Under the Radar

88: Working From Home


00:00:00   Welcome to Under the Radar, a show about independent iOS app developers. I'm Mark Orment.

00:00:05   And I'm David Smith. Under the Radar is never longer than 30 minutes, so let's get started.

00:00:10   So today we want to start the first of a two-part series just talking about some of the, I guess,

00:00:16   the more practical sides of being an independent developer. And today we're going to focus

00:00:22   talking about some of the realities and choices you have when you're working from home, which

00:00:29   is a typical thing that you're ultimately going to do when you're independent, because

00:00:32   obviously you don't have an office that you have to go to, that your employer is forcing

00:00:36   you to go to. So we're going to talk through a little bit of what that looks like, some

00:00:41   of the misconceptions you may have about that, some of the different approaches that I think

00:00:46   we've taken. I've tried all kinds of different things, and then ultimately just some things

00:00:51   to kind of be aware of. And then as part two of this thing we'll talk about next week is

00:00:56   going to just be diving into a little bit about what our computer setups look like being

00:01:02   self-employed in kind of a working-from-home environment.

00:01:06   So just to kick things off, I think talking about working from home, the place I think

00:01:10   the best place to start would be to talk about some of the misconceptions, because I feel

00:01:15   like in a lot of people's mind they have a romanticized view of what working from home

00:01:21   is or looks like. I think you often have this vision that you're just sitting out on your

00:01:26   back deck in a lounge chair with your laptop on your lap just having a great old time.

00:01:34   Or you dream of the world where there's no distractions, that you're not in an office

00:01:39   where Billy from accounting keeps coming by and asking you questions, and you can never

00:01:44   get anything done, and it's meetings all day. And finally, if I work from home, I will be

00:01:48   more productive and I will have no distractions. None of those things are really true.

00:01:55   It's in my experience. Your experience may be different, Marco, but for me it is nothing

00:02:01   like that. They are different distractions and they are different types of productivity

00:02:06   that you can get maybe, but if anything I find it more distracting to be working from

00:02:12   home because now there's this thing that I care a lot about. My family and my home and

00:02:20   the people who are around are now immediately available. I'm not physically separated from

00:02:25   all these things that I care a lot about. And there's just a lot of things that will

00:02:29   come up and there's a lot of awkward conversations you may have to have with your partner about

00:02:35   can you be around for the plumber when he comes from two to four today? And it's like,

00:02:41   "I guess, I guess." But at the same time, I'm supposed to be working during those hours

00:02:45   and if I wouldn't come home from work for that, would I just because I am at home should

00:02:53   I be doing that? And so that's wonderful. It's awesome that I'm able to do those kinds

00:02:58   of things and I really love the flexibility that being at home provides. But if you have

00:03:03   any dreams or illusions towards working from home being this distraction-free utopia, you

00:03:09   are likely going to be in for a sore surprise.

00:03:12   Oh yeah, I mean, because it is full of challenges. They're just different challenges than you

00:03:18   have in a regular, more traditional workplace. And part of it, you mentioned one of the biggest

00:03:24   challenges is when you have a family or a relationship and you have to try to find that

00:03:28   balance and it isn't all the other people's fault. It's often, it's hard for yourself

00:03:33   as well to exercise the self-control and barriers to avoid yourself wanting to go hang out with

00:03:39   the family. And a lot of times it like, you just kind of get roped into things because

00:03:46   you are trying to be nice or it would be cruel not to. So for instance, you know, if you

00:03:51   have like a three year old who runs into your office and wants to show you something they

00:03:55   made, you can't be like, no, sorry, I'm working. I'm not going to turn and look at you for

00:03:59   10 seconds and look at the thing you want to show me. Like that's cruel, you know, so

00:04:03   you're not going to do that. And a three year old might also have problems remembering or

00:04:07   respecting those boundaries about, well, even though mommy or daddy are in the office working

00:04:12   right now, like you can see them but they're at work so you shouldn't bother them. Like

00:04:16   that's a hard thing for kids of a pretty big age range to really get and to follow every

00:04:22   time. And if you're home, one of the benefits of working for yourself is that you get to

00:04:28   be there for stuff that happens with your family or you get to hang out with your significant

00:04:31   other or whatever it might be. And so even if you like, you know, quote train them or

00:04:37   everyone agrees on what the boundaries are, you yourself will be constantly tempted to

00:04:44   violate them because you can. And because that's often really nice. Like if I want to

00:04:50   go out to lunch with my wife, I can just do that. And yeah, it's going to blow a big hole

00:04:55   in the day bigger than a regular lunch but sometimes we just do that and that's just

00:05:01   part of the benefit of working at home. But it's a really hard thing to balance between

00:05:07   actual working time, especially if you are a programmer like us and you try to get uninterrupted

00:05:13   large blocks of time, to balance that with not only distractions that could be in your

00:05:19   home environment but alternative things that you might want to do. Whether you're just

00:05:25   having a lazy day or whether you're trying to be present or be nice or do favors for

00:05:30   your family, like it's a very, very hard balance to strike. And I've now been working independently

00:05:37   at home for, oh geez, almost seven years. And even after this long, I still do not balance

00:05:45   it well. I just find ways to, you know, make that work for me. Like I, you know, only choose

00:05:52   things to do that I can wedge into my weird undisciplined work schedule. People who are

00:05:56   more disciplined about it like you can usually achieve way more per day than I can. But this

00:06:02   is like, I have chosen to strike a fairly poor balance between work time and like family

00:06:08   slash recreational time. You have struck a much better one over time. And I feel like

00:06:15   knowing, and by the way, and I'm not, the balance I have now is not like incredibly

00:06:21   stable all the time. Like there will be some months like in the summertime like now where

00:06:27   I have a lot of work to do for the, you know, the new iOS betas and stuff. And I struggle

00:06:31   with finding, you know, large blocks of time to do that and then also sticking to it when

00:06:37   I do have time. As opposed to like, well, you know, I have a lot of time today, but

00:06:42   oh, it's Amazon Prime Day. Let me go look at all this stuff that's for sale or whatever

00:06:46   else. Like there's all these distractions all the time that I feel like you have to

00:06:50   have an unbelievable degree of self-control. Even if you have the most respectful family

00:06:57   or relationship at home in the world, you then have to exercise all the self-control

00:07:04   after that point. And for a lot of people, myself included, that's not easy.

00:07:07   - Yeah, and I think in some ways the kind of cruel reality of this is that it is hardest

00:07:14   to work out what is going to work for you at the beginning, which is likely when you

00:07:21   would need to have the most productivity in a typical environment where you're gonna

00:07:27   be starting out doing something. Like whether that is you have quit your job to pursue apps

00:07:33   or you're going consulting or even you've just convinced your boss that, hey, I'd

00:07:37   like to work from home or you need to because of a relocation or like whatever that situation

00:07:42   is. That initial period where you're almost kind of proving that this can work is going

00:07:47   to be the hardest part of trying to do it out because I look back on, I think I've

00:07:52   been now working, actually I know exactly how long I've been not working in an office.

00:07:57   It'll be nine years this September. And I know that because the reason I started working

00:08:03   from home is because when we found out that my wife was pregnant with our first child

00:08:09   who is eight years old now, I had this terrible commute that I was going back and forth with

00:08:15   every day. And it was one of those sort of realities where I was like, you know, I just

00:08:20   don't want to be gone for an extra hour each way commuting to work. And so I went

00:08:26   to my boss and I said, "Hey, can I do something different here? Can I work from home a couple

00:08:30   days a week or change your flexible hours or schedule or something?" And my employer

00:08:34   at the time said, "No, that's not something we can do." And so I said, "Okay, that's

00:08:38   great. I quit."

00:08:39   **Beserat Debebe:** Always option B.

00:08:42   **

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