October 23, 2007 spout

Working Remotely for Microsoft: Can You Focus On Work At Home?

First off, I don’t recommend remote work for folks who don’t like spending the vast majority of their time away from their colleagues, sometimes having trouble focusing on the work in favor of household duties or interactions. In fact, the ability to focus on work while at home is the #1 issue you’ll have to face as a remote employee and I’ve seen it drive 80% of folks back to the office. I’ve always been naturally in the 20% bucket on that issue.

As an example, when I first started at DevelopMentor, my office was in an open back room separated from the dining room by a hallway kitchen. My two infant boys had me in clear view when I was handcrafting RPC packets for communication with a DCOM server, hanging on the child gate, crying for me to play with them. My wife also had in plain sight when she wanted something from the high shelf. My family often heard me protest, You know, I am actually working over here!” I eventually built a door, purchased Melissa a stool and learned to be very mushy about the split between work and home life. My family’s actually been very supportive and I’ve always preferred the work environment I’ve established at home over any I’ve ever had from an employer, if for no other reason than my home has my family in it.

My advice to anyone that wants to switch to remote work is to try it for a month or two first. Are you able to balance work and family life when you’re at home? Are you able to go for days or weeks without the hallway conversations with your colleagues? Can you communicate effectively in ways that aren’t face-to-face? If you don’t like it, don’t force yourself into it. For example, while DM instructors didn’t seem to have any attrition due to remote work, all of the names I listed above as remote Microsoft employees have either quit, moved to Redmond or complained bitterly during their transition (Scott’s still new : ).

Tomorrow I’ll discuss Can I Find Someone To Let Me Work From Home?”