What We Learned From 6 Months of Remote Work

The COVID-19 has been forcing many companies to go remote. Are you one of the people that are new to remote work? Here at Saturday Drive, we’re lucky to have shifted to remote from before the outbreak. Most of us, before September last year, didn’t have any experience in working remotely, but we finally managed to be comfortable and productive now.

In this post, we’re checking in with the ninjas about how remote work has been working for them, and sharing what we’ve learned about remote work.

How we transitioned into remote work

Before we started working remotely in August last year, we had a traditional office in Cleveland, Tennessee. Just like any other company, we have a 9-5 office hour and face-to-face discussions.

Now that we’re distributed, all of our conversations and work are on Basecamp. Most days we’re working from our houses in the US, France, and Indonesia. But sometimes, some Cleveland people (before COVID-19) still meet up and work together from our podcast studio, which is located right next to our coffee shop, BonLife Coffee.

Having people from all around the world, we get a wider point of view and hence, a more interesting discussion.

We love working remotely

For me (James) personally, I think I’m currently living my best life. I get to really do my best work and to take care of myself at the times that are best.

What about the rest of the team? Here are our favorite things about remote work.

Flexibility

Consistent with Buffer’s finding in the State of Remote Work 2020, we all agree that flexibility is the number one perk of working remotely.

“Creative time, planning, and execution of projects have evolved to take place most predominantly (and effectively) after I retrieve Orin (Jon’s son) from school and he goes down for a nap, or late in the evening/night when my broken brain is in the ‘let’s do all the things and conquer the world’ mode.”

– Jon, Communications

I’m a morning person, my mind is sharpest around 7 to 9 in the morning, but not everyone is. There are a lot of night owls in the team, and remote work has enabled us to be just that, what we naturally are.

“Now that I am working from home, I can barbecue during the week.”

– Kyle, Developer

“It’s been a blessing to look at my work week and plan my schedule so that I can be present for all my family events.”

-Stuart, Developer

“If I am out of town for some reason, there are many things about my role that can still be accomplished via the almighty internet, and if I am having a bad hair day, I don’t have to be visible to anyone in that condition.”

– Jenny, Administrative Assistant

Want some pulled pork for dinner on a Thursday? Done. Want to meet your high school friend in the afternoon? Done. As long as your work is covered, you don’t have to be ‘in the office’ from 9 to 5.

Matt's home office setup

Matt’s home office setup

“…the mindset of remote work, means that you truly treat your employees like adults who are capable of doing great work in a variety of places, times, and days rather forcing them to be in a certain environment during certain times five days per week, like children.”

– Matt, Developer

It also means we’re not micromanaging. Everyone is trusted to work on their own projects, at hours that they think are their most productive.

Hyperfocus

We all have preferences for a specific environment or condition that if fulfilled, will enable us to focus at work. With no coworkers around, a remote setting allows us to adjust more things than an ordinary office.

“In the morning, I grab some fruit and hit the support queues. I’m cold-natured, so I’m usually wrapped in blankets and look like some kind of a support mage.”

– Curtis, Support

Curtis's desk setup

Curtis’s desk setup

“I’m super introverted, so I feel way more comfortable at home. love that most days I can start when I’m ready, without feeling rushed. I start working when I’m awake and mentally ready.”

– Josh, VP of Engineering

I get to really focus on work in my best, productive hours. It also has enabled me to really work without interruption.

More time with loved ones

We’re all more than a member of the Saturday Drive team. Outside of work, we’re parents, children, sisters, and brothers of someone.

Because of remote work, we get to spend more time with them. Parents get to take their children to and from school, spouses get to spend extra time together. We’re all becoming happier people.

“With my wife’s schedule, it falls on me to take the kids to and from school. And occasionally chaperone their field trips.

As I get older, family time becomes more important (not that it wasn’t before, but I feel I realize more and more the importance).”

– Eric, Developer

“My wife Alicia is a musician, so she is either at home a lot or traveling for work. I love that when she is at home, we get to spend lots of extra time together.”

– Josh, VP of Engineering

Josh's desk

Josh’s desk

Josh's desk

Josh’s desk

“It has enabled me to work both outside the home while being a stay at home parent.”

– Stuart, Developer

But it’s not always easy

Although we love remote work and all the perks that come with it, it has its own challenges, too. For example, I’m primarily a verbal communicator. I strive best when I can “read the room” and adjust my message on the fly. The written word is crucial to a successful remote team. I am working hard to take what I think I do well verbally and re-learn how to do that well in written form. Things like cast vision, inspire, and teach. All possible, but harder for me.

Here are some challenges we’ve encountered along the way, and some things we’ve tried to combat them.

Lack of community

“The lack of community. Community is important. While you can achieve some aspects of this online, there is a not-insignificant portion that can only be achieved face to face with time.”

– Matt, Developer

“Absence of daily/random coworker chats.”

– Jon, Communications

Not being around your coworkers while you’re working means no watercooler chats. Sometimes, especially when we’re in the build cycle, we’re all too focused on the work that’s in front of us, that we don’t have time to make small talks, ask the other person how they’re doing.

We have some virtual events and communities to build that sense of (virtual) community. In the past, we’ve had all-team monthly meetings, monthly book clubs, and virtual coffee talks. It’s all

Harder to collaborate

“Collaborating or clarifying can be challenging to be in touch with the right people.”

-Stuart, Developer

“I find a lot of motivation in quick iterations and focused direction. I now often feel isolated and in waiting for response.”

– Kyle, Developer

“Isolation. I am a creative person and get more ideas when I work with other people. Being at home makes that harder for me. The interaction doesn’t happen organically at home like it would in an office.”

– Andy, Creative Lead

Andy and his three monitors

Andy and his three monitors

Does remote work still win?

So, do we like remote work?

It remains a debate, but I think we’ll stick with remote work for now:

“I was an ALL IN office person, but I definitely prefer remote at this point.”

– Jon, Communications

“It’s not entirely better or worse, it is different. If I had to pick a preference, it’s working from home.”

– Andy, Creative Lead

“It (remote work) is far better in most ways. I probably wouldn’t have come to work at Saturday Drive if they hadn’t been so flexible (approaching remote) to begin with.”

– Matt, Developer

“I like it better. Again, the freedom allowed is very appreciated. It’s not for everyone, but a lot of jobs today can be done remotely, and it should be an option.”

– Eric, Developer

“I love working remotely. It has enabled me to work both outside the home while being a stay at home parent.”

– Stuart, Developer

For me personally, neither is better. They both have their pros and cons and each work better or worse for different people at different stages in their life. Regardless of which one you are currently working in, you will have advantages and disadvantages that you have to navigate to live your best life. Each person really has to weigh those and decide which challenges they want to face today.

Finding the best possible way to work is always an ongoing process.

Bonus: More Photos!

James's home office

My home office

Jon's desk

Jon’s desk

Jon's record player

Jon’s record player

Kyle's desk

Kyle’s desk