Friday, January 12, 2007

Working from home

Wednesday night it snowed here quite a bit, and it seems to get more slippery here when it snows than it did in Nebraska. There are several possible reasons for this:
  1. I wore shoes somewhat more often in Nebraska, whereas I wear almost exclusively sandals here.
  2. I can't reliably remember how slippery the sidewalks were in Nebraska, and I'm just imagining things
  3. If I remember my meteorology class correctly, ice is most slippery at higher temperatures (Washington), and becomes less slippery at lower temperatures (Nebraska).
It only looked like a few inches here, but some people were reporting eight inches, a decent snow. Anyway, when it snows here even just a little bit, everything shuts down, and pretty much everyone stays home. I've worked from home a couple times before, including yesterday and now today, as well as a few days in the past. My initial impression is that, whether I'm at home or at work, if it's not a "regular" workday, I'm running at about 50% capacity. I don't have the resources I need, both human and technological. So much of my job is talking, not coding, especially seeing as we just shipped a finished product a couple months ago. If there aren't people around to talk to, I just can't be as effective. I've talked to other people who all seem to feel the same way... I wonder how much each snow day must cost Microsoft.

On the other hand, I think that working from home for not-too-short, not-too-long periods of time could potentially be very productive, if you could prepare for it and actually had plenty of things to do during that time. At home there are fewer distractions, as long as I'm not trying to multitask home things with work things, which seems like a recipe for disaster. During hardcore coding times, there were a couple people on my team who worked from home several days a week, swearing that they were much more productive than they were at work. The problem for me right now is that I'm working on a prototype, which would normally be great "working from home" fodder, but it's one that I nearly finished by the end of Wednesday, and it relates to an area that is very new to me.

One thing our team did quite a while back was to institute "no meeting days." On these days, there were to be no meetings, either scheduled or impromptu. If you stopped by a developer's office to ask a question, it had better be an emergency, or at least about something that was preventing you from doing your own work. We'd have a few of these days each week, and it seemed to work pretty well. (This was in the past; we don't do this anymore.) While intended distractions can be great to relax and pace yourself, tons of tiny, random, unwanted distractions destroy your productivity.

I'm just glad I have a door and not a cubicle. I think that one thing that I can work on to become more productive is find more ways that I can get "into the zone" even for a few hours—identify ahead of time everything that I need to know, so that I can just sit and think, focused, for a while.


Anonymous said...

I've noticed that whenever it snows out here, it immediately turns to ice. I'm not sure if that happened out in Nebraska, but it hardly ever happened in Michigan. The snow would come down and pretty much stay as snow, not melt and then freeze.

I don't know how people can work at home and not be distracted. Home is where all the fun stuff is!

Travis said...

I've actually been working at home all day today, and I've been extremely productive. I've been able to focus on my work for exactly as long as I want to, and when I'm ready to take a break, I do a load of laundry or go get tea or vacuum. It just depends on the day...

I guess it probably helps that home, and even my home computer, isn't just a place for fun. My life revolves around my computers at home and work, and that means that the computer is used for stuff besides games, movies, TV, and web browsing. It's also where I answer my email and tech support questions, and develop software, and work from home. That probably helps.