My name is Ben Clark, and I am the Manager of Development Operations (DevOps) at Jackson River. I joined the team in 2010, and I've loved every day of work since then. Virtual work is a lifestyle that really resonates with me, and I evangelize virtual work whenever I can.
When I think about what I consider to be the best part about working from home, I immediately think of the glib answer: the best part is working from home. I don't have a commute, which on average saves me an hour a day. I make lunch at home, which saves time and money (and I eat better, too). I can be home to accept package deliveries, and I can help monitor the slow cooker for tonight's dinner. These are the little, very tangible benefits of working from home that enrich my week.
There are other benefits, too. I don't get distracted quite as easily as I would in an office. I can achieve deep focus on a task in a way that I was never able to do in previous jobs. I'm also a notorious phone-pacer, and working from home allows me to walk back and forth across my entire home to my heart's content while on conference calls, all without bothering anyone else. Working from home grants the privacy and privilege of a corner office to every employee in the company.
I can't get through my workday without the relative quiet and calm of being in my home office. I appreciate solitude when I work, so I have a harder time understanding how my coworkers find coffee shops to be functional workspaces. I've worked in other locations before — a substantial perk of virtual work — and I'll put in an honest day's work wherever I find myself, but at the end of the day I'm exhausted from fighting to stay focused despite the distractions.
My biggest virtual work-life challenge is setting up boundaries between my working day and my home life. Mentally, it's about answering a question most of us are asking ourselves, even those who don't work virtually: when do you stop working for the day? My phone checks email 24 hours day, 7 days week, so what does it mean to stop working and return to home life?
This is even harder to address when home life is physically linked to work life. My workstation is always a few steps away, so I don't have the excuse of a 30-minute drive to the office to keep me from working in the evenings or on the weekends. Instead, it's completely up to me to establish and enforce a virtual boundary between work and home.
My favorite form of communication is text chat. My earliest CMC (computer-mediated communication) social experiences were entirely text-based, whether it was on a dial-up BBS or, later on, IRC chat rooms and AOL Instant Messenger. So, text chat is firmly in my comfort zone.
I'm able to be more effective as a multitasker when using text chat, and most of my day requires multitasking. I can go from reading output on a terminal to reading an IM from a co-worker without the cognitive effort required to switch between reading and speaking (or listening). It's not a modal shift. It's also understood socially in our company that IMs are asynchronous, so there is less pressure to actively participate in the conversation if I need to take a few seconds to review the output from a script I'm running in the background.
My best pro-tip for virtual work life is to establish a work environment that works best for you, and stick to it. For me, this means a separate, dedicated space in my home. For others, this might be a co-working facility, or a local coffee shop. Your goal should always be to treat virtual work exactly the same as you would treat traditional working situations. Establish routines, patterns, and expectations as you would in an in-person office environment. It's very tempting to spend the afternoon laying on the couch watching TV in the background, but you're not going to be an effective worker.
Interested in working with Ben and the rest of our team? Read more about our open positions.