Working remotely! The benefits, the challenges, the fun, and the opportunities

Alexander Blanchette is a 2020 Tech Fellow interning with Orlando’s StarterStudio.

If I had to sum up my experience working remotely with StarterStudio in one word it would be “flexibility”. Working remotely comes with many benefits, for starters, I don’t think I would be able to learn about and take part in as many projects as I have because of it. On the other hand, learning to be flexible is a powerful life lesson.

On the surface, marketing sounds simple, advertise, and promote so you can sell as much as you can. In reality, there is a lot that needs to be done when it comes to marketing. First, you need people to create meaningful content, second, you need people to engage with the content and customer, and lastly, you need to collect data and analyze your effectiveness. As someone who enjoys all things tech, it’s the last bit that interests me the most. In the case of StarterStudio, it is the implementation of webhooks and other basic statistics tracking, but in the future, it can expand to be much more, and it makes me think of the adage “Knowledge is power” (as cliché as it may sound). There are other benefits of working remotely too, such as having a little extra flexibility in your work schedule due to projects being task-based. Ultimately all you need is a laptop with Wi-Fi and headset, and you can work anywhere, and it reminds me of the stereotypical remote IT lifestyle that often gets pitched by company recruiters.

That being said some minor annoyances and challenges come with working remotely. Upon reflection, the ones that come to mind are work/life balance, dedicated area to focus, and time management. While tedious, waking up and daily commuting to your job does come with one huge advantage. The ability to separate the time your “on the clock’ and “off the clock.” This is further compounded by the need to have a dedicated space to focus. Admittedly the concept of work/life balance had me chuckling, but now I get it. For me, the issue wasn’t the separation of when I’m on or not on the clock, but rather finding a place to dedicate to working. One of the first things you may learn in an introductory psychology class is that your brain does a good job recalling information on the test if you study in the same or similar environment.

Likewise, your brain responds well to having dedicated spaces to work and relax in. Studies have supported the claim that people who have dedicated spaces for work and leisure perform better on average than those who do not. I also find the focus makes it easier to time manage. Time management is easily in the top three most important disciplines to possess if you are hoping to make your time working remotely manageable. Bad time management is guaranteed to make whatever challenges you are facing harder. It can blur the line between work/life balance, getting tasks done on time, and creates more stress over time. Not being in the office means that the only person responsible for going to meetings and getting tasks done on time is you.

And with the challenges out the way, we move onto the minor annoyances.

The minor annoyances working remotely are not so much with the concept of working remote, but with the technology. At StarterStudio we use Microsoft Teams along with its office suite for businesses. The benefits are that the programs all work well with no crashes or bugs. But there is some to be decided on the UI experience and some limitations in some of the programs. Don’t get me wrong, overall MS Office 365 is great and does have everything you would need to work remotely and manage/organize numerous teams, projects, and tasks. The problem is that it is both limiting and redundant at the same time. Need to search the team’s file section for a file? Well, there is no dedicated search bar to filter out results. But that is okay because you can open the file directory via your internet browser, and it takes you to MS SharePoint. Except that it takes you out of MS Team’s app entirely; and slowly depending on your Wi-Fi speed. So how about using One drive instead? It comes with the package, and it is a good way to upload and share files with a search system to find files. Except it does not support real-time collaboration on files like Word or Excel and is not as neatly integrated as SharePoint is with Teams. 

My other main gripe with Teams is one I understand but still dislike. It is true that Teams is easy to use regardless of your level of tech-savvy, and something like that is to be commended. The problem is that companies like Slack and Discord have long since implemented the social component of working in groups. They both have in-depth features that allow admins to build a space suitable for their needs while hiding that complexity away for the everyday person.

                        Overall, though I am happy to be working as an intern for StarterStudio; The flexibility on work hours and projects makes every day interesting. Being able to create meaningful content and engaging with the local tech startup scene is genuinely a fun time and I have already met interesting people who are doing big things. Who knows, I may even travel down south and visit friends and family since all I need is Wifi and a good headset. It is a wonderful opportunity to see if the “stereotypical” remote IT lifestyle is as amazing as the company recruiters tell me it is.  Especially since StarterStudio’s is getting ready to reopen their offices in the coming weeks. Being able to meet everyone I’ve been introduced to is something I am looking forward to.

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