Remote work isn’t necessarily a cheap proposition. Sure, there’s always the couch, which reduces your overhead to whatever you pay in rent and electricity—but many tech pros dislike working from home. Maybe it’s the isolation, or the lack of amenities common in offices, but a number of these “remote work” advocates find themselves gravitating toward co-working spaces instead of their living-room couch.
And that’s where the expenses can really multiply. A basic membership to a WeWork costs nearly $200 per month (private offices with actual walls start at $450 per month), and its rivals aren’t much cheaper. Plus, these co-working companies make a good deal of money from charging for various add-ons; if you raid WeWork’s “honesty market” for food and drink on a regular basis, for example, costs can quickly skyrocket.
With costs of co-working escalating, it was perhaps inevitable that tech pros would begin to make some noise about it. For example, programmer Victor Pontis recently launched an initiative with the tongue-firmly-in-cheek name of WePark, in which tech pros set up “office space” in parking spaces along the street. Hey, it’s working in the open air, and it only costs $2.25 to feed the parking meter for an hour (at least in San Francisco)!
Here’s Pontis’s Tweet that kicked off this minor revolution:
I’m going to set up a desk and work out at a parking spot for a couple hours to show that parking real estate can be used for better purposes.— Victor Pontis (@VictorPontis) April 25, 2019
Wish me luck.
WePark also doubles as a swipe against what Pontis views as an overabundance of parking spaces in major cities. “It makes sense to have some car parking, but how much is too much?” he wrote in a Q&A with the Times (UK). “More and more people are moving to cities and don’t want to drive cars, how should we redesign cities to be safer, more fun, and full of opportunity.”
He claims that 10 people showed up to a WePark event in San Francisco; divided between them, that $2.25-per-hour fee becomes less than a quarter per individual. “In San Francisco, we were working across from a nice café, a library and a bathroom. So we had all of our needs met,” he added.
Of course, WePark is a statement, not a long-term remote work strategy for tech pros, but it jabs at the heart of a huge issue: The cost of working for freelancers and contractors. Tech pros who don’t want to work from home or formal co-working spaces might opt to hole up in coffee shops or other communal spaces near their homes; but many of those businesses, leery of workers taking up too many seats for too long, regularly do things like block power outlets or shut off Wi-Fi.
Even those cafés that welcome workers, though, present obstacles to getting good work done. If you thought an open office was distracting, it’s got nothing on a coffee shop filled with employees shouting coffee orders every 30 seconds, children crying, loud side-conversations, and cars honking right outside. And trying to conduct a conference call or meeting in a space like that is, well, problematic to say the least.
For those tech pros who want to engage in effective remote work, consider the following steps:
Set Up a Routine
Make sure to discuss your remote work hours with your manager before you begin—and once those hours are established, make a point of sticking to them. Within that “block” of time, divide out your subroutines. For example, if you feel more energized in the morning, handle your biggest and most complex tasks then.
Stick to Your Hours
When you engage in remote work, it’s easy for your colleagues in regular offices to think that you’re always “on call.” Make sure that you clearly establish which times you’re receptive to emails, phone calls, etc., and when you’re officially “off the clock.”
Check In Regularly
Set up weekly or monthly check-ins with your colleagues. If your company’s formal office is in your town, make a point of dropping in on a regular basis; if it’s in another city or state, you can visit less frequently—but make sure you visit. Face time is invaluable, and even video conferencing won’t necessarily build the connection you need.
When in doubt, over-communicate with colleagues and managers; that’ll make sure you remain top-of-mind with them.
Sure, remote work means you can just throw on a pair of sweatpants as you stumble toward your home office (or even your local coffee shop, if they’re fine with your take on the dress code), but that doesn’t mean you should. When you focus on your appearance and make a point of “dressing for work,” it signals to your mind that it’s time to concentrate on your daily tasks.
Some companies let their remote-work tech pros work largely at their own pace, unsupervised, provided they hit broad strategic deadlines; others micromanage. When you work remotely, you have a bit more latitude over your schedule than an in-office employee who might be tightly lassoed into their manager’s rhythms. But that also puts the burden on the remote employee to schedule and calendar accordingly; make sure that your time is well-structured well in advance.
Establish Your Remote Work Space
Whether you remote work from home, a co-working space, or a coffee shop, make sure that you have dedicated space that’s “yours” to work in (which is hard to do in a coffee shop). It can help you psychologically if that space is solely devoted to work; after a few weeks, you’ll instinctively know it’s time to lock down as soon as you sit down.