Go Time – Episode #123

WFH

the panel discusses home and remote working

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Working from home can be challenging, especially amid school closings and everything else caused by COVID-19. In this episode panelists Jon, Mat, Carmen, and Mark share advice and experiences they have accumulated over many years of working from home. They cover separating your work space from your personal space, signaling to your family that you are busy, ways to keep track of the time, and suggestions for getting some exercise in when you can.

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Transcript

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Hello, and welcome to Go Time! I’m Mat Ryer. Today we’re talking about working from home, or remote working. We’re gonna have some (hopefully) reassurances for people who are new to working at home; there’ll be some tips and tricks for people that do it already, some interesting tidbits that you might be able to apply in your own lives, and hopefully it’ll just be a lovely, entertaining chat. That’s the goal.

Joining me today, we have – you can hear him snickering already, it’s Mark Bates. Hello, mate!

Hello there, mate. How are you doing?

Good. How’s it going?

You know, everybody’s hunkering down over here. The family’s doing alright, and trying to stave off cabin fever. How about you, Mat?

Yeah, similar… We’re also joined by Carmen Andoh. Hello, Carmen!

Welcome back! How’s it going?

Thank you. It’s going well, I am in the same boat as everyone else. I am in day one of that homeschool life, that remote work life, that remote gym life, and everything else…

Yeah, we’ll definitely like to hear more about that on today’s episode… And we’re also joined by – it’s only Jon Calhoun. Hello, Jon.

Hey, Mat. How are you?

I’m good, sir. And yourself.

Good. So far it’s work as normal for me, it seems like…

Because you already work at home.

Already working at home, and I’m in a small town, so it’s pretty easy to get out and exercise and that sort of stuff without running into people.

That’s interesting… I think what we’re gonna find is we’re all kind of in slightly different situations, and in some cases very different, probably… But certainly, of all the people that are now working at home, our job, I feel like - we ought to be able to do this quite well. How do you feel about that? I’ll open that out to everyone.

[00:04:01.29] I think as an industry we tend to do better at this. We’ve been doing this a lot longer, I think, for the majority of us… But I think having everybody else at home now makes a handful of other challenges. We can definitely talk about that later, I think…

So you’ve gone from being a home worker who’s at your home office, on your own all day, to now lots of other people being around. That’s the change for you, right?

That’s interesting…

For me, I had a quiet, empty house all day, I had my schedule, I did lunch on my time, I took breaks that were convenient to me, and now it’s everything from – you know, I’ve gotta make sure to feed the kids, to I can’t turn my music up, because that might upset my wife because she’s on a conference call… You know, lots going on now. It’s a very different world at home… For me anyway.

And you’re not a natural sharer, are you?

No, I’m not. I’m not very giving… [laughs]

Carmen, what about you? Do you normally go in an office?

I go into New York City every third week… So I do two weeks at home, I’m in Upstate New York, and then I try to get into the Go team New York City office for one week, Monday through Friday. So it’s like an interesting hybrid, where I’m a commuter and an office goer one week, and then home every day the next two weeks.

But before that, when I was with Travis CI, I was 100% remote for four years, and then at the startup before that, 100% remote… So I’ve been a remote worker for about 5+ years now, or hybrid.

Yeah… See, I’ve been home-working for about 5-6 years.

It’s been ten for me.

Wow. What about you, Jon?

I think it’s seven or eight for me.

Okay, so we’ve been doing it quite a while then, and obviously, we’ve been successful at doing it…

To varying stages… [laughter] You know, I’m not gonna say it was ten years of wonderful working from home lifestyle…

Right.

Oh boy, no… There was a couple of years that are just hard to get everything right.

Trial and error…

It’s also easy to slip into depressions, but we can talk about that too a little bit later. Let’s talk about Jon’s thing, too - just the getting into the schedule.

Yeah… So what were the challenges, Jon?

I think some of the things that make it harder just learning – like, when you’re in an office, you have all these things that sort of set the tone of “You’re going to work”. People talk about getting dressed and not wearing PJs, or they talk about a million other things of routines that set that tone that you’re starting to work… And when you start working from home, you just don’t realize that you’re losing all that. It’s really to not realize that you’re not training your brain to go into work mode, it’s easy to let random tasks eat up your time…

One example is you’ll be asked to take the kids to the doctor, and then that’ll lead to “Well, I need to go to the pharmacy now to get some medicine”, and then all of a sudden while you’re at the pharmacy you’re gonna pick up some groceries. Then after you get the groceries, it’s like “Well, I might as well whip something up for dinner, because they can’t take these meds on an empty stomach”, and before you know it, your entire day is gone, and you’re like “What happened?”

Yeah, that’s 100% accurate. I know, Mat, you don’t have kids so much, so those sorts of daily templates…

Yes… So much…

Well, yes, that you know of… [laughter] I’m assuming Carmen definitely relates to that, because I 100% do… Whenever a kid is sick, I get called. Whenever there’s a dentist appointment, a doctor’s appointment, an after-school event, orchestra every Tuesday… I haven’t been on the podcast this much this school year because it directly conflicts with me having to drive my son to orchestra once a week.

Right. To work on Kubernetes, or…

Yes, yes…

Not orchestrator. Orchestra.

Oh…!

Yeah, you can only imagine my surprise when I’ve found out…

Because of your flexibility, you become the default doer of random tasks.

Yeah, I think we can all agree with that… Jon, Carmen, wouldn’t you agree?

[00:08:05.14] And my wife - I’m sure your spouses as well - are very supportive and totally understand… But my wife works downtown Boston, where I always joke she has a “real job”. She goes into an office daily, she has a staff… She can’t be coming home to pick up a sick kid from school if I’m a five-minute drive away, right?

That’s an unrealistic expectation to ask of her… So it’s just stuff that you end up having to internalize in your work-from-home lifestyle, and figure out those blocks, and just make it work.

It’s also hard because other people who don’t work from home I feel like just assume that you are free, even though you’re not…

[unintelligible 00:08:46.16]

There have been so many times where people are like “Oh, it’s nice because you can do these things…” and I’m like “Well, I still have to work.” I’m still working, I’m just at home while I’m doing it. I can’t just run around mowing the lawn, and planting a garden, and doing all these things. I still have to get work done.

I’ve been doing this for ten years. My mother called me two weeks ago on a Friday, in the morning, “Can you come over and help dad change out all the plugs and switches in the kitchen today?” No, I can’t come over and do electrical work for several hours on a Friday. I’ve got stuff to do.

Why do they want to change all of the switches?

Because they’re retired and have nothing else to do… But that’s getting off the subject entirely. They didn’t like the color of the switches. It’s a whole thing… [laughter]

That’s fair enough.

Yeah… Well, now with COVID-19 I don’t think that anyone is going to have these assumptions. Since we’re all in the same boat and many of us are working from home, we won’t be saying “You’re not just doing anything” or “Just come on over”, so that will help, at least temporarily…

Yeah, for those working from home now… Because there’s no school, there’s no sports… Somebody asked me “When are you free this week to have a call?” and I was like “Literally, any time between now and mid-April. Just throw something on my calendar. I am so [unintelligible 00:10:04.18]” So those I don’t think will affect us. But we’ve still gotta make lunch for kids, we still… You know, we all have stuff to do, it’s all gonna be different; we all have to add it into our days. I think that’s Jon’s point…

Yeah. I think one of the things that I’m thinking about for this episode is thinking about working from home, but also thinking about working from home in this new Coronavirus context… Because they’re two separate things.

Me working from home while having my kids go full-time to a school, and my husband going to his job, and activities, shuttling different people around - it’s very different from everyone sheltering in place, which is as of March 17th, which is the air date of this show, is the reality for many people in California and Europe, and increasingly on the Eastern [unintelligible 00:10:53.20]

And Massachusetts has been shut down for a few days now…

Oh, okay…

Can I ask - Carmen, are you also in the situation where when you work from home you’re generally the only person there?

Yes. So I get wonderful, deep worktime. Once the kids would go to school, and my husband would go to job, which is around 8:30 - 8:45 in the morning, if I didn’t have meetings, I had real silence and an opportunity to do some deep work… Which is essential for productivity.

Okay. So I think one of the things that’s interesting for me is that my wife and my daughter have pretty much always been around… And I know that for a while, one of the things that we struggled with was sort of social cue – basically, communicating that I’m working, or when I am working, versus when I’m not.

One simple example of this is if I would walk – I have an office, so I have a space that I work in, and she knows “Okay, he’s in there. He’s working.” But for the longest time I didn’t, and it’d be really hard to communicate “Are you just going to the bathroom, are you just making lunch, or are you able to sit down with me and talk while you’re having lunch? Or do you bring it back to your desk, you’re still in work mode type thing?” And there were a lot of different things like that, that took a while to sort of get down or figure out some system that worked for the two of us… And I think that a lot of people are gonna struggle with that now that they’re both around the house.

[00:12:09.00] In an office, it’s really easy to be like “Okay, he’s clearly at work. I don’t wanna ask him this simple question.” But when he’s just in the other room, it’s easy to walk in and be like “Can you do this, or can you answer this question?” and that can be really distracting when trying to work… And I think that’s something that I’ve been lucky enough to figure out already, but it’s gonna be hard now that everybody else has everybody in the house.

Yeah, because it’s important that – blocks of uninterrupted time are kind of really vital for productivity. I mean, for me, that’s definitely the case. If I’ve got 30 minutes time, I can’t really usually start anything. So 30 minutes isn’t enough time to even do anything.

So when I started writing blog posts, it was to actually fill the little gaps when I found I had little bits of time that I could try and use… But yeah, it’s so important having uninterrupted time.

I used to think that working at home was gonna be impossible or difficult because of all the distractions at home… But like you, Jon, I kind of got into a situation where I’ve figured out a routine that works, and a situation that works… And actually now, being in an office is way more distracting for me.

Oh, yeah. If I go on-site with the client, I can’t believe how noisy and distracting it is.

Yeah… You must get used to it, but it is strange going back into it.

You find ways to tune stuff out.

Yeah… So to Jon’s point, I can tell you some things that we’ve done here that have helped us. One is we were fortunate enough that we were able to carve out two spaces. I already had my own office in the house, and we had a guest room, so we were able to make my wife her own office, which is super-awesome, because she’s on the phone all day. She’s on calls all day, and whatever… So she keeps her door shut. When her door is shut, that means “Do not interrupt. I am working.”

For me, I generally keep my door open because my dog likes to come and go… And the kids are pretty good and they know if I’m in my office, I’m working. And if the door is shut, that means I’m on a call, don’t come in.

Then the other thing we do is we have headphones. Headphones are another cue. We both have earpods, or a variant of them… And if you see one of us walking around the house - usually her, because again, she’s usually on calls - if they’re in, it’s like “Okay, don’t bother them. They’re working, or they’re clearly not in an open-eared environment. They’re not ready to listen.”

And then texting - we still text, just like we used to… Even though we’re one room over, it’s still like “Hey, what time are you finishing up tonight? Any thoughts on dinner yet?” Just so we don’t interrupt those flows and keep that async, just like she was in Boston and I was at home.

It’s funny, because we do the same thing. She’ll be upstairs, texting me, and people are liek “Really?” and I’m like “This is the easiest way to communicate asynchronously.” It’s like I’m in an office, and it works.

Yeah, yeah.

When I had children that were smaller, so we didn’t have a space that I could carve out of my own - and we can talk a little bit about making sure that you have a psychic space that is just for work, and try your best not to make it on your bed, because there is that psychological benefit…

For me, it was a corner of a shared space. They were little, and what I used was a silly headband; it was for Halloween, like a ladybug headband… And I remember “If mommy is wearing that, you can’t–” Because this is tips and tricks for people who have maybe small children in the house.

That’s great.

[00:15:45.18] Amazon or other online merchants have a red “Do Not Disturb”, and when that’s on… Or green. I know some people that have done that for the office space. As they got older, headphones is the clear statement. When my kids come into this room and they see that I have headphones on, they’ll always leave me alone… And they only come if it’s really like I have to go, or there’s an emergency. So that was always negotiated over the last 5-6 years. They’re older now and it’s better, but…

Yeah, headphones is a good one. Headphones works in an office, too. That used to be the way you would tell people you’re focusing.

It really worked… And then of course, to get around it, someone invented Slack, and now it doesn’t matter if you’ve got headphones on or not; they can get you. But yeah, headphones and those sorts of clues are good… And I suppose it’s just that sort of communication with the people around you. Set up the rules, think about it, talk about it, and agree it. That probably is quite important.

I think it’s also worth, like Carmen said, picking a space that is your workspace… Because part of it is that psychological telling yourself you’re going into work mode… And for me, it was even to the point that – like, I don’t like using the same desk for playing video games as I do for working. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t run a Windows operating system for anything work-related; it’s because if I’m playing games, I’m on Windows, and that kind of transitions my brain… And it’s just an easy way of me being mentally aware of what I’m doing.

Even when I was in a space where I couldn’t actually set up an office, instead of having something on my head, I set up a little drop cloth curtain that went around my desk. Anything you can do to isolate yourself, or make it clear “This is where I’m closed off at” helps a lot… And it also just sort of helps your brain transition into that. But I think it’s also useful to have routines that help you move into that work mode.

We talked about this maybe a little bit before we went on air, but a lot of people are no longer gonna have to get up in the morning, shower and dress and go to work. That’s not part of their routine… So I think you’re gonna need to come up with similar routines that help you, again, move into that mental transition of getting ready for work.

In terms of the space, the spacial ritual of “This is my workspace, this is the time for me to think about work”, I remember having a colleague at Travis who they had their dining room table that sat only four, and when they worked, they would sit in one chair. That chair was only for work, and when they ate, they sat in a different chair. That was kind of the mental ritual that they had, to be able to (as Jon said) separate work from non-work when they had to use the very same exact space.

So it’s things like that that you should think about… That way you don’t get burnt out and you don’t start blurring the days, and you have a clear separation of work versus home stuff.

Yeah, don’t sit on your sofa with your laptop, or on your bed… Don’t sit in your favorite chair, or anything like that. Find a different place. At the other end of the dining room table is another suggestion that I was gonna say.

I’ve found that just trying to make a point of being at my “desk”, wherever that space may be, by somewhere between 9 and 10. I usually try to get my toast, and my coffee, and I’ll sit down at my desk somewhere between 9 and 10, depending on what’s going on that morning… And sit down and then start going through my emails, and stuff… Even if I hadn’t showered yet; at least it helps get me in there. I make it a point, I sit there, I read those emails… I don’t do it on my phone, I don’t respond to Slack on my phone; I do it all at my desk. I mean, I might do later in the day, but that initial step is just “Get into work, Mark.”

Then those emails trigger the work thoughts, and then the rest of my is work – like, I’m in work then.

Yeah… So I read something that was talking about one of the things you lose when you work from home is the commute… Normally, your day is kind of bookended by getting to the office, and then getting home again… Which often can involve some kind of - even if it’s just sort of like a walking exercise, or something… You know, you do get some different kind of – it just feels different, doesn’t it? And it bookends… And you can lose that. So I think that’s quite important, even if they seem – because that sounds quite funny, Carmen, when you say they’d just sit in a different chair. That sounds quite funny when you think about that. But if that works, then absolutely.

[00:20:11.02] One thing I have to say, when we talk about finding the space as well, there are lots of people that - especially London, New York, San Francisco and other cities where you just don’t have that at all… I mean, you’re saying dining room table – I just got a dining room table.

You have a lovely flat. You have a nice dining room table AND an office. You’re doing fine. [laughs]

Yeah, most people though… Yeah.

No, it’s true.

For people in urban spaces, who are living in a studio…

New York City…

Yeah, I have colleagues who are trying to maximize that space in a studio.

I feel really bad for people – and in San Francisco, too. People are living in these small little places, and they’re stuck in there now… It’s gotta be hard if you can’t find that space, but just do whatever you can. Anything you can. Even if you just take the chair and move it to the other side of the room for the day and slide it back again… Just do something. Change your angle. Face it to the window. Just do something to change it.

When the weather gets a bit nicer, if you can open the window, even better. If you have a balcony or something you can sit out on - that’s great. The weather is still a bit – meh…

I think some of the things that can help too are just making sure that you set those boundaries and stick to them both ways… Because one of the things that always killed me was I could get into work mode, but then I wouldn’t switch out of work mode. It’s really easy to justify too, because you’d be sitting on the couch and you’d be like “Oh, it’s a work email. Let me check it real quick.” And then you’re like “Oh, it’ll take five minutes to respond to”, and again, that leads to all those different things… But it’s really not fair to ask your family to leave you alone when you’re working, and then whenever you’re supposed to be spending family time, you’re like “Okay, now I can just drop everything and go do work, instead of hanging out with you guys.”

Yeah…

So going both ways is a big part of it too, because otherwise you’ll just work forever.

Yeah, it’s important that just as you start your day, to end it. That could be closing down your computer, walking away and not touching it till tomorrow, it could be signing off of Slack and then just going away, but… Yeah, you’ve gotta end your day.

A friend of mine has two accounts on their laptop… So they sign into their work account and have all the work apps and everything set up there, and then they have a different account for the personal stuff. Something like that is quite nice, little virtual boundaries.

Yeah, you can do that on one computer too, which is quite nice.

Yeah.

One thing I’ll say from experience, as we all adjust to staying at home indefinitely for the coming weeks, is that the end of the day - stick to that boundary, because you may have only gotten four good hours of work, but then you had kid interruptions, or you had XYZ… And if you only had four hours, and you resolved to end at (say) 6 PM, just do it; be nice to yourself. If you’re a team lead, or a manager, or working, just know that we are going to probably be at a reduced capacity for some time now… Because there are problems when you don’t set that boundary and you say “Well, I only got four hours done. It’s six o’clock… I’ll make some up now from 6 to 10 PM.” But that is not good self-care, and that’s not setting good boundaries.

Things happen, and we just need to be okay with the fact that we have other responsibilities, we’re living with other people, society is shutting down, and that’s okay for the short-term.

Break

[00:23:43.06]

One of the things that when I first started it took me ages to figure it out, and then I started talking to people more and more about, is when you got to an office you don’t get eight hours of uninterrupted work. You don’t. You get four, maybe. That’s on a good meeting day… No, I’m serious. Between people coming to your desk in interruption, you go to get a cup of coffee and you’re there for ten minutes, somebody in the hall, that hallway meeting… You’d be surprised how when you add those up over the course of the day, those add up to hours in a day.

So if you’re at home, don’t beat yourself up because you decided you’re gonna take the dog for a walk in the afternoon for 20 minutes to stretch your leg. You would have done that to go to the coffee machine, and talked to Joe in accounting about his stupid March Madness that isn’t happening, and you’re like “I don’t care, Joe. I just want a cup of coffee”, and you’re there for 20 minutes… [laughter]

Those things are there, and especially now, where we do have to make time for family, they’re no different than the time we’d have to make for our co-workers, socially, in the office, and the other things that just kind of come along with being in the office.

So I don’t worry anymore about taking breaks, I don’t worry anymore about making bread in the afternoon, or something like that. I’m thinking, I’m doing work in my head, I’m just away from my desk, and that’s okay. I try to do those things when I need that shift of thinking [unintelligible 00:26:27.16] I’ll make the bread, I’ll take the dog for the walk, I’ll go to the grocery store, whatever. So I try to work those tasks into those spaces, too.

Yeah, that’s a really good point. I think it’s a very naive view, and people think that you have to just be working solid amounts; like, you have to work eight hours a day, solid, uninterrupted. I’ve worked in situations where it’s office-based, and sometimes the people around you don’t necessarily understand the job in the same way, and they might not be as technical, or just have a different perspective completely…

I’ve had some experiences where they really value the amount of time you sat looking at the screen. And if you measure that as a way of deciding how productive you’re being or how good an employee somebody is, it’s really a mistake, I think. Focusing on actually what gets delivered - that’s the important thing. That shift - and especially if you work in a trusted team - can make all the difference.

So things like what time you got started, or how long you spent on your little break, or whatever - that becomes kind of background noise really, because it isn’t that important.

I think there’s also probably a correlation between – like, we’ve all worked in a place where people check things like Reddit, or do other random things as little breaks… But I think the amount of time you spend doing stuff like that changes drastically, depending on whether you’re in a job where they count the amount of time you’re in front of a screen, versus just be as productive as you can be.

[00:28:00.07] Because when I sit down, if I have three hours just to get something done, I don’t check Reddit or do all these other things; I sit down and I do what I need to do. But if I’m gonna be in an office for eight hours and I know I’m stuck there for eight hours, then it’s like “Okay, I can just throw this in, check this thing, check Twitter”, do whatever. It’s a lot easier just to slip all that stuff in and allow yourself to get distracted.

Yeah. So speaking about the commute then… Carmen, you do both - you go to an office every third week, and you also work at home, so you can compare really those two things… What do you do with your commute? How long is your commute? When you work from home, do you think of ring-fencing that commute time to put to some dedicated use? Or is it just blending into the rest of your day?

It’s for exercise. My commute is kind of considered my exercise during my New York weeks. Depending on the subway schedule, it could be - if I catch all the trains right - about 35 minutes; if I don’t, it’ll be closer to an hour, or if I’m off-peak… So when I’m home, I use that time to schedule – it’s just a completely different schedule. I have a different work schedule when I’m home versus when I’m in the office.

Someone in the channel asked if anyone plans to offset their work schedule to accommodate for the family being home, and my answer is 100% yes. I love to get up very, very early, and start my deep work at about five…

In the morning?

In the morning… Because I’m already an early bird.

Which timezone at that?

Right… Well, this started when my team was based in Berlin, and I was the only one in the New York timezone, and I agreed that in order to collaborate more we needed to have more chunks of hours when we all were together… And I already really liked – so nobody in my house likes to wake up early; I’m the only one, and I already do it to get some space.

This doesn’t work for everyone, if you’re not an early bird… But I would work from five, and then end my workday at one. That was perfect in my old job.

I also manage expectations with my team now, and say “Listen, my hours are gonna be a bit blotchy”, but I want some of that deep work. Now that none of the kids are going to school, they don’t wanna wake up till eight… So for me, five to eight is great, deep worktime; I just hit it out of the park. I don’t check emails, I don’t go to social media… Whatever I had set up as my big rock thing to do from the day previous gets done during that time, and it really sets the tone for the rest of my day.

So yeah, to answer, Mat, that is exactly how I ring around that… And I just have internalized very differently what a workday looks like when I’m here at the house, versus what a workday looks like when I’m in the Google offices in New York City.

My brother has three children, and he would walk two of them to the bus… He did something very similar to what you did, where he would get up every morning at 5 or so, he would get basically one big thing he wanted to get done for that day, he’d start working on it then. Then as soon as the kids were getting ready for school, he’d walk them down to the bus and do that… Which would interrupt his day, but – the way he communicated it to me was basically that it allowed him to make sure that he got the most important thing done for the day, and then the rest of the day, if there were distractions, it didn’t matter quite as much.

My wife would take and drop one of our kids off, and then go into Boston… Then in the afternoon we’d go take a dog for a huge walk, like an hour-long walk, even though school is like six minutes away… But just get a nice, big walk in in the afternoon. That was nicely scheduled around picking him up. Those things are gone now, for a lot of people.

For me, I’m still trying to keep that timeframe, if I can, and still keep trying to take him out in the afternoon… Although I’ve found that now that my wife’s home, we’re trying to see if we can coordinate a little bit more time in the afternoon for her and I to maybe go for a walk. You know, just a little break in the afternoon, which is quite nice. So if you have a spouse, or a partner, or somebody like that, you can schedule a nice walk in the afternoon, take a break, with kids, whatever…

[00:32:07.24] Hm, lovely.

…walk the dog… Those are all good things. I know she’s turned her morning commute into running. She runs half-marathons, so she gets up ever day, and instead of getting up at 5:30 in the morning to go running, she can get up at 6:30 in the morning and go running instead. That’s her big like “This is wonderful! I can get a nice, big run in every morning.”

Mark, let me ask you this, mate…

What do you wear for bed? [laughter]

Well, you’re gonna have to qualify that for why you’re asking in the context of a free show…

Yes…! I’m not sure I’m gonna answer that. [laughter] I’m sure there’s a code of conduct violation just waiting on the other side of that question…

Just answer the question…

It’s entrapment, is what it is…

[laughs] Okay, fine.

It’s entrapment.

Well, one of the bits of advice you hear a lot is that you should have different clothes to work in. Have you heard this? We didn’t talk about this already, did we?

No. No, we didn’t.

By different clothes you mean like I don’t have to get up, put on a suit, and work at my desk all day, and then change into jeans in the evening, right?

Well, that depends. Some people do actually do that.

My brother does that, actually.

Right. So he presumably doesn’t sleep in a suit…

He might.

Well, then he’s not doing that, is he? [laughs]

He’s very conservative…

Then he’s working in his pajamas, which is what they say you shouldn’t do… [laughter] And I don’t know how I feel about this one. Jon, what do you think?

I think it depends on the person. Figure out what works for you… I mean, I said this before we got on air, but – I don’t sleep in pajamas. But I own a bunch of pajamas that when I wake up in the morning, I put them on, because it’s cold in my house… And I will go out and I’ll make my coffee, I’ll go downstairs, I’ll get on my computer and I’ll answer work emails and I’ll do a couple things like that… And I don’t shower for the first couple hours of the day, because I tend to go out and exercise in the afternoon. Somewhere around lunchtime is when I like to go out and exercise.

So a lot of people think that’s weird, because if I hop on a video call or something, they’re like “You clearly woke up and didn’t shower…” [laughter] And I try to limit those calls to just people that are okay with that.

I got that this morning, as a matter of fact…

But to me, that’s just part of my routine that works. It’s kind of like Mark said, I like to get straight to emails and straight to doing that stuff… I like to do these things, and then eventually when I work out – well, I don’t wanna shower twice in a day; I don’t wanna shower in the morning, and then work out, get sweaty, and then not shower, or shower a second time… So it just makes more sense to do this.

Then after I do that, I can put on whatever clothes I want for the rest of the day, and do whatever. I can even link the rest of my day around that, where like if I’m gonna go to the grocery store or do that sort of things, it tends to happen after I’ve showered and put on some normal clothes, not when I’m sitting around in my pajamas.

But that also allows me to sort of – it’s almost like my pajamas are my deep thinking work clothes, because… You know, I’m clearly not leaving the house at this point, I’m not doing that stuff as much… I say “clearly”, but I’ve definitely left the house in my pajamas and my wife yelled at me, but… [laughter] But most of the time.

Yeah… Really, it’s about that mental preparation, whatever habit that you need to get into. It could be that you wear your blue pajamas to bed, and the green pajamas to work… It’s just the point meaning that you’re preparing your mind for a work mindset. And it’s the same trick as I sit in this spot of the small dining table for work, and this spot to eat meals.

Again, it’s boundaries, separating the psychic space of “This is the home, where I try to relax and unwind from work, but also where I now have to work.”

The one thing I will say is slippers are 100% allowed.

Oh, yes…! I’m so happy.

And highly encouraged.

Yeah. I totally love that these are what I wear all the time. I’m showing it…

I’ve got some UGG slippers that are just – I got them a couple Christmases ago and they’re just amazing.

Yeah, cozy house slippers are definitely probably top five perks of working from home. [laughs]

Invest in some nice, quality slippers.

That will be like all the links for this show, is just referral links for slippers… [laughter]

“What brand do you use…?” [laughs]

You know what - let’s actually talk about comfort, because that is important. Office chair.

Oh, yeah…

[00:36:12.18] If you can, if you have the space and you have the ability to get a nice office chair, you absolutely should. I’ve gone through a couple different chairs now, and I have a Steelcase chair now, which I absolutely love. I got a Herman Miller maybe 6-7 years ago…

Ooh, fancy…

It was like a low-end Herman Miller… But it was the first nice chair I had ever actually splurged on, and didn’t just go to staples and buy the $100 “executive model.” This is a nice chair… And I remember saying to my wife, I was like “Oh, I can’t believe how much I spent on that Herman Miller…” and she’s like “Mark, you sit in it 40 hours a week. That’s a justifiable purchase. Of all the random junk you buy, a nice chair and a good desk are okay things to purchase.”

Yeah, all the Easter Island heads that you bought… [laughter]

I have the full collection, by the way. [unintelligible 00:37:06.18] But my heart goes out to them…

This is one of those things people are probably asking “Should I make that kind of investments with an unclear amount of time that I’m gonna be at home before returning to the office?” I don’t know if that’s the answer, but this is gonna be more than 5-6 weeks. Your back will thank you if you have the means and the space to invest in a chair.

I use this GT racing chair - I’m showing people in the Zoom chat, but… Gamer chairs are made for this kind of stuff; they’re made for people who are in it looking at the screen for a very long time… I got a racing chair for Christmas as a gift, and it was the best.

You code with one of the steering wheels as well, which I think is amazing.

[laughs]

It also has multiple cupholders, which is amazing.

[laughs] Yeah.

So I have a Herman Miller at my desk, for work… So I’ve definitely spent money on a more expensive one, because I use it so much… But upstairs at our dining room table we actually have – Costco sells an office chair that’s like $150 (in that ballpark), and it’s not quite as nice as the Herman Miller, but it probably gets you 90% of the way there with ergonomics, and everything… And I would highly suggest, if you’re looking for a cheaper option, to go look there. Where all the Herman Millers and those ones can be $600+, that one will be like $150 or something… And it’s a decent option to check.

And even as far as space goes - my wife and I keep an office chair at our dining room table. It’s just one of the chairs there. And while we both don’t like to work at the dining room table all the time, there are times where I need to go up and watch my daughter while my wife goes and does something, and I can sit there and work… And again, that separation is still slightly there, even though I’m slightly in dad mode.

Nice tips.

Yeah, one of the things about being in an office is you tend to get up and walk around a lot more than when you’re working at home… So I think that has to be a bit of a conscious thing you do as well, even if you do have a Herman chair. So excuses to kind of get up and walk about I think are also probably quite important.

Get a glass of water every hour.

Yeah…

Or get a dog.

A dog will definitely help.

Dogs are awesome for this.

For the first time I got my very first dog just over a year ago, and it has changed my life. I can’t believe I’ve worked from home all this time without a dog.

My dog will literally – if I’m in my office too long, he’ll come over and start nudging me with his nose…

Really?!

Even if he just has to go to the bathroom or something, it makes me get up. But then on top of that, every day I’m like “I can’t skip the walk today, because he needs a walk, too.”

Yeah, he needs to go outside. That’s great.

They’re great excuses for walks, for entertainment… I talk to my dog; he’s my rubber duck. I’ll talk to him about code…

That’s great…!

Is that another one of your pets, Mark?

[laughs]

Yes, yes…

Take him for his little swim, in the back.

So I have this watch, that – you know, if you can’t have pets in your building or your house, if it’s not allowable, I just have a watch and I just set it to… If it detects no motion for 60 minutes, it beeps. And I hate it sometimes, especially when you’re in deep work.

[00:40:13.00] And it doesn’t have a setting where you can say “Only notify me between these hours of the day”; just any motions… So I sometimes turn it off. But it’s a nice way to – or maybe you use a browser, a Chrome add-on that can say “Get up now.” That’s also an option to get you up and out and walking around.

If you have an Apple watch, they do that. They ping you, to try to get your stand goals…

Oh, yeah…

I know that’s one of the things my wife and I – we now always see who gets their rings first. So the rings on our watches help us make sure we get enough activity, movement and standing during the day. That’s really nice, and you can see that, and it encourages you, it pings you during the day…

That’s nice.

I’m sure Android watches do similar things. If you don’t have those things enabled, definitely enable them. They’ll ping you, they encourage you, they want you to do things. It’s quite nice.

That’s nice.

You can also do the pomodoro technique, and all those things. I know lots of other people use those too, and use them effectively. It’s just not what I personally use.

Yeah, I need something a little less manual… And that’s one of the things I like about the Apple watch. It’s all automatic; it just yells at you, and you’re like “Fine, I’ll stand up. I’ll go get a glass of water now.” Like, “I’ve finished this water, I’ll go get another one.”

Oh, and related to that - don’t get a really big glass of water. I used to get this really big mug to bring down, so I wouldn’t have to go refill it… And I’ve basically found that having a smaller glass that forces me to go refill it is useful.

This is a brilliant episode. Don’t have a big glass of water.

It sounds crazy, but…

I mean it. I love it.

But you’re supposed to drink a lot of water, generally; it gets you up, and then it also gets you to the bathroom, which is another thing that gets you out of your desk. These things sound silly, but when you’ve been doing this for a long time, these are tricks that you do learn. Jon is speaking the truth, I know what he is talking about. I switched to a smaller glass years ago too, for the same reason.

I just can’t wait for them to take that clip and put it on the Twitter as the promo for this show, though…

[laughs] Drink a glass of water.

Don’t have it too big.

People are gonna imagine this with like these tiny, Winn-Dixie plastic cups that you get just to rinse your mouth out, or something…

[laughs] The little dentist rinse-and-spit, yeah…

Well, actually, standing up for calls and walking around while you’re on calls, if you can… You know, if you’re not demo-ing, or anything like that…

Little excuses like that to be active I think is important. It’s definitely something that I try and do consciously.

Yeah, pace around your room.

Yeah, I personally find also that’s quite a good way to think as well, if you’ve got a particular problem that you wanna work on in your brain.

I’m gonna stand up right now…

So now I know why I pace every time I’m on the phone, and my wife yells at me for it… [laughter]

Yells at you for what? Tiny glasses of water?

I walk, or I pace, anytime I’m on the phone… And I think it comes from sitting around, so when I get a chance to do it, I do it… And whenever I’m on my phone, my wife will be like “You can sit down.” I’m like, “No, I’m fine. I sit all day.” I also have to tell people this all the time when I go places, when they’re like “Sit down”, and I’m like “You know, I sit a lot through the day. I’m fine standing.”

Yeah. It’s rude almost, isn’t it? I was at an elderly relative’s house, and they were like “Oh, sit down”, because it’s rude for them to not invite you to sit down… But then it got flipped on its head and just became I was the rude one for not wanting to sit down… So I just sat.

Yeah, but that doesn’t surprise anybody…

What, that I’m the rude one?

Oh…

[laughs]

Okay…

Well, you did ask me what I wore to bed, so… I think I’m justified in my criticism today, Matthew.

You two are great.

[00:44:00.05] So I guess that ca lead to another subject here… How do you communicate differently when you’re remote? How do you not ask people “What do you wear to bed?” in a weird way? [laughter]

Yeah, don’t ask in a weird way. Ask in a good way.

Yeah, you can ask it in a totally appropriate workplace way, absolutely.

Yeah, yeah.

You know, when we see you in the video chat walking through Victoria’s Secret, it’s probably not an appropriate time to ask.

[laughs]

One of the things that’s happening is that we are no longer having in-person communication… So on reflecting what makes in-person communication superior to (what would be the next level down?) video chat, then superior to text, is things like being able to see each other and read the room… Right? Look for emotions…

Right now I’m in Zoom with you, and I see Mark nodding his head, Mat nodding his head, Jon nodding his head. We all have a shared understanding because of the facial expressions and body language that you’ve given me that you’ve understood what I’ve said.

Same thing for emotions - we communicate far more than just our words. We communicate our tone, our intent, our values, how we feel about things… And that is what creates bonding and shared understanding in the team.

One of the things that [unintelligible 00:45:13.27] in the chat said - “If we go from in-person meetings to chat rooms, people have a tendency to turn off their video and just do audio…” And I think now is the time when we wanna say that’s not the best thing if we wanna continue connecting. So put your video on and keep it on.

There are different communication platforms that allow for larger groups, for us to see everyone at a time. Unfortunately, Google Hangouts is not a good one; they have a limit of five, where you can see people in a grid, and then maybe eight in a sidebar. Zoom is a little bit better, but you have to pay for that. So there’s just trade-offs to all the different platforms, but if you can, try to see each other’s faces, try to look for emotions and body language and shared understanding… And also just to see other people and stay connected in uncertain times.

Yeah, we mention this to everybody who comes on Go Time - we use Zoom just so we can see each other when we’re recording, and there’s a Gallery view, where instead of just saying whoever is currently talking, it shows you everybody in a grid. And that does so much to help with communication… Because if somebody wants to talk, they can raise their hand, or you see that they’re trying to talk… There’s a million different ways that you can non-verbally communicate that you wanna say something. And you can tell when a guest doesn’t have that on, because they won’t notice some of this stuff happening.

So it’s definitely something to keep in mind and to check out. I think that’s what you were talking about, Carmen - Google Hangouts caps it at like five(ish).

Yeah… And you know, I work at Google, and I know that this is a thing they’re trying to figure out, but… When we think about the coming months, and keeping teams from breaking down in communication, but also connection, I think that more than ever we need more and more video chats, and they need to be intentional. So talking about ground rules…

Also, one of the things that we’ve set up is a snack room. A room that’s open 24/7. And just like you would go to the watercooler down the hall, or whatever (we have cafes and micro-kitchens at Google), this is a thing that’s open 24/7. If you feel lonely, if you feel isolated, go to this room.

I will typically go in and there’s one person, two people, three people, and the agreement is as long as you’re logged into that space, you can social chat. Sometimes some of us mute their video and audio, but they want maybe this background, so that they don’t feel so alone.

So that’s a thing that you can do, whether you wanna do it free with Hangouts, or if you have paid Zoom, or have another video-chatting platform. That’s one step that you can take to continue to build rapport and connection with your team.

And don’t skip your daily stand-ups either.

Related to that, one of the best remote atmospheres I had was one where it was completely normal to just message somebody and say – my dog wants me to get up right now…

[00:48:10.21] What a weird thing to message somebody…

Oh, I see his tail wagging… It’s so cute! Anyway, continue…

Anyway… It’s very normal to just message somebody and say “Do you have a minute to jump on a video chat?” This wasn’t a “Put it on my calendar”… As long as they could, obviously. And oftentimes these video chats were maybe three minutes. It could be like “Hey, can you look at this thing, cover it?” But it really helps simulate that walking up to somebody’s desk and asking a question type thing.

I mean, you wanna try to not interrupt everybody’s workday and let them get productive stuff done, but having these quick video chats is complete okay. Video chat doesn’t have to be something that’s scheduled on a calendar, and takes 15 minutes, and all this other stuff. It can just be a “Look at this real quick with me. Walk through it, make sure it makes sense.” Because sometimes that can save you 20 minutes of trying to write up an email explaining what the heck you’re trying to think, and everything else. But on top of that, just that communication and just having a little bit of banter or something can help brighten up your whole day

Does anyone have a rule of thumb for that? Like, how much time should you put in a thing as you start to write it before you say “You know what - this would probably just be a lot easier on video”?

For me it’s more – like, if I’m in Slack and I’m already going back and forth with somebody about something, or trying to ask them questions (a client, or whatever), I’ll just be like “Do you have five minutes so we just jump on a chat right now?” You’d be surprised how quick those really complicated conversations in Slack go to like “Oh, sorry. So we were in violent agreement then? Okay, fantastic”, and the call is over. [laughter]

Just feel free to – tools like Slack have video capability already built in, so you can start that conversation then and there.

This is also a big part of why I think being willing and ready to jump onto an actual video chat rather than just audio is still useful when you’re working from home. It’s one of those things where I feel like people who work from home more frequently are more willing to jump on video chats and actually have video on… Whereas somebody who does that once or twice a week or something like that is less likely to do it, because it’s kind of the exception for then. But when you do it a lot, you kind of realize that being able to jump on a video chat is very useful.

I know sometimes, like I said, I wouldn’t shower until the afternoon, but I just kind of got over that, and I’m like “I’ve worked with people that were okay with it, so it’s fine.” And I know that I’m also a white guy, so I probably have some privilege there… But hopefully, it’s not too bad for everybody.

More importantly, I can’t smell you from here, so I really don’t care if you’ve showered or not. [laughter]

It’s another advantage to remote work.

Yeah, smelling.

Actually, the flipside of this is – one of the things that I’ve seen this used for before is actually like surveillance of the team, and things… And mandating that everyone has to have the video on all day, and things like this… It can get a little bit – it’s not great. And actually, I think if you feel like you have to have that kind of supervision or surveillance on the team, that’s when there’s probably deeper problems there in that team…

That’s what it feels like…

But the flipside of what you were all talking about is actually exploring and enhancing our asynchronous communication skills as well. In open source, Mark, you probably never ask someone to just jump on a quick call.

Can’t say I do… [laughs]

Open source projects tend to be asynchronous… And there’s real value if you can do things asynchronously, because suddenly you actually remove the need for you to even be online at the same time. So yeah, it’s in some situations that those skills are gonna be good to have… And I think generally that’s a good idea anyway, because it falls into that whole not wanting to interrupt people. If you can resolve that thing, wherever it is, asynchronously, that’s probably great.

[00:52:03.19] You can lose out, of course, if you only do that; you lose out then on the social stuff. Having the random channels, or being able to socialize and have a bit of rapport, as you’ve said, I think is important. But yeah, async communication is kind of a perk, in some ways, of remote work.

What are some of the async communication tips that you - I mean, I’m just asking around - have found invaluable over the years?

Well, I think what happens is you learn little things of etiquette, for starts… I’ve heard this thing said on Twitter - don’t just reach out to someone and say “Oh, hi Mark.” Don’t just say that…

Hi, Mat.

…and then write your – it’s from a film; I’m not gonna bother getting into it.

I’m sorry, the phrase “Hi, Mark” is from a film?

“Hi, Mark”, yeah.

I hear it’s from several. [laughs]

Okay, could be… I don’t know, I’m not IMDb. Yeah, so… Actually that. It’s like your first message is kind of an interruption payload, and you’re gonna drop it on somebody. So make a good one; make it contain all the bits you need. If it’s a question you’re asking, you know, “Oh, hi Mark”, and then ask the question. And then press Enter.

Mark’s not then on the other end waiting for you to write that first thing. That actually turns out to be very useful. But there’s other communication skills… And I think it is a skill of being able to write and communicate through that way. Write something and leave it, and it stands on its own… And usually, that involves preempting questions sometimes, but…

When you’re talking with async, first of all, patience is a virtue… Because that response might not come back immediately. It might be hours, for now…

Well, if it does come back immediately then it’s not async, is it?

Well…

Could be.

Could be. Fair enough.

Yeah… Anyhow. I mean, I think that’s from a film, Mat…

That’s from loads of films.

Yeah, absolutely.

And I should know…

The other thing I would say is don’t wait till you’re blocked to try to reach out to somebody, because that’s the worst time for both you and them. Try to get those questions out earlier if you can, to give them time to get back to you before you get a super-block.

I also try to [unintelligible 00:54:17.03] I’m like “Okay, I have a question…”, whether it’s a super-block, or just kind of “I just need some more guidance”, or whatever… I’ll put it out there and then I’ll try to find another task to move on to. So that has now become async to me. I’m waiting for the callback to come back now, so I’m gonna go and run this goroutine over here, which is now doing my taxes, or whatever… Or fixing another bug, whatever that thing is, while I wait for that routine to send a message back down the channel and it’s ready to unblock me there. Sorry, I had to pull in a little Go…

Yeah… [laughs] Thank you.

Legally, we had to talk about Go…

We already had orchestration pop up briefly…

That was in the pre-show, I think… Wasn’t it?

I hope so, yeah.

I think it was in the show.

Oh… Either way.

Somebody - I forget who - mentioned on Twitter that another thing with remote work and doing the async stuff is that because you don’t really get the tone as much, just assume that everything that’s written to you has a smiley emoji afterwards; it’s a great way to make remote work better.

I’d love to see a study done on text written by people, remote versus not, because I feel like they use emojis a lot more, just as a by-product…

I think I have a link, I’ll have to find it. But I did read an article about that.

I use emojis all the time.

Yeah…

As I said, when you work remote, you have to… Because it’s like “I don’t want them to think I’m writing one sentence to be mean. It’s because I’m busy… So here’s my one sentence :)”

I write these emails or Slack stuff and I feel like I’m putting a happy face at the end of every sentence most of the time…

That’s great.

..because I don’t want people to feel like I’m trying to be mean. I’m just letting you know, I’m okay with all of this; this is just an explanation, and here’s a smiley face to prove it… I’m not upset, here’s a smiley… I’m just being terse in my communications.” [laughs]

[00:56:09.13] Russ Cox actually said that in a 2015 keynote, like “I tend to get terse when I’m pressed for time, and people interpret that terseness as rudeness, or impatience.” They wanna interpret something, because it’s all done in text. So emojis typically help mitigate that.

But I had a request from a colleague about 3-4 years ago… He asked something - it was my manager - and I just put “Okay.” And he said “I have a request. When you’re writing ‘okay’ to me in text, I need you to add either an exclamation mark, or a question mark, or something… Because I can interpret it in my head as ‘Okay…?’, or “Ok”, or “OKAY!!”, or “okay…” Exactly.

Like, suspicious… “Okay…….”

Exactly. And I just love that, when he felt it enough to be able to ask that. So as team members, be okay to ask for these little quirks of yours.

The other thing that was a masterclass in async/text communication - I said something, and the person wrote back and said “I can interpret what you’ve just said in three different ways”, and they took the time to say how those were interpreted. Then I realized “Oh, my goodness…” I was not clear at all, and I wanted it to be the second way. Now, that takes more time, of course… You can always jump on a call… But I thought that was great, for the benefit of everybody else who’s going to see that in the room. And then it helped me really think about it.

So in terms of interpreting in good faith, not just emojis, if you’re unclear, try to broaden the perspective and say “I could take it this way, or I could take it this way.” Or just say “I don’t know how to interpret the comment.” Just be able to do that. Because behind this piece of communication is both what is said, but also maybe if there’s frustration behind what’s being said, or if there’s agreement behind what’s being said… And that gets lost.

An old speaker trick works really well here, which is to repeat the question.

Speakers know this - you repeat the question from the audience, because they don’t have a microphone half the time, so that people hear it… But it’s also to clarify the question.

Do you paraphrase when you re-ask?

Yeah. At a conference, or even in Slack, whatever it is - if there’s a question that’s ambiguous, or I don’t fully understand it, I’ll just say “Okay, so just to be clear, I think what you’re asking me is…“m blah-blah-blah-blah. By doing that, it clarifies to everybody. Because they all of a sudden go “No, no, no. That’s not at all what I was trying to say”, or “Exactly. That’s 100% right. You got it”, and then everybody’s on the same page. It’s an old trick, but it works really well.

That’s great.

Yeah, and it’s that sort of stuff that really are the skills that help you be effective at asynchronous communication. It is about that, thinking about clarity the first time in things. And it’s a kind of difficult thing. Of course, you need patience, but it leads me to think about another kind of demographic that we work with, which is kind of new developers, or junior developers that were currently maybe in teams, getting mentorship, or learning by osmosis with the more senior people. They potentially stand to lose out quite a lot from remote working, don’t they?

I’m very openly against junior developers working remotely, if they can avoid it… And not to be mean, or anything; obviously, if you have to, that’s fine… But I say that because I feel like working remotely is just a whole unique skillset to learn, plus there’s the developer skillset to learn, and just trying to get all of that down at once, plus not having just the learning by osmosis type thing… It just makes it harder.

I spent the first half of my career working in an office, under mentorship of some amazing developers, and I can’t imagine trying to become a developer without that mentorship, and without those experiences.

[01:00:00.14] Yeah… I will say how I was able to rise up as a junior remotely - it was because we got really creative with terminal sharing. Think about things like Tmux, Byobu… I just had the senior devs come in and drive. tmate has a great one where everyone can see my terminal, and they can help set up things. They’ll see what I type in the command line… I think VS Code, in Golang, everybody has remote editing things. That’s one way.

Pair programming.

Pair programming, but not just pair programming. It’s seeing exactly what is being typed into that terminal by that junior. And say, “Okay, this is what you’re doing wrong” or you maybe set up your workspace wrong, or “Oh, you didn’t set your path.” They can help troubleshoot. It’s a lot more intense and work-heavy, but that’s exactly what happens when you’re in an office; they can look at your screen and ask you to type x command, and what do you see… We use tmate.io. I heavily recommend it. It’s a fork of Tmux, and it allows for read-only, if you don’t wanna be putting in commands into the person’s… But also write to help drive. That’s very high-touch for the mentor/mentee, but that’s how I learned.

I had a client a few years ago who did all of their work on a shared EC2 instance… And everybody paired, and everybody would log into the same EC2 instance. Then you’d get over Zoom, or whatever, but everybody’s in the EC2 instance, SSH-ing in… And one of the users is driving. And you’re using Tmux, so you can see the other person who’s driving right there on your terminal, and stuff like that. So virtual pair-programming is not only doable, I highly encourage it.

Yeah, it’s my preferred way. David and I - we worked like that; we work remotely entirely. We screen-share all day, whenever we’re working… Which isn’t all day. And I don’t think should be, by the way; that’s a whole different episode… But yeah, it’s that – and you learn little tricks just by seeing things. Sometimes I’ll see something happening and I don’t know how he’s done that, and I just ask him, and it’s usually some keyboard shortcut or something that I then get to learn… So it is a great way of having that osmosis of the information, isn’t it?

I think Carmen has to go…

Yeah, I’m saying goodbye to everyone… It’s the top of the hour for me, and I have another meeting… Speaking of increased frequency of meetings for remote… [laughter] I have to go live it now.

Have fun with that.

Bye, friends.

Bye, Carmen.

Bye, Carmen. Oh, so that’s what happens sometimes… People have to go.

I feel like with Carmen gone, that might be the end of the show.

Oh, that’s really nice of you to say, mate.

I suppose we’re getting there… Can I get one more tip in here that we–

Oh, absolutely… As long as Mat doesn’t. Go on.

[laughs]

So when we were talking about communication, another thing that I’ve noticed that works well for me is when you’re writing a lengthier email, it’s easy for people to miss questions that you really need answered, or something…

You were talking about paraphrasing or rephrasing the question… Even when I’m writing my own emails I’ll find that I’ll – if you take the questions that are really important and separate them from a paragraph on their own line, and sometimes even make them bold, that really tends to help sending out these asynchronous communications, so then somebody can glance at this and quickly see “Okay, there’s two bold questions. That’s the meat of this email.” The rest of it is all just qualifying.

To that point, I also do similar things, too. I don’t do the bold, but I break the questions up, because it also gives people an opportunity and the space to answer the question in-line.

Yes. So it just make all that easy.

They see the question, and there’s the space, and they can just jump in there and they can answer it… And that works for everybody.

I feel like when you write emails this way, you kind of get used to this “I don’t want them to miss these questions. Here they are.” You make them very clear, and that allows asynchronous communication to happen a little bit more effectively, because you don’t have to actually “Oh, well you didn’t actually answer my question”, and now this email is gonna bounce back 2-3 more times and take even longer.

[01:03:55.29] I would also say – for even full-timers, I’d probably say go out and read a book on consulting… Because I think there’s a lot of things that you can take from the consulting world into the remote/working from home world. We’ve been talking about a lot of those things, and a lot of them come down to communication and clarity… Because as a consultant, you don’t wanna be on calls 24 hours a day. You just wanna get the work done and do it well, so you tend to come up with these things that allow you to do the work really well, quickly and efficiently, and move on… So I think there’s a lot of stuff that people can learn just from that lifestyle.

Yeah, same for open source, actually… Open source is remote working, and look what things have been built with open source; it really is possible. I personally love remote working, and I don’t think I will ever go back to work in an office. I never know what’s gonna happen, but… Yeah, I feel like for me it’s the preferred way to work; it’s how I can be most productive.

Sometimes if I’ve had to go to an office, I tend to do it on days when I don’t have much work to do, which is kind of bonkers really, but… It’s true. I stay home if I’ve got some serious work to do, which is kind of crazy…

It’s the only place to get work done.

Yeah, for me… But everyone’s different, I suppose. Well, I think that indeed is our time. We’ve got some very interesting shows coming up, so keep subscribing, or… I don’t know what you do.

Click on the link below.

Yeah, that’s it. They always say that.

So CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW! [unintelligible 01:05:23.06]

[laughs]

Oh, boy…

Number five. Number five is gonna blow your socks off.

Exactly. The number five remote working chip is going to blow your mind…!

If that’s so good, make it number one, I think, but… What do I know.

Well, save the best for last…

Number five is “Wear slippers.”

Oh, yeah… [laughs] That is a good one though, to be fair. I didn’t expect that to come out. Nor the tiny glasses of water.

The tiny glasses of water…

And the micro-kitchens at Google.

What do you expect from the insane dentist…?

Since I started working from home, I’ve bought way more slippers than I ever thought I would. [laughter] I have these ones that look like sleeping bag material, and they’re just really nice and warm for my feet, but they wear out in about a year when you wear them every day.

Right.

So my wife is like “Why are you ordering more of these?” I’m like, “I love these things. I wear them every day. I’m gonna buy more.”

I’ve got a really nice pair of UGGs, and they even have their lovely outdoor tread on them; so if I need to run outside to the car, or whatever…

If you need to embarrass yourself in public…

If I need to embarrass myself… At least you know you can. And trust me, about a month ago I was running through, sloshing them, chasing the dog down the street, because he got out…

Oh, yes…!

Let me just say that if I wear my slippers outside, they’re not longer slippers for inside. My wife is very strict about these things.

Oh, wow… Okay. Well, there we go.

We’ve got some amazing shows coming up, by the way… Next week we’re talking about CHAOS conferenceering… We’ve got Natalie Pistunovich and Ronna Steinberg to talk about GoBridge…

Oh, Ronna. Lovely.

Yes. And also, later we’ve got Matt Heath and Tom Wilkie to talk about monoliths versus microservices, so that’ll be an interesting one… And real-time communication as well, which is another part of this, I suppose, that’s quite important… But it’s more the tech side of this. WebRTC, those kinds of technologies, and stuff… So that’s cool. But if anyone’s got any other ideas, tweet us. Mark, what’s your Twitter?

@MarkBates.

Jon, what’s your Twitter?

@JonCalhoun. No “h” in the Jon.

No “h” in the Jon. And mine’s @MatRyer.

No “h” in that either.

No “h” in mine. No Jon.

And none in mine either. We’re all h-free.

I mean, there’s an “h” in Calhoun is my problem, so that makes it really…

Oh, you can’t just say “No h.”

I can’t…

Yeah, that’s awful. It doesn’t work.

Arrgh! It must be so difficult being you sometimes, Jon.

It’s terrible…

[laughs] Yes. Well, that’s it. That’s our show. Thank you very much. We’ll see you next week!

Break

[01:08:14.15]

Hello, and welcome to Go Time! Today we’re talking about working from home/remote working. We’re gonna have hopefully some reassurances for those of you that are new to working from home… There might be also some tips and trick that you can pick up, that we’re gonna discuss, and hopefully we’ll just have a nice, lovely chat as well, which is always the goal. So hello to everybody else that’s on the podcast today, which is – I’ll tell you what, let me start again, because that was the worst one I’ve ever done… [laughter] Sorry. That’s the worst one I’ve ever done.

Okay. Alright, I’ll do it again. Don’t worry, everyone. That’s a special DVD extra that you get for free for listening live.

The gag reel.

Yeah. What?

The gag reel.

Oh. I thought you said something else. Hello, and welcome to – you know, you can’t do “What?!” halfway through the intro, Mark… [laughter]

Well, what else could it have been?

Okay, never mind. I’ll email you later. [laughter]

Okay…

Hello, and welcome to Go Time! I’m Mat Ryer. Today we’re talking about working from home, or remote working.

Changelog

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