The Pressures Of Being A Remote Worker

photo credit: kelly.sikkema - cc

photo credit: kelly.sikkemacc

After being a remote worker for over a year, I have a couple of things I’d like to talk about. The first is that it’s a lot tougher than I thought it would be. As a remote worker, all of the responsibility of getting the job done is on my shoulders. It’s actually an enormous amount of pressure since the measure of work is output.

The Self Guilt Trip

When I walk the dog during the evening with my wife, I’m checking the phone to see if I’m missing anything. At night in bed, I stare at the ceiling wondering what I’m going to write about the next day. When I wake up in the morning, I check Facebook, Twitter, and my email, not necessarily in that order. By the time I get out of bed, one or two hours have passed without typing a word.

Work surrounds me. Everywhere I go, work follows. Moderating comments, reading RSS feeds, chatting on Twitter, is work and can be done on the phone. When I’m not in front of the Macbook Pro or the desktop PC, I’m thinking about my job. In many aspects, I’m the boss of me and at times, my own worst enemy. I’m sure that’s a musical lyric in a song somewhere.

I’ve often read that bosses don’t want to allow their employees to work from home for fear of them not getting anything done. In my experience thus far, I think the boss has nothing to worry about because productivity rests on the shoulders of the employee. If the output isn’t there, there is no one for the employee to blame but themself.

The Reality Check Of Being A Remote Worker

Being a remote worker has been an enormous reality check. It’s hard to complain about my job because I have the freedom and ability to make it suit my life, not the other way around. If work doesn’t get done, it’s my fault. If I sleep in too late to get a full day in, it’s my fault. If I spend most of the day enjoying life instead of working, it’s my fault. If I work for 10-12 hours during the day, it’s my fault. At the end of the day, if my output is not noticeable, it’s my fault. Thus the pressures I’m constantly exerting on myself to get something done.

Lessons I’m In The Middle Of Learning

Sara Rosso, who has worked at Automattic for four years, published her list of lessons learned from working remotely. I’m in the process of learning some of those lessons myself. One of the most difficult lessons I’m learning is putting my health first before anything else. If I’m out riding a bike, the only thing I can think about is what I’m missing or could be writing at home, sitting in a chair, in front of the PC, generating output. Spacing out an hour or two a day for bike riding, exercise, etc makes me feel guilty. I know there are ways to be fit and work remotely, I’m just personally in the middle of trying to figure it out.

This post serves as a documented effort of trying to overcome the struggles I’ve encountered being a remote worker. If there is one thing I could tell people thinking about becoming one, it would be that it’s not as glamorous and kick ass as you might think. There are benefits for sure, but there is also a lot of self-reflection. Depending on how you react, so much self-reflection can either make you a better person, or constantly eat away at you. Right now, I’m in the middle.

Gravatar Has A New Home – WordPress

Gravatar Acquired By AutomatticI’m pretty happy to see that Gravatar has been picked up by the WordPress guys. Gravatar is a neat concept in that when you upload an avatar to their service, any website or forum that supports Gravatar would be able to display your image. It was a concept that if it would of taken off like it was supposed to, chances are, we would of had the ability to use one service for avatar management instead of relying on individual sites and forums.

Within the past three days, Automattic has moved the Gravatar Rails application into their own WordPress infrastructure. This has allowed Gravatars to display three times faster as well as making the site load each time you browse to it. This was a problem I was experiencing with Gravatar a week ago where the damn site wouldn’t load. Glad to see thats fixed. Last but not least, Gravatar was running on the Mephisto CMS and has since been moved over to WordPress. Imagine that!

The most exciting portion of this acquisition are the plans that Matt and company have for the service:

  • All of the Premium features will be free, and refund anyone who bought them in the last 60 days.
  • Move the gravatar serving to a Content Delivery Network so not only will they be fast, it’ll be low latency and not slow down a page load.
  • Take the million or so avatars we have on WordPress.com and make them available through the Gravatar API, to compliment the 115k already here.
  • From Gravatar, integrate them into all WordPress.com templates and bring features like multiple avatars over.
  • From WordPress.com, bring the bigger sizes (128px) over and make that available for any Gravatar. Currently Gravatars are only available up to 80px.
  • Allow Gravatar profile pages with Microformat support for things like XFN rel="me" and hCard.
  • Develop a new API that has cleaner URLs and allows Gravatars to be addressed by things like URL in addition to (or instead of) email addresses.
  • Rewrite the application itself (site.gravatar.com) to fit directly into our WordPress.com grid, for internet-scale performance and reliability.

I’m pretty excited to see the implementation of Gravatar into WordPress as a whole. The two services compliment each other and it’s only natural that they become ONE. I’ve used Gravatar for a few years now but it’s been awhile since I’ve messed with my account. Looks like I should blow the dust off as I’ll be using it again in the near future.

What do you think of this acquisition? Do you use Gravatar? Go ahead and leave some feedback.