us know in the comments section below!

Data Viz of Guest blog posts

I am having a play around with Tableau Public for some work I am doing on the PASTEUR4OA Project. Tableau Public is free software that can allow anyone to connect to a spreadsheet or file and create interactive data visualizations for the web. It took me a while to get started (my operating systems on all my windows machines and macs weren’t up to date enough!) but now that I’m in I’m really getting the hang of it.

I can’t embed the javascript code here but you can go to my Tableau Public profile to see the interactive versions.

I started off with looking at how many guest posts had been submitted and in what month they tend to come in. You can see from the visualisation that March is a really popular month, followed by September and August.

Remote Worker Guest blog posts: What month do people submit in?

I then looked at how many guest blog posts are submitted by year. It looks like the number is on the decrease, see this visualisation.

Remote Worker Guest blog posts: Number by year

I finished by looking at the gender of my guest authors. The main trend there seems to be less male authors over time – not sure what I’m doing to drive them away! ;-) See this visualisation for details by year and this visualisation for totals (26 Females, 36 Males – 64 in total).

Remote Worker: Guest Authors by Gender and Year
Remote Worker: Guest Authors by Gender

I’ll continue to work on Tableau public for the project – hopefully my data visualisations will improve over time!

Applying for a remote job? Prepare to answer these interview questions

Monique RiversNot long ago we published a post on Hunting for Remote Working Jobs. In a very useful follow up Monique Rivers takes a look at the kind of questions a company might ask you in your interview for a remote position.

Monique is an Australian tech blogger who also loves good food and fashion. She works at ninefold.com. Ninefold is a company providing efficient and powerful virtual servers for all those occasions when a business needs to move their ideas into the cloud.

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Together with the rapid growth of communication technologies, we have witnessed remote work explode in popularity. If you still think working from home is a rare solution, just have a look at these statistics. Every field offers remote jobs that might fit your current preferences and lifestyle. How to make a good impression during an interview of a remote job? Here are top 5 questions you should prepare for when applying for this kind of professional opportunity.

What is your daily schedule?

Recruiters will want to see how well you know yourself: when you’re focused and what your top hours for productivity are. They’ll be interested whether you’re a morning bird or a night owl.

Remote jobs are often flexible and almost never tied town to the classic nine-to-five schedule – workers all over the world can work in shifts for one company. Recruiters will be interested in your strategies for organizing your work. You need to know your natural rhythm and analyse your daily schedule before you answer this question.

Which communication tools would you use in this situation?

Working in remote teams, you won’t have the chance of catching someone in between meetings for a quick chat. In order to be a productive member of the team, you’ll need solid knowledge on virtual communication and which methods are most efficient for your purposes.

Recruiters will be interested to see whether you’re well-versed in modern communication technologies like email, video hangouts, online chats or project management software. Moreover, they might give you a specific example and ask you to suggest which communication tool is the best one to use. It’s your turn to show that you know how to make remote projects proceed smoothly.

What are your requirements for a productive workspace?

Asking this question, recruiters are making sure that you’re aware of all the physical aspects of working remotely. They’ll also need this knowledge to see whether the company should provide you with specific equipment.

By Ali Edwards, Flickr, CC-BY

By Ali Edwards, Flickr, CC-BY

Whether you work from your kitchen counter or the couch, you’ll always need a few basics – a standing desk, high-quality scanner or even coworking office. Define your preferences and requirements – always mention them during the interview.

What tools do you use for managing your calendar/schedule?

Recruiters are really interested in this aspect – they might ask you questions about details, such as whether your calendar is open for everyone to see or what kind of events you post there. Organization is key in remote work, so recruiters will want to know what your tools for time management are and whether you’re familiar with crucial apps and platforms.

This also shows how much thought you put to organizing your work. It’s possible that joining the company, you’ll need to make a few changes, but the basic idea of organization needs to be there in the first place.

What is the organization system on your computer?

Recruiters will also want to know how you keep track of important files, notes and links on your computer. You’ll be sharing files with your coworkers and if they’re not properly named, you risk cluttering their workspace with things they cannot categorize at a glance.

Before you apply for a remote job, make sure to have an organization system in place: for storing files, managing issues like multiple tabs open in your browsers or keeping track of important links.

Working in remote has many perks, but it surely isn’t for everyone. When applying for a remote job, make sure that you have the required skills and actually like to work on your own. Remember that your professional history will be scrutinized as well – if your past positions involved a degree of autonomy, your chances at landing a remote job are much higher.