Monday, October 22, 2012

Yes, I code in underwear @home

As requested by my foreign colleagues/friends, Here is a translation of this article in English with a bonus at the end.

I'm currently on a long mission to a foreign customer that I do at home. This is usually called the "home working".

To reassure the sensitive souls, I do not really code in underwear, it's a picture. I could code in underwear :-)

I had not necessarily planned to write an article about this way of working but whenever I talk about the subject with friends or acquaintances, they feel curious and full of questions. I think that if it so interested, it means that i have to share my experience.

Here are the questions that come up most often:
  • It's not hard work alone all the time at home?
  • Me, I'll probably distracted. You can stay focused and be effective?
  • How do you do with the family?
I will try to answer these questions by offering my thin feedback on the subject.

I said I'm working at home today because it is that the mission wants. It was not a desire on my part, it is an just an opportunity.

The beginning

It all began with an email, which read quickly can give something like :
mission, overseas customer, all in English, home working, scrum, team with experimented people, moving every 3 weeks.

I quickly wanted to know more because I was just available and then after some discussion : GO. There is a part of unknown to be accepted, it is like that, that's life. You have to trust.

It's Tuesday I was told that begins on Thursday through skype Thursday morning.

General warning: how I'm going to organize the house: -)

I do not need a lot of thing to work, a piece of chair, a piece table, a laptop, internet and a bit of calm. It is just on this point that I must organize myself a little because at home I'm not alone, there are wife and children. I did not want to disturb or to feel that i disturb and vice versa.

I need a "quiet corner". It is not possible for me to have a room dedicated to serve me office. So I created a corner in my bedroom in front of the window. Hop, the bedroom will be the day my office.

Wednesday will be devoted to me set up an office in my bedroom. And then I get an email with all the access client (vpn, mail, forge, ....). Default: it works, I have access to everything, I have the right to do everything ...No, no, this is not a dream, it is sometimes ;-).

Thursday morning, it's started : "Hello, good morning guys!"

Daily : "We are quite flexible"

I find that I'm part of a fairly large team including members of different nationalities which are working at home like me. Even the ScrumMaster is a freelance working like all others!

Shortly after starting, I talk with another team member. As I discovered how things work, I foolishly talked about the scheduling, "online", time everything. I find myself stupid asking questions starting with "what if" and all the answers were: "we are quite flexible" ... The idea is really to "do the job" and having to take time off to go or if it does not really matter. Everything is based on trust.

That it brings me daily: real flexibility. It is nice to occasionally pick up my first daughter at school, be able to go to an appointment in people / shops / institutions whose only opening hours are 9:00-12:00/14:00-18:00. (finally, it is the things that I enjoy rarely but it's nice to know that you can do).

It is also nice to be able to do some sport start at home and take it easy a real shower in my bathroom. I do not need to take portuguese shower (I never practiced but it exists ;-))

Even more rarely, there is the nice side to occasionally to have Rolland Garros or the London Olympics in a corner of the room.

I work alone at home like a bear?

So yes in the morning and in the afternoon I am physically alone in my office. 

In contrast: 
  • I am virtually overconnected with the team I work with. Skype is the tool I use to communicate in real time either through chat, audio or video.
  • 10:00AM is the hour of our daily scrum meeting. Screen sharing + conf call where I talk to the team.
  • There is a global chat in which each team puts his mood, says what he does in or out of work, this brief provides a sense of community and closeness.
  • We meet every every 3 weeks to complete the sprint (review ans restrospectrive) and restart a sprint (sprint planning, planning poker, ...). These are one or two working days pretty intense because it concentrates all the Scrum rituals but it also gives the opportunity to see, discuss, exchange, joking and to take a real coffee break with real colleagues; -).
This is, to justify the side "I'm not alone when I work at home" but it's true that I do not see real people "IRL" ;-). So why to avoid finishing as a bear coding in my bedroom :
  • I often see friends and colleagues to eat lunch with them.
  • I am part of Ch'ti JUG , which allows me to cross the world and interact with other fans in the region.
  • I go to conferences like Devoxx or Devoxx France to share with passion but also a little further.
  • I try to exile from home on Wednesday for not be shy interfere with wife and children are at home this day. I take this day to work with people who are willing to welcome me (Thanks also to Thibaud and Antoine of Onyme for welcoming me into their office, it was really nice, guys!) or in a friend who joined me in the same home working adventure.
I had to search long enough to find negative side but it was for my feedback to be more objective :
  • The coffee break is not really a coffee break. It is sometimes lacking and sometimes I look at the time, it's noon and I have not felt the need to take a coffee break. It depends.
  • My coffee machine has clearly not taken the load. I had to change :-)
  • I sometimes feel out of step with my friends and former colleagues who mostly work computer services company or with local software editor. Being freelance also participates this offset :-). It's not really a negative but I feel sometimes that I pass for an alien. The problems that we encounter everyday are no longer the same.

Am i more or less productive?

I'm actually quite surprised when I talk about this type of work sometimes when the reaction is "uh, I'd be too tempted to be distracted and do something else." I do not know how to answer that question ... I say that in general, it's the opposite. It's probably because my job is a passion ... Rather it is my wife who set limits to stop me :-) 

I'm clearly more productive at home. I have my tools and calm. The important thing when working at home is that you can choose yourself the conditions that allow it to be productive. We add to that the fact of not having travel time to get to his workplace. We will say minium 1 hour per day back/forth. It is a real gain. 

"Anyway, I'm more productive."

Separating private life / professional life

Not knowing this way of working, I preferred default impose a few rules in the house to separate the things and put barriers: 
  • When I work at home, it's as if I was not at home. I'm not Tony Micelli able to take care of the house.
  • The door to the bedroom / office represents the separation private / professional. When it is closed, do not go without knocking at the door and wait until I say it's OK. It's not that I want to play Boss inaccessible but this is the only way to predict if I'm online, perhaps with the video and I can not answer.

So I applied these default rules within the family. It is rather funny to see how the children have experienced change and have integrated. "Dad, you're working in your office in your bedroom today?". It's also pretty funny to 04:30-05:00PM hear knock-knock and have his children come say hello after school. I began to relax the rules, but it comes from me. Finally let's be clear, I'll never compete with Tony Micelli! 

A short conclusion would be fine here

When people ask me if it's okay, I replied that:

That's terrific!

I think that says it all. I am clearly aware that this way of working may not suit everyone and every business. In my case, it's cool.

One more thing... 

Writing this article triggered a massive release of office pictures of team member. Here is a nice sample of what can be done to work at home (thanks to them to allow me to share that!). I think but i'm not sure that there are one or two fake. It's up to you to find them ;-) :


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