This week I celebrated my one year anniversary at my job. Last December I said goodbye to going into a traditional office, and hello to a small team of professionals that I only see face to face once a year. That’s right, I joined the world of the home-worker, the remote worker, the telecommuter. And thus I have spent a year as a shut-in.

OK. I’m kidding. I’m not a shut-in. It’s true that I don’t leave the house to go to work, but I do leave the the house. I just don’t have to do it every day.

Seriously though, home-working is a challenging and rewarding thing to do. It helps that I work with a great bunch of folks. It helps that the company has a strong concept of life-work balance. It helps that I consider myself an introvert and I don’t mind being by myself a lot.

I’m not an expert on working from home, but I’d like to share a few thoughts about my experiences:

  • Working from home means not having to commute. Not that my old commute was long, but I still don’t miss it.
  • Working from home does not mean working without pants. I get up, get the kids going, exercise, shower, shave and get dressed; just like if I was going to go somewhere. Of course the dress code at my house forces me to wear a lot of Woot Shirts.
  • It gives me the flexibility to get the kids on the bus and be there when they get home.
  • I can run out for groceries at lunch sometimes (see I leave the house) and either make dinner or have stuff in the house for my wife to cook.
  • Working from home requires discipline. No one is watching you to remind you to be on track. You have to be responsible.
  • I can listen to any music I want to, without headphones. Well, if the kids are home I try to keep it clean. I have very sensitive ears and have never found headphones I really liked.
  • Reliable internet is essential. It is very frustrating that my cable modem reboots 1-2 times a day. I have written a script to log it. I even have a chart (and it’s not pretty).
  • Working from home is not enough by itself. Your employer has to support it well and your co-workers need to understand it. Where I work, we’re all remote, so we all know what it is like.
  • Work/life balance is hard in today’s always connected world. Don’t let the fact you work from home let your work take over. I have the fortune of having a boss (one of the compay owners) that has snarked at me when he caught me reading email on a Sunday night and my direct boss is very concerned that folks take their comp time.
  • It’s a little scary taking a job with someone that you don’t meet face to face first. I think if I hadn’t known my boss through collaborating on FitNesse, I would have been too freaked out.

If you find the right opportunity, and you can deal with lots of time by yourself, there are a lot of good things about working from home. Do your research. Check out the company and be sure of what you are getting into.

Also learn more about home-working. There is a great podcast called Homework that has a lot of great advice for telecommuters and freelancers. When I decided to take this job, I started listening to their back episodes and have been a listener ever since. It really helped me prepare for some challenges and is full of great tips.

It’s been a great year. I haven’t even discussed the fact that I’ve transitioned from a technical, non-testing role that I enjoyed a lot, back into a tester in the trenches. I’ve enjoyed that a lot, as that is a part of my career that I hadn’t focused enough on in some time. I’ll talk more about that in another post, which I hope to get to soon.

And finally, a big “thank you” to my wife. When this opportunity came along, she fully supported me making the jump to a new way of working.