In this episode, we will visit with Brandon Spivey, who is a Systems Administrator with Local IT, a Managed Service Provider on the Gulf Coast. Brandon is a self-proclaimed Remote Jerk!
In this episode, we will touch on topics including: Occupying the Remote Jerk Role, Sarcasm Fonts, Pointless Micromanagement, Gaming Music, Being Time vs. Task Focused, Dedicated Remote Spaces, Remote Pets, and much more!
WorkForceRemote.org (Traci): Hello, and welcome to today’s episode in our How do you remote? series, where we discuss all things related to remote work from guests representing a variety of fields. Joining me today is Brandon Spivey who is a systems administrator with Local IT, here on the Gulf Coast. Brandon has a lot to share in his vast remote experience, and I’ll just let him tell you in his own words how he identifies as a remote worker.
Brandon Spivey: I don’t think I can say that on your podcast. I have prided myself on, let me tone the word down, I’m the jerk.
Traci: So you’re a remote jerk, okay. Brandon is what some would call a remote jerk.
Brandon: Yes, I put things bluntly. I typically do not filter what I’m going to say. If I think what you’re saying is inaccurate I’m going to call that out. It’s a much stronger word that we use amongst those who know me. If it’s not a remote systems administrator, if you’re looking for a better defining adjective I’m the jerk. I’m the person that I won’t worry about hurting feelings.
My current CEO, he and I were having a discussion one day and he said, “You know, I value you being the jerk.” He’s a really good Mentor when he talks about stuff like this. He said, “Now it wasn’t always easy, but I’ve learned to filter it. When Brandon is a jerk about something. If I step back and say, ‘why is Brandon being a jerk,’ most times, if I look at it, it’s best for the client. He is saying something that is going to be better for our client. And if it’s if it’s not that, it’s what’s best for our company. Maybe we’re making a poor decision and Brandon’s like, ‘that’s a terrible idea,’ Brandon fights for our clients and then he fights for our company and after that it’s typically not just because you’re a jerk. Those are the two reasons. If it doesn’t pass one of those then, I’ll call you out on it.”
Thank you, because I always just thought I was a jerk but now I’m a jerk with a purpose… that’s what I am!
Brandon & Traci: A jerk with a purpose!
Traci: Okay, “Brandon is what some would call a remote jerk with a purpose, welcome to the show, Brandon!
Brandon: Absolutely, thank you, so glad to be here.
Traci: That’s really going to be an interesting thing to figure out. On site, you could be a jerk in your communication style and say your opinion, but you’re there and they see your body
Language, and all those cues. However, when you’re remote it really highlights the disagreement you might have with someone and you lose those social cues. That’s going to be an interesting thing to see how that develops as we go remote, how we can actually express our opinions and not be thought of as the jerk – we’re just being direct.
Brandon: Yeah, somebody I forget where I saw it may have been on Reddit or some other social media.
Traci: Which you are never on.
Brandon: Oh yeah, never. Internet, who uses that, such a fad. It’s never going to work out.
Traci: That’s called sarcasm for those who are listening.
Brandon: Right, and that’s the thing. We need a sarcasm font. We need something that you can [insert sarcasm here] “Yeah, that sounds like a great idea.” [stop sarcasm].
Because emojis help some. We send a we send a smiley face after we’ve said something that might be taken incorrectly . “Hey, I was just joking. I want you to know I’m kidding around.”
The beauty of the company I work with now too I have worked with every one of these people at other jobs and they knew me going into it, so as part of my interview process I said, “You know I’m a jerk. You know I will be a jerk when it’s time to be a jerk.” And they said, “We actually don’t have one of those in the company, so we need a jerk every now and then.” I get invited to vendor calls specifically for that reason.
Traci: Yeah, you bring that skill set.
Brandon: I had a mentor who was extremely hard to get along with and he would argue any point with anybody to the point that I could be at conferences, in a national setting, and tell them where I was from and they’d be like, “Is that guy, [and they would say his name]?” They remembered his name. “That guy is he still there? He’s such a jerk.” I have come to reevaluate him.
Brandon: I have. His questioning of, “Why do you do this? “Why are we going to do it this way?” made me a better person. I had to think about things in ways. Because you didn’t just go and say, “Hey, what if we do it this way?” Because he was going to destroy you. He was going to destroy you with the reasons that you were wrong, and a lot of times it felt like he was doing it just to be a jerk. When you started thinking about it, and now in my position, I think about that. It’s like don’t come to me with a problem that you don’t already have a solution for, don’t tell me about fixing one problem that’s going to make eight more that you didn’t anticipate. You should have anticipated those.
This is slightly off subject, but it’s it is talking about kind of the day that I decided the way he had treated me, and the way he made me think, had made me a much better systems administrator.
Somebody posted on Reddit a Powershell question, “Hey, I want to do this with Powershell”… and this starts to get slightly technical in the weeds, so I’m going to keep it short. But they wanted to change the setting on a computer. Changing that setting incorrectly can break a lot of things, so I asked questions, “Hey, I need some more details because I’d love to.” I want to say that his post was, “I don’t know how to do Powershell, but I want to do this in Powershell will somebody do it for me?” You know what, I will. If it’s simple enough, I’ll do it. I’m glad to do that. I’m not going to be one of these people who says you should learn it yourself. I’m going to give it to you, I’m going to explain it to you, and then if you ask me a second time I’m saying did you try it? On the first one, it’s a freebie.
But I asked questions and then somebody else responded with a just a simple one line, “This will do it.” But, it would have changed it across the board. It would have made some, possibly, big mistakes and I said, “Wait, but you didn’t think about this question, and this question, and this question, and this question, then you should ask this, and there are details …. and the person who had posted the short one-liner replied back to me, “Hey, is the sky always falling in your world.”
I thought, “Please don’t ever apply for a job where I’m going to interview you because I’m going to destroy you. I’m going to ask you that question and when you answer me in a way that would have, because a person like that will run that Friday at 4:30PM, and then will leave, and now I’m going to spend the entire weekend trying to fix a problem.
It’s like, “Yeah, I don’t want to have to fix your work. I want you to do it right the first time.”
Traci: It’s really good because it’s not just applied to IT. Having that ability to question, “Why are we doing it this way?” – having that IT perspective on just things that don’t relate to IT in those normal processes for people who work remote. I think that’s really powerful, and whether you’re a remote jerk or however you come in where you just question the process – to make sure it’s the most efficient. I think that’s really important we have learned to become efficient being remote.
Brandon: I think efficiency in everything is key. And I mean computers are making it easier, but we all want to be as efficient as possible, and especially once you’ve been working remote for a while, and again we have we have a little bit more flexibility in time, so I get to value my time.
When I’m sitting in the office, if you want me to do something that’s stupid, and repetitive, and because that’s what we do, and I can’t leave till five. Sure, I’ll do that, but hold on. If I can save myself 45 minutes and I can be done 45 minutes early, I want to do that.
As remote work becomes even more prevalent we will find that the efficiencies grow. Certainly there are going to be people who abuse the system. There were so many managers whose jobs it was to make sure their people were working, that they have not been able to find a good way to. How do I watch these employees: Is he doing his laundry? What is he doing? How do I manage those people?
I think a lot of the drive to say we want you back on Prem. We want you on the premises so that our highly paid manager can come watch you and micromanage you. Well, I got an idea… How about let that dude needs to find an on-premises job because you’re not doing this well. If you’re a manager who sole job it is to micromanage people and come chicken peck them to death, maybe a new career choice for that person and not bring everybody in the building.
Because a big company doesn’t need a higher power bill, and to pay for parking, and all that. We get just as much done with our people, all at their individual locations. The company is not subsidizing my power for me to run my computer because it was already on. My internet’s always on, it’s not like it was an expense that I had.
Traci: The trend in workers who are remote it’s not that, “Oh are we getting enough done? How do we measure productivity? We [remote workers] are doing so much you have to keep us busy, because we’re learning to be more efficient. I think the work ethic and the motivation is there because you’re not wasting time like you would on site. For the remote professional, I think there are bright days ahead.
Brandon: I have been fully remote since before covid, really just kind of right before it – about three months before that I went fully remote. I work from home as a systems administrator, but I have always interacted with computers that were not there with me, so I was always remote – even when I was in an office. I was interacting with computers that were somewhere else. I did not have to be there okay, it was a requirement of the companies that I worked for that said, “Okay our office hours are from 8AM-5PM and you’ll be here from eight to five along with everybody else. Those guys are going to come by and talk to you when it might be inconvenient for you because you’re trying to work.
I mean, honestly, when I talk about remote work I can – when I remember – mute my phone and take myself offline so I can focus on work. Nobody’s going to interrupt me. Occasionally, when my wife has a work from home day or when she has a Federal holiday that I don’t have off and she’s home, it’s actually frustrating sometimes. When I’m working and all of a sudden my door opens and someone talks, I’m like, “How dare you interrupt my train of thought while I’m working.”
You’d asked about how I deal with the isolation of it and I guess, honestly, I’ve always loved the isolation. I work with headphones on for years. I don’t want the sounds around me, I’m trying to isolate it. I put on some music. I won’t plug any specific streaming service or anything, but I’ve got music playing and the different playlists are for different things that I’m doing.
Traci: Tell me about that what kind of playlist you use.
Brandon: Well, I find that when I’m doing PowerShell, I prefer like Electronica and stuff like that, can’t have any words. Words distract me when I’m coding, I don’t know why that is.
Traci: So there’s a lot of coding in PowerShell for people who don’t know.
Brandon: Oh yeah, so PowerShell is if you’re building scripts you’re writing some type of code. It’s very simplistic code. When I have looked at other languages PowerShell is ridiculously easy, and probably very simplistic. I don’t need words and a storyline and a music in a song distracting me, so I have to have that, but at other times if I’m answering emails things like that I may listen to the current top 40 or whatever’s going viral that week.
Traci: What about gaming music? I heard the grapevine that you liked gaming music for what types of tasks?
Brandon: Focus. The PowerShell things that I understand what I’m going to do, I can listen to electronic and really upbeat stuff. But, yes, there have been studies that showed that a lot of the music from gaming is designed to help you keep your focus, and so I found several. I think I’ve got three different playlists that are gaming soundtracks, and I’m not a gamer. I don’t game but I’ll listen to that music just because it’s background music and it filters out the noises around me.
Traci: What’s focused? Are you talking about 10 minutes, 30 minutes, like what’s your focus time with that kind of music?
Brandon: Usually it’s anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
A client says, “Hey, I’d like to solve this problem and can you do it now.” You and I both know actual programmers who could sit down and be like, “I can bang that out.” I’m not that person, but I can say, “You know what, maybe with PowerShell I can do it, and it’s going to be fun because I’ve never had to try and do it. I’m doing things in different ways. Ways that I’ve never had to do them, and yeah if it’s the first time I am focusing on a new task that is going to be complex, like that PowerShell script, it may take me 30-45 minutes to an hour and sometimes that may be in in multiple sessions – depending on how far I get, so use of music for focus helps.
Traci: You used music when you were on site.
Brandon: I did that. So I worked in a cube farm. I did not believe that I listened to my music loud, but people three rows over – one specific person. With my headphones on, she would come over and be like, “Your music is so loud.” Wait, well that seems like a you problem, because I’m trying to drown out all the office noise. and it’s this level that makes it so that I can’t hear y’all, and I’ve got good cup over the ear headphones. Yeah, I’m sorry. I brought that with me from my on-premises environment. I’ve probably got four different headsets in the office. I just bought a new wireless one.
Traci: Now you’re free – wireless headphones!
Brandon: I have been wired for years. I forget to plug them in. This one has a nice little dock – it works really well. The one thing that this did is I can be in a in a Google Meet, which is what we use it at our office, but none of us use our cameras. Some of the guys may be in their cars on the Google Meet, and different things, so the cameras are off, so they can’t see me. I have found out that the coffee pot is just within the limits of my Bluetooth, so I can stand up, walk downstairs, go to the coffee maker, make some more coffee. I can’t stand there while the coffee’s making because the refrigerator is between my computer and the coffee maker, and that will block it. So I have to walk to the edge of the kitchen and stand there to finish the conversation, but as soon as my coffee’s done, I have figured out that plan.
Traci: How did you map that out? That took some trial and error to figure out.
Brandon: It was a meeting that I didn’t have to be participating in. I was, and I walked over, and I was standing at the coffee pot, and then the sound started dropping as soon as I got past the refrigerator, I picked the sound back up, and then I started talking to them. I decided I’m just going to test this. I walked over and got my coffee, and I stood there for just a second, and I started coming back, they’re like, “Wait, hold on we dropped you.” By that time I was there and I said, “Oh, I’m sorry, can you hear me now?” “Oh yeah, that’s better.” Yeah, they didn’t need to know what I was doing.
Traci: In the company you’re in, people working remote, it doesn’t specifically mean you have to work from home? You said people are in their cars or is that something that’s expected – that you if you work remote you need to be at home, in a home office. What’s the expectation there or is there one?
Brandon: There isn’t. We are working remote, most of us. I do have a home office, and I am in my home office almost all day. I sit down, I’m a very diligent employee, I sit down at 7:30AM and I start working before we have our eight o’clock meetings. I need to know what the day is going to be so at 7:30AM I’m usually at my desk and at 11 o’clock I have a little pop-up reminder just tell me to stop working and go eat some lunch, because I’ll forget.
Traci: It’s easy to miss!
Brandon: Yeah, I’ll go down and eat lunch and usually lunch takes 15-20 minutes, and I’m right back up here and working. Our company is also fluent enough that if I don’t have any immediate tasks on me it’s real easy for me to say, “Hey guys, I’m going to throw my laptop in the car and go get a haircut, if something comes up that’s critical before I get there I’ll pull over and hotspot. Then I’m going to take my 15 minutes for a haircut and then I’ll be on the way back home, but I’m available. Most of the company works remote at least 70% of the time.
Traci: Has this always been the case?
Brandon: The company I’m with now started during covid, so for us this is the norm.
Traci: Do you have an on-site headquarters that could house everyone?
Brandon: Yes, we have an office that will sit just exactly all of us. It’s a single open room because we don’t typically work there, or if we do there’s one person working there. It’s a single room with five or six desks and the CEO likes to work there. Everybody has an area in their home that could clearly be defined as an office, but we all have a place at headquarters.
Should we show, up and we do, we do an all-hands meeting one day a week. We could do it remotely, but quite honestly, it’s the only day that I’m going to see and interact with other professional people.
Traci: So you’re ready for it, you’re looking forward to it?
Brandon: I do kind of look forward to that to get out and see them and have that interaction.
Traci: Everyone in your office is in what like maybe a 30 mile radius, you’re all local?
Brandon: Yes, we are we are all local. We’ve discussed the possibility of being able to pick up people from other places. I have worked at another place with a guy who works with one of the products we use who’s in India. And I consider him a friend. He and I email back and forth and we have done Google Meet meetings, so we can see each other. If we got to a point where I could use his help I would love to be able to hire him, because he works completely different hours. When he and I worked together before my 8 AM was his 6 PM. He would wait a little bit in the evening hours to jump on a meet and have a discussion, but I could I could email him and say, “Hey, tonight can you take care of all this in the middle of the night?” And for him that’s 11 o’clock in the morning. He’s like, “Sure I’ll reboot all that stuff for you, install updates that are not being automated for whatever reason.” He was really good at it.
Traci: So leveraging time zones instead of seeing them as a an issue?
Brandon: Oh certainly, again the only problem that you might have with those big difference time zones is when you have maybe multiples greater than two. I have a friend who’s a project manager with a very big company, and he and I were having a discussion. I did not realize how large this company was until he told me that his company was trying to save 50 million dollars this year. They needed to save 50 million dollars. I don’t know, that just seems ridiculous to me. He was telling me about meetings and he had to get into a meeting one night at 9PM, because he had people in London and Australia and I forget the third time zone, so there were four different time zones that everybody was trying to accommodate.
I just thought, how crazy, that given the world we’re in, you can do that – you can have those conversations with people who are all over the world, and if you so desire you can use your camera you can be face to face! So, yes, I think it works really well.
Traci: Tell me about working from home and the role that pets play in that. Do you have pets? Tell us about that?
Brandon: We do have pets. We have three indoor cats, and my wife and I were just having a discussion last night about how strange it is our newest cat, or I can’t call her kitten anymore, but we got her, she showed up as a stray that was abandoned in in the local farm area here.
Traci: What are your cat’s names?
Brandon: All the cats, well all the pets including the dogs, everybody gets a candy bar name. We have one adopted dog, Desi, she came with her name and we decided not to change it. We have Snickers, we have Rolo, and the newest kitten is Reese. My wife and I were just having a discussion on this.
My office is upstairs and there is a that now sits largely empty across the landing from me. It was our children’s playroom, but now that they’re both in college. It sits idle and Reese has decided that she now lives upstairs. She doesn’t come downstairs except to eat. We only see her down to eat and then she just comes back upstairs. She does not like my office door to be closed. If I close the door she’ll sit there and cry. I tested it one day, I said, “Certainly she will lose interest” and an hour into it I caved, and so now Reese is an office cat – she is my remote work cat. She doesn’t like a whole lot of attention. In the mornings, she will get a little verbal at times and she’ll chatter and talk, and I’ll let her jump up and pet her and then she goes.
We’re not doing video, but there’s a window behind me and she sits on a blanket right under that window. I have to remember when I leave the room to call her, but she has learned – after being locked in here a couple times – and when I call her name she knows she needs to leave. Occasionally she will stop on the landing and want me to pet her, but a lot of times she just walks over to the other room like, “Well okay, you leave. I’m done with you.”
Traci: So your other cats are downstairs?
Brandon: Everybody’s free to go wherever they want, but yeah they don’t come up here. And if they do again the door is always closed they don’t make any noise you know they look at the door and just move on. She said, “No, I’m gonna get in some way or another.” She has become the office cat.
Traci: If you’ve been in an office within the last five years and you’ve gone remote you have those frames of reference for whatever we allude to that’s the bricks and mortar office, we take that perspective and compare that knowledge to remote. So we’re like okay I’m going to set myself as “active” and that’s like me sitting in my cubicle or my office at an on-site workplace.
We take that as our frame of reference like we have that history of working on-site. What do you think it’s going to be like for those who are just entering the workforce, who are fully remote, to understand levels of professionalism that we got as cues on site that they don’t have that reference point. What do they do?
Brandon: I won’t say how many years ago, but you know since you measure our college time in decades…
Traci: Yeah, 10 to 15 years…
Brandon: Yeah, or maybe 30, who knows… I think that’s an interesting question. I wake up every morning, and I brush my hair, and I put on jeans. I don’t wear sweatpants or shorts and I wear a shirt that if I had to if you said, “We need you to leave the house right now.” I dress in a way that I would not feel bad for showing up looking like that. Maybe it’s not always a collared chart, but I mean a lot of times it’s a polo shirt or it is a presentable t-shirt that you could wear on casual Friday – it’s just casual Friday every day here.
As we talk about remote work we had a very interesting experience within the last couple of weeks where my wife said, “I miss our kids.” Both of them are at Auburn and the youngest one decided to stay in Auburn for the summer. The oldest one is working and his wife is there so this was the first summer that neither of the kids came home. She said, “I miss them, and I want to go see him, and can we leave on Wednesday night?” I said, “Well, okay I’m not taking any days off.” We left Wednesday right after work, drove up to see them, and on Thursday at eight o’clock in the morning I was logged in. I was sitting on my son’s couch still working nobody knew anything was different.
But he had to go through a training, since he’s relatively new with the company. They were still talking about their processes and procedures, but because everybody is geographically diverse they have to use online tools to manage tickets, to manage tasks, and he was getting to sit through all of that. So companies, especially the ones that are more geographically diverse, I think are making sure that their people are trained. I don’t know that, from what I saw, he didn’t turn his camera on during their meeting they’re all listening in a virtual meeting, but he can’t see anybody’s face, he can’t do anything like that, I don’t know how he will work with that and how he how he will be prepared for it.
Some companies may say, “Oh no, if we’re having virtual meeting your camera is on.” I’ve read those things, I’ve never been in one of those. When I first started with the company and they said let’s have a virtual meeting, I had my camera on and nobody else had theirs on. I was like well, all right I don’t want to be the weirdo here, I’ll turn mine off.
Traci: That’s interesting how you the flexibility of remote that you get to travel in midweek to see your kids who are away at college or working and you end up working on your son’s couch in his house – both of you guys working fully remote. That level of freedom, how did that feel?
Brandon: Yeah, it was a really neat situation for me, and it wasn’t the first time that I had gotten to do that. It’s fantastic to be able to do that, to be able to travel.
Traci: Our generation that’s new because usually work is work vacations, but the lines are being blurred.
Brandon: Through a weird series of events my wife got a week’s vacation at a resort in the Smoky Mountains for an entire week near Easter, so I didn’t want to take a week off of work.
We invited my parents to go. It was a big place. I invited my dad to go with us, I don’t get to see my dad as much as I would like to, so I thought maybe that’s a good thing and I’ll win some good kudo points for later down the road when I don’t do something nice for him because I took him on a week vacation. He drove up on a Saturday, I told the company I said, “Listen I’m going to be in this vacation environment, but my intention is to work.
There was one hour difference in time zone, but I would get up and I would work and the family would do things there around in the resort during the day, but when things were slow – which a lot of times would happen – I’d say, “Guys, at two o’clock I’m throwing my laptop in the car and we’re going to go somewhere. I may have a 30 minute delay if you have something that you need for me to get a place where I can get a hot spot and get my laptop up, but I’m available.” They were very cool about that. They were absolutely fine with that, so it was really great to be able to go out and take a few of the afternoons and go do things with the family, but right at five o’clock or actually four o’clock there it was like, “Hey guys, I’m out of here.” We’d go out to dinner, we’d go see some things, and it was really interesting. Again, no time off from work at all.
Traci: Did it feel weird? Did it feel like you were doing something wrong?
Brandon: The only place that I ever felt like it was wrong was I told the guys, “I’m gonna go out for a bit.” We were in the mountains, we were driving along, and I realized that I had no cell phone service, which meant nobody could reach me, and I immediately panicked. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, how long have I not had service? What if something is going wrong.” Yeah, in a situation where everybody knew anyway and I told them, “Hey, I’m going to be out and about.”
If somebody throws out a message, and if I don’t respond they, understood, “He’s not right there.” I think it would be easy for somebody to tell if I’m at my computer or not. We typically respond to instant messages within seconds; however, if I’m downstairs and I’ve left my cell phone sitting on my desk and don’t hear the notification, when I get back up here in three minutes after moving clothes over to the laundry, or over getting a cup of coffee, or other remote perks, when I come back up I’m like, “Oh no, I missed a message. Oh my gosh, it’s been three whole minutes,” which for me it’s just ridiculous to feel like I had to wait that long. Whereas, the other guys are driving a lot of times, they’ll send a message from a stop sign, and then they’re driving, and if I reply it may be 10 minutes before they respond and that’s normal.
Traci: Having that conscious choice that when I am online I am working, I’m in a place that has reliable internet, and not to have that cognitive dissonance that, “Oh, I’m doing something wrong because I’m in a place that’s not my home office.” It’s actually the work from anywhere mentality and how to balance that, and how to actually be productive with that, so I think that’s new for us. Because those of us who have been in an office most of our career, being able to work from anywhere feels like we’re doing something wrong at first.
Brandon: At one of my past companies we were on call essentially 24/7, so while I was in the office from eight to five when something went wrong and I was at my house they fully expected me to be fixing it. So I’ve always had a laptop or a home computer that could access those things that I needed, and I guess I’ve spent so many years in positions that require immediate attention that it doesn’t feel wrong to me to work from somewhere else, it feels wrong to me to not have communication.
A true vacation for me, and I have a friend who you may have on the on the show one day, but his ideal vacation is when he tells me there’s no phone. I’m not taking my phone, it’s going to be off. That’s when he is on vacation. Because we are so connected, we have been for years, even before covid, and before so many people started going remote and staying remote, your work life bled into all aspects of your life because the phone dings and you got a notification from an email, from a boss, from a co-worker, that requires your attention or maybe even doesn’t require your attention. I think so many of us have gotten to where we just do that, so if you look you know there’s always people on your phone. If I’m sitting there scrolling some social media site, looking at playing a video game, whatever it is, and a notification pops up and you ask me a question it’s easier for me to answer it now then try to remember to answer you at eight o’clock in the morning.
Traci: So from that have you found that your work-life balance is more balanced now with remote than just going on site, and working your eight hours and putting that in, whether you’re busy or not, all day and then still being on call?
Brandon: Absolutely! When I had to be on site, even if there was nothing going on, I had to be there. So I’m gonna wipe down my desk, it hasn’t been cleaned in a while. I guess I’ll clean my desk because I’m sitting here twiddling my thumbs. I’m gonna do this thing because I have to be here. One of the things that is such a huge benefit in work from is I can walk downstairs, take the laundry, throw it in the washing machine, and walk back up here, and that took four minutes. Okay, I would have wasted 10 minutes in the office but I was building up this time debt at home because I wasn’t able to do those things.
When I start the laundry I put the laundry basket at the bottom of the stairs to remind me that I’m doing laundry, so that if I start laundry at say 7:30 in the morning I put that down so when I walk downstairs to get some more coffee, I can go, “Oh yeah, I need to move the clothes to the dryer.” Actually that basket has to stay there until the clothes are dry, and they can go into the basket, and then I take the basket and sit on the couch so that I will fold them.
When you think about the amount of time that you, and I, and so many people in a brick and mortar location wasted.
The fact that I’m able to do so much more, little things, you know the little robot vacuum cleaners that we have now. I’ll think about it in the middle of the day I’ll look down and I see something on my floor and I think, “Oh you know what, I haven’t run that vacuum cleaner and the downstairs in a while.” I can talk to my AI assistant and tell her to start the vacuum cleaner, and if it has a problem I get an alert and I can go, “Oh, let me just run down there and figure out what it is.” I can have the floors mopped or swept while I’m here. I found that it takes me about 30 minutes to mop the floor, so a lot of times after lunch, because lunch didn’t take that long, because I was in the place that I was going to cook and eat my lunch, I mop the floors.
It’s real easy to communicate with my wife and usually about 2:30 or 3 o’clock I’m like, “Hey, if you give any thought to dinner do you have anything that you specifically want?” Which, you know, one of the hazards of being married for almost 30 years is she’s like, “No, whatever you want.” Because we all do that, we don’t answer honestly ever, we’re just like, “Ah, whatever I don’t want to think about it.”
I can pull out, if we have meat that needs to be thawed, at three o’clock I can think about that and get it out and I can start cooking shortly after five o’clock. There’s no drive time, there’s no stress of all of that.
I don’t love traffic. I’ve heard people talk about how they need that drive time to decompress. All drive time does for me is make me mad at every other person on the planet. I don’t want to be on the roads.
My wife and I just had a conversation she asked me, “Can you see yourself doing this 10 years from now?” I think she fully expected a different answer, because I’m like, “Absolutely!” She’s like, “But you don’t get out and see people.” I’m like, “I don’t like people. I don’t like traffic. I’m fine with this.” I’ll go to the grocery store maybe once a week, I go to church twice a week,
I go to my work meeting. I’m getting out and having enough social interaction, that’s enough peopleing for today thank you. I’d like to go back to my hidey-hole and be in the dark.
Traci: What advice would you give, from all that you’ve learned about being remote?
Brandon: I think that probably the biggest thing that when I’ve mentioned that I’m fully remote and people tell me, “I don’t think I could do that.” If you’re looking at a position where you’re going to be remote, you need to have in your head the idea of what your goals are, what are your tasks, and don’t be time driven – be task driven. So many so many people say, “Okay, I get to work at eight, and I stop work at five, and I have to be there those hours, but if you get all your tasks done by 3PM, okay you’re done. You’re done at three – that’s fine. But if at 5PM you’re not done and you need to spend a couple extra hours, you need to do that. Because you have the freedom to choose those times.
The other thing I would say is try and find a dedicated space. If you have a specific place that you say when I’m sitting at this desk, or when I’m sitting at this table this is work. But if I move over there to the couch that’s not work. Try to make sure that you have defined a place. I have always felt very fortunate that in our house I had a room, from very early on – even before I worked remote, that was my quote-unquote office. It was a man cave before anybody had a man cave. It is completely my space, every decision in here as far in decorating was mine, so I’m very comfortable in this room. For the longest time when I would come up here it was, “I am working. Once I leave, okay, now I’m not working anymore.” If you can have a room that is an office, outstanding, if not, if you can have a corner that is your space that is awesome, you need to have that.
Traci: That’s really good advice. I think that’s a good note to end on. I know we were going to do about 20 minutes, that’s okay, we had plenty to talk about. Thank you again for joining us, Brandon, and thank you to our listeners for tuning in to WorkForceRemote.org’s Podcast where our goal is to help you continue to go remote and work on.