Thoughts on Remote Work, A Year Later

I started working (remotely) for Tortuga in December 2015. So, just over a year ago. 

I went through quite a honeymoon period with remote work. Like any infatuation, my love affair with location independence burned hot. It gave me starry-eyes and butterflies and it showed - in my writing, my professional philosophies, and my life choices.

But, of course, infatuation never lasts. Eventually the fire burns out, the rose colored glasses come off, and you're left with your honest thoughts on the matter.

After a year and change of location independence here's what I think.

 

I still love remote work.

It's still true that I don't want to work another way. I find the freedom, flexibility, and autonomy invaluable. 

I love blurring the lines of personal and professional, integrating life into work and work into life. 

I love working from home. I love the silence and solitude. I love that my commute is fourteen steps from my bed to my desk. I love that I don't have to leave the house on a freezing winter's day (which, incidentally, makes NYC winter much easier to manage).

I love that I can take 90 minute ballet classes at any hour. A freedom unheard of at my last job.

I love that conference calls are spent weaving, to keep my fidgeting hands active while the gears turn in my head.

I love it. I really, really love it.

My workspace / living space, because work and life are blended.

My workspace / living space, because work and life are blended.

But, because the honeymoon period is over, I've also found the downside. 

 

I miss Proximity friendships

I love my Tortuga colleages to death. But, at the same time... I see them a few times a year. We talk daily on Slack, sure, but we don't have those off-the-cuff quippy comments when someone sneezes or a clown walks into your office (that happened to me once in Durham) that in-person coworkers share. Those quips and little contextual moments turn into friendships. 

Chloe and I built our friendship in the offices of the American Underground. Our constant proximity grew into something that surpasses any distance.

From our coworker days.

From our coworker days.

I miss that consistent human contact. My hidey hole of solitude can result in a lonely day-to-day. And a coworking space, full of strangers with nothing in common, isn't exactly preferable. 

I have friendships with Tortuga colleagues, of course - I've written about it before. I'm not discounting that. I cherish them.

But usually, when a gal moves to a new city, her new job gives her an automatic sense of community. People with whom to share meals, talk about banalities, bond. I don't have that in New York. I don't have proximity friendships here, not yet. I know a few people and have a few coffee buddies (I'm not a total loner), but Jeff is the only person I see on a consistent basis.

 
Which isn't the worst thing in the world.

Which isn't the worst thing in the world.

 

That would, of course, be different in Durham, where I have a community. But I'm not in Durham.

I guess my point is that working remotely takes away the context in which we often build in-person friendships as a byproduct of something else. We don't have to work at building them, not really, because we're already showing up. We have to show up. That mutual obligation takes away the need to try, and so friendships blossom as a result of the forced proximity.

When you're utterly free and never bound to a place... what does that mean for your own curated local community? For me, it means weeks go by without a platonic, in-person hang out sesh. I bond with people online instead. That's great... but it feels like something is missing.

And so the lack of consistent human contact gets to me sometimes.

That's my only downside. And it's not doom and gloom - it just requires a different approach, an iteration on old routines. My friends are far away, and that's fine. It just means that I have to make a concerted effort to show up somewhere if I want to build relationships in NYC, too.

Maybe this week I'll get over my shyness and show up to a meetup. Wish me luck.


Taylor Coil is a marketing manager who works remotely from around the world.