How I Remotely Worked for the Last 2 Years
It's all about communication.
January 29, 2019
This post is about my remote working experience. Before going into the detail, let me describe the background.
I spend the last 2 years in Singapore. The headquarter was back in Korea and I had been sent to Singapore office to support our clients in South-East Asia. During all the time, I was the only or one of two developers in the Singapore office and the rest of developers were back in Seoul office.
Verbal vs. Written communication
Most of us suck at communicating. It's because it's hard. Never easy. In written communication, the writer has one more chance to review what's written while in verbal communication when words are out of mouth then it's done. Since I was remote, we had to communicate in written form a lot (except for non-occasional Slack calls). It helped us practice written communication.
When it's verbal, it interrupts. When it's written, I can postpone the reply at least just a little bit until I can finish whatever I was doing. In written communication, it takes more time to ping someone. Open Slack, find someone/channel, mention someone and type "Hey" and hit "Enter". It's harder than just saying "Hey!" out loud. And it often gives us a chance to think about the matter again and sometimes it turns out the conversation is not needed at all. It helps reduce careless start of less meaningful conversations. When you decide to postpone someone's "Hey", you're also responsible to tell them how long approximately it will take for you to get back to them.
I was alone remotely. People verbally communicated in Seoul. That often led to the lack of context on my side. So every time I had to ask them a bunch of questions to figure out context before getting into an actual discussion. This is inevitable until people get used to written communication 100% and no one passes information verbally, which sounds very ideal and somewhat impossible. This asking lots of questions thing, however, was not a burden to me but a good practice on how to ask questions, how to split problems and checking if everyone is really on the same page even if they had verbally communicated already.
It was not easy for me to feel the atmosphere since they didn't share it as well. Let's say we've got a technical issue. I'm just fixing it but will never know that our major client is very mad at us because of the issue. It's good to share atmosphere. So my colleagues told me the atmosphere. It helped in many ways, and especially on "context".
Honestly, I'm not a people person. So I was very content with being alone not touched, just working on my stuff. However, loneliness can affect you if social bonding is important to you. Even for me, I can't say I was never lonely during the period.
Before Singapore, back in Seoul, we had lunch all together since it was a small team. It helped me understand who is going through which personal difficulty, who is interested in which tech these days and so on. That is sometimes good to know. You should remember online relationship is definitely different from the offline one.
Is it the future?
Yes and No. it's just a part of the future. It won't solve all problems. It will definitely bring new problems. Believing remote work will solve everything is stupid. I don't know any specific example but just don't make sure remote will definitely work. It really depends. Consider the situation, what can be gained and what can be lost. If you approach remote working wisely, it will bring you a lot of joy and efficiency.