Pitbull’s senior programmer Chris Wood ponders the benefits of working out of the office
For me, April marked five years of full-time home working. That encompasses two jobs that I applied for, interviewed for, and was offered entirely online.
To be fair to Pitbull, Robert Troughton had known me for years and didn’t need to vet me. But for the first couple of months at my previous job, for all my employers and colleagues knew I could have been an AI bot hell-bent on world domination. That is if world domination involved developing racing games for PS3 and Xbox 360.
Five years in and I find myself writing this and trying to explain what working from home is like: its benefits, its drawbacks and whether I ‘get any work done’. People are always asking me this. They always say the same things: “How do you get any work done?”, “Oh, I couldn’t do it. I’d get nothing done” and, weirdly, “Do you work in your pants?”
I tell them I get more done and care more about what I get done because it’s all I’ve got to show for the day. I tell them that people who work in offices, however conscientious, think that part of their job is just turning up. But for me turning up, grabbing a coffee, chatting with so-and-so and playing a bit of multiplayer at lunchtime aren’t bits of my day that anyone notices.
I’ve never been self-employed, but I think home working is probably something like ‘self-employed lite’: being productive is the only thing that matters.
The skills and tools needed to work from home are exactly those needed to work with other organisations.
The benefits are pretty obvious. Back at the start, after years of commuting, not having to do it anymore was life-changing. At the time I had two very young children. I’d be home in time to put them to bed as long as I was lucky with the traffic and wasn’t working overtime.
Overnight I went to starting my working day an hour later, finishing an hour earlier and saving a tidy sum on fuel every month. But the benefits must be weighed against the potential drawbacks.
My first remote job was with a developer whose employees were almost entirely made up of remote workers from all over the world. It demonstrated to me the biggest factor in making home working successful: company culture.
In a culture of remote collaboration, the rules were clear. The company operated primarily on a private online forum. All relevant discussions and information from elsewhere had to go on the forum. Instant messages were used for quick chats.
The most commonly quoted drawbacks of home working are social isolation and difficulty collaborating. These were all minimised effectively by the company’s culture because everyone had to engage fully with online communication.
The other big factor is personality. Working remotely levels the playing field for the introvert whereas the extrovert loses their advantage. I’ve known people to last a few weeks before they give up and return to the office. We’re either suited to it or we’re not.
Moving to my current job with Pitbull was a very different experience. Now I am a member of a small, office-based company with initially only me working remotely. This might have been difficult but more remote workers soon followed.
The skills and tools needed to work from home are exactly those needed to work with other organisations. This is the way our industry is heading and at Pitbull we already do it very well. We integrate fully into teams on another continent, at Epic Games HQ, with the minimum of fuss.
For me and other home workers, it’s no different to working with someone in another room – albeit one who doesn’t start until 2pm and spells things wrong.