Working at home: Lessons learned

by mandel on August 8th, 2011

A little more than a year ago I started working for Canonical full time on the Windows port of Ubuntu One. One of the great things of working for Canonical is that you work at home, that is, you do not have to move to the USA or the UK to do the job you love, but don’t get confused, working at home does has its downs and here are a list of some them.

Social interaction

Most of us, geeks, most of the time we do not require as much social interaction as the ‘normal’ people. This does not mean we are less social, but due to the nature of our work we need to concentrate for long periods of time to be able to solve complicated problem which might involve thousands of lines of code, in this situation having a colleague popping in your cubicle asking if you wanna have a coffee is less than ideal. When working at home you do not have this type of social interactions which at the very begging seems to be a very convenient thing, unfortunately it is not like that.

As Aristotle said:

He who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god.

The above is something certainly important to remember. No matter how much we believe that we do not need social contact, at the end of the day, it is needed because it is an intrinsic part of our being. We need human contact and no type of online interaction will be ever be able to replace a face to face interaction between two people.

I you do work at home make sure you get such interaction, and not only with your wife or girlfriend. I have learned this the hard way, I believe that this happened because during a period or time I became a monster that did not need any type of social interaction which is something I terribly regret and I have strongly tried to solve. The following are somethings I have decided to do:

  • I’m not literally working at home anymore. I’m looking for a shared office space so that I have to leave the house. As soon as I have found a place I will only be using the IPad at home, any other machine will be forbidden.
  • For a time I was going less and less to the rugby trainings, this will change as soon as the season starts.
  • As with rugby, I stopped going to the gym, this will stop.
  • I’ll force myself to go out at least once a week (although I have to admit that after this I have been going out a lot more)

Working hours

Before I started working for Canonical I worked at GDF (Electrabel to be more precise) dealing with issues between the interaction of an ASP.Net front end and a Java backend. There is no need to say that I hated the job. While I worked there I would never to an extra hour, I’d arrive at 9 and will leave at 6 without giving a damm if anyone needed me to stay an extra hour. I did this because during my free hours I wanted to work on applicatios to be used on Ubuntu and I had no passion for my everyday job.

Now this has changed, and my everyday job is my passion. This is great but it has become a small problem regarding the working hours, I do to many. I seem not to be able to stop and that is no good. I have started to be more strict with the working hours so that I do not work more than 9/10 hours (I don’t like to count reading emails and bug reports as work).

Summary

This are the problems that trouble me, which are yours? Nevertheless the oatmeal is bloody right.