Julia Evans

Working remote, 8 months in (seeing humans is important!)

I wrote up what it was like to be working remote 3 months after I started. 5 months later, I have some new thoughts!

The worst thing about working remotely so far has just been feeling generally alienated. I talked a little about motivation in Don’t feel guilty about not contributing to open source, where I mentioned a theory that motivation is made up of competence (I know how to do this!), autonomy (I can make my own decisions!), and relatedness (I know why I’m doing this!).

It turns out that a) this is called self-determination theory, and b) I totally misunderstood what “relatedness” meant. It turns out that relatedness is actually about feeling connected to the people about you (“the universal want to interact, be connected to, and experience caring for others”). It’s the opposite of feeling alienated :)

I didn’t visit the office for 4 months and that was a mistake! Turns out that if I don’t see a group of people for way too long then it’s easy to feel like nobody cares about me and everything I do is terrible, and it has all kinds of strange negative unforeseen consequences. Visiting SF for a while made everything approximately 100x better. In gifs (of course) seeing people can be the difference between:


Right now I feel a lot more like gif #2, which is pretty great.

Visiting the office lets me

  • meet new people who have joined since I last visited
  • remember how much I like so many of the people I work with (wow hi wow we work in the same place wow you’re really great wow)
  • have super productive in-person meetings
  • have all the lunches and coffees and walks
  • just generally feel like a human that other humans know about and like (are people happy to see me? HOW CAN IT BE WOW)

Some new disconnected thoughts:

  • When I started, being in a different timezone (EST vs PST) was hard because I would get stuck on things in the morning. Being in a different timezone now basically doesn’t matter at all. It means I have some uninterrupted time to work in the morning, and then can talk to people as they trickle in in the afternoon
  • My team is super easy to communicate with via IM. This is basically the best.
  • 6 people are working remote right now (up from 3), which is pretty great. And 3 of them are in my timezone!
  • It’s basically impossible to learn about how the office ‘feels’ while remote. Working from SF feels totally different from working from my house. This is okay, but it’s always surprising to me how different it is when I’m there.
  • Jobs just get easier after doing them for a while. Now I know more things so lots of things are easier and better.
  • People have suggested all kinds of remote work routines to me. Some of these are helpful to me, and some of them aren’t!
  • as with anything, finding things that work is just trial and error. Lots of error :)

New strategies:

  • having a bunch of 1:1 weekly meetings with people I’m working with is really great. It means I get to talk to them without having a scheduled agenda which is hard to do sometimes. I want to make a few more of these!
  • visit SF often enough
  • leave the house every day, and shower every morning :) :) :) :). I have an Extremely Patient Partner who walks me to a cafe in the mornings to get me out of the house, which is the greatest.

Overall I really like the people I work with and the things I work on and am happy that I get to work with them without having to move to San Francisco. Yay!

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