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Our Experience Working from Home | SignalWire

Our Experience Working from Home

How our team feels about working from anywhere

Product Marketing Manager

Abbi Minessale

By Abbi Minessale, Content Strategist

As the world continues to grow complicated, more and more people are finding their everyday lives being moved online. Most students are now having to take online classes and many employees are now working from home. Even non-technical professions like professional trainers and musicians are making their livings through streaming and video conferencing. 

Working remote is uncharted territory for a lot of people and it can be intimidating to have your entire lively-hood transferred online overnight. At SignalWire, we happen to have a lot of experience with distributed teams. We have team members spread out over 11 different countries and 15 different states and we have banded together to share our personal experiences with working from home. We hope to lead by example and show that remote work is more than possible, and while a bit intimidating, can open up more opportunities than traditional offices. 

We are glad that remote work is helping to keep people safe from COVID-19 and hope that other companies see that distributed teams are more than just an experiment, they are the future. 

Here’s what our team had to say!

What is your personal experience working from home?

    • It's the most awesome work environment anyone could hope for.
    • I have been doing it since 2007. It not only changed my life and work balance, but it also enabled me to jumpstart my career in voice application development by joining a US team.
    • I have been a remote home worker for the last 20 years, I prefer it.
    • I started working from home in 1994 when I was a web developer, a support specialist and a systems engineer all at the same time. In 2005, I started FreeSWITCH from a home office together with Brian West and Michael Jerris who both worked remotely as well. We used FreeSWITCH conference as a workplace and constantly added features to it to make our lives easier ever since.
    • I LOVE working from home. I think I'd have trouble going back to a "real" office!
    • I find it easier to focus and get work done where I am most comfortable.
    • The flexibility has allowed me to not only be more productive since I'm not constantly being stopped at the water cooler....but allows me to be home when my kids get off the school bus. I get to ask about their day right away instead of hours later.
    • This is my first job working remotely and I feel like it has made my life so much easier. In previous jobs, working remotely was reserved for very extreme circumstances even though much of the work many employees did could be done from anywhere, and suggestions to expand a remote work policy were always shut down.
    • I have always had the benefit of being a remote worker so I love it. Working from home or being a remote employee has given me the opportunity to work with companies based in other states. I grew up in New Hampshire (one of those little states in New England near Canada) and started my professional career from there. Most of the tech industry resides in California. Remote work allowed me to find a career path in the tech industry normally not available to folks in New England.
    • I have been working from home for 9 years now and love it. Being able to get right to work each day and not worry about getting up and getting ready then drive into work and then start your day. It saves at least 2-3 hours each day that you can do other things.

What is your favorite part about working remotely?

  • NO COMMUTE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • love it. no driving (bad traffic / commute) and can be anywhere. that means lower cost of living if preferred. Much more relaxed and stress free. total control over food / water. can do things that need be done, like the dog throws up, can clean it up instead of coming home and finding a mess tracked all over the house. can get packages during the day. everything is great about it.
  • Commuting has always been my biggest pain point. I feel like not having to spend two hours in a car every day is much less stressful and frees time for other activities.
  • I am not exposed to the CoronaVirus. More flexible work hours, time and energy saved in commuting, better for the environment, and more freedom to weave the daily aspects of life into your schedule.
  • Being able to go anywhere and not be restricted by an office and being able to choose when I need isolation or to interact with others.
  • The only food smells that I have to deal with are my own.
  • The freedom to work from anywhere. If there's no school and I want to take my kids to the park - I can - they play while I work. If I want to settle in at my favorite coffee shop sipping caffeine all day - I can.
  • Not having to commute! In the past I was commuting up to two hours a day, and of course I was not compensated for that time. Just having those extra couple hours a day for myself makes me feel like I'm always on top of chores and sleep, and as a result I'm always much more energetic and focused for the workday itself.
  • I can focus better at home now that I've created a good working environment and good personal systems to split work and personal. Of course there are distractions, but far fewer than the water cooler distractions.
  • There are a number of things I love about it and the most expected answer stands, flexibility. While I'm still accountable for the hours I put in my day I have the ability to get other things done at the same time. I am in the comfort of my own home. If I need anything, I can run to another room and get it. I can make anything for lunch from my fridge. I can put laundry in the washer or dryer. It also allows me to spend more time with my family. If my kid is home sick I can watch him and still get work done or just be home when my kids get back from school to goof off with them. I don't have the added loss of time commuting back and forth to another location.
  • Remote work is really ideal in that respect- not just in that it eliminates all of that driving getting to and from an office each day, but in that you can choose where you live, in any city, any state, or even any country. Is there a city out there with better mass transit, more activities I'm interested in, and/or closer to friends? I'm moving to Austin, Texas next month from the other side of the country for just those reasons, and working remote doesn't just make it possible- it makes it easy. That's probably my favourite part about it.
  • Reduced commute time per day from 2.5 hours to 2.5 minutes. I can be around to help care for my elderly family members.

Do you prefer working in an "IRL" office or a virtual office? Why?

  • A virtual office has been my only office for years, I hardly remember how it was before! Coffee is good, and I don’t have a dress code to follow.
  • Virtual, cos it’s my life's work to improve how others can have virtual offices.
  • Virtual office: No distractions and full focus on the work. My previous job was in an open-space office so there was a lot of "noise" (people talking, phone ringing etc).
  • In a "virtual office" you can decide WHERE to work from: one day could be from a co-working space and another from home - completely alone!
  • I do prefer the virtual office, as a lot of the work I do can be done from anywhere. Having to commute and be confined to an office space all day just to do work I could do from home was pretty draining after a while.
  • I prefer remote. I find I'm genuinely more efficient, and it also gives me a better work/life balance.
  • I really enjoy the remote position, I never wanted to be in a strip of cubicles. Closest I have had experience working in a IRL office is in a past position. I visited a new sales office regularly. While they weren't coworkers I was seeing the same people frequently and provided the feeling I was a functional member of society. I wasn't really prepared for the solitude when I first started, human interaction is needed. Now that I'm in a remote virtual office, it is just as effective and from the comfort of my own home! I am still interactive with co-workers and customers face to face, but from my desk.
  • For starters, when I'm working at an "IRL" office and I take a break/lunch, I've found it only marginally less stressful than the work itself is. All of the awkward dances around the coffee machine, the headache-inducing fluorescent lights, restrooms rarely in better condition than you'd find at a gas station, and your boss is potentially around every corner / standing behind you at all times. Not exactly conducive to relaxation, and it's not really meant to be.
  • When you work remote though, it isn't an issue. Clock out, cook a substantial lunch, load up a video game, sit in your favourite recliner and read another chapter from a book. When you get back to your work, it feels like a break has actually taken place. My "work day" has extended an hour or two to compensate for when my breaks go long, but this is definitely my preference.
  • Virtual Office, but is important to have a space dedicated to work, that is separate from leisure space. There are less distractions at home.
  • Virtual offices most of the time because you can get everything done the same way you can in real life but you save time and money.
  • I really enjoy the 'water cooler' moments in an office, and find them useful in keeping up with what is going on - but in SignalWire we have that same ability using Cantina...
  • So, in SignalWire, I am very happy working remotely while seeing the value of occasional meet-ups like we had in Redwood City last November.

How do you stay motivated? Are you more or less productive? Why?

  • My key to productivity is staying organized with a task manager software. I tend to work in short bursts of intense focus so working from home makes me more productive, as I don’t have to force myself to get everything done during office hours.
  • I don't really think about it, I just get up and do what I love. The occasional time when I have a short period of burnout, I use the freedom we enjoy with remote working to go for a walk, shop on Amazon, or otherwise just step away to take a break and let the burnout fade.
  • More by far, I usually have to be peeled away from my desk or PC (or even phone)
  • Red bull, Monster, Coffee.. Once you get used to it you are more efficient and productive. This is due to less stress, the ability to get at your coworkers immediately as needed. Depending on your department the ability to work at your any hours to get stuff done.
  • I think of most of my work as deliverables that I hold myself to with personal deadlines. I am way more productive working remotely, probably because the water cool talk is very tempting when you have a task you really don't want to do.
  • Coffee works as much as before to keep me motivated! I really don't think I'm any more or less productive than in an office - sure, there are distractions at home, but there are distractions in an office environment that don't exist at home and vice versa. And since I'm in total control of my environment, if I'm feeling particularly distracted for some reason, I can leave at any time and go work in a coffee shop or library to really focus.
  • I have a dedicated office in my house and a routine. I learned early on in my first remote position I can't work from the kitchen table or a couch and a TV in front of me. I'd get NOTHING done. From that moment on I made sure every apartment or house I had had an office area. I get up everyday and go through my morning rituals and get dressed like I'm going to any office. I bring my kids to school and drive to "My office" and get to work. I can also listen to whatever I want and not get bugged by the person in the cubicle next to me!
  • I've generally found that I'm more productive at remote positions, but I don't think that's necessarily because remote work lends itself to being more productive intrinsically. Rather, I think that companies that take remote work *seriously* tend to put more effort into good communication than a lot of companies do with physical offices.
  • ... And I think meaningful communication is really the key to staying motivated and productive in a company, regardless of where / how you work. I struggled with motivation in game development where not a lot of communication was taking place, and it definitely hurt productivity. I had no problem with remote web and software development jobs otherwise, because I required a lot of communication from clients as a rule.

How do you bond with your team even though we are all distributed?

  • Making bad jokes at every chance, and being involved in all conversations.
  • I like to reach out and talk with different people one on one, with our own WebRTC product. I have a standing meeting every Monday for a half hour open tech talk that I invite anyone to join.
  • We chat on slack and SignalWire Virtual Office all day long.
  • Meetups, conferences, dinners for real life, but virtual it is the same idea. The technology makes everyone more approachable and on the same page.
  • We have a lot of tools to use to communicate 24h/7 (when timezone doesn't help..) otherwise... Cantina.. Cantina everywhere!
  • ClipEEze! ClipEEze is a bunch of short video clips from pop culture and iconic movies that can be used to express pretty much anything that is happening and usually very funny. Sometimes we will be in a meeting and an anonymous coworker will play random ClipEEze in the conference which is always good for a laugh and a wtf just happened moment.
  • I still meet with my department regularly in the virtual office and I'm in constant contact with the team over Slack. I actually feel like it's easier to be in contact with them this way, as I'm not having to physically run all over an office building looking for someone if I need something. I also still have the opportunity to meet the whole company a couple times a year at in person meetings, so it's not like I've never met anybody from the team in real life.
  • Remote work when done well (IMHO) is generally less stressful, more relaxed, maybe a bit more casual / less formal. As long as team communication is actually taking place each day and the system isn't really set up to make "phoning it in" too easy (pun intended), I think bonding is actually easier when remote.

Are you experienced with distributed teams?

  • This is the first time I have seen it executed so well, without the right collaboration tools you will not be successful. They need to be feature rich, fun, easy to use, and cross platform and utilizing the SignalWire virtual office platform, everything is at your fingertips. Kind of hit the ball out of the park!
  • This is my first!
  • Yes, every job I have had in the tech industry I have been part of a remote team.
  • I'm quite experienced with remote work, but I think this is the first position I've had where I've been on a proper distributed team. Mostly I've worked independently, or with others in a configuration that one would be hard-pressed to call a "team".
  • I have had a fair bit of experience working remotely in distributed team environments, going back over 20 years to consultation contracts using IRC for communications.
  • I'm quite experienced with remote work, but I think this is the first position I've had where I've been on a proper distributed team. Mostly I've worked independently, or with others in a configuration that one would be hard-pressed to call a "team".

Do you feel like your team works well remotely? Why?

  • I think we do, we all have quite open lines of communication and little hesitation to reach out and ask for help. I think Engineering has fostered a mentoring culture that enables people to make mistakes and ask for help without fear of reprimand which goes a long way towards the team building together as a whole. The most difficult aspect of remote working is the variation of timezone, and never being able to stay in touch with everyone when they are literally on the other side of the world. This can make it difficult in some cases to collaborate where one or more people have to adjust to accommodate.
  • I think we work very well, we can get quick access to key people, makes quicker decisions, and have a great work life balance.
  • Very well. We are very good about reaching out whenever we need to connect on an idea and touching base throughout the day.
  • Yes, we work independently but collaboratively. It's a nice dynamic.
  • Yes absolutely. I've been with SignalWire since nearly the beginning where I was introduced to the Virtual Office. It has been a key to our success. I am now in Chicago, but my team is spread out across the country. The video channels we use bring us face to face which enables confidence and trust with one another. It’s like being in an office where you can tap a buddy on the shoulder, tell a joke, share an experience, or help solve a problem. Whether it be a team meeting, training a new hire or just hanging out in a conference room it builds camaraderie.
  • Also though, I think it's just a matter of this being a good telecommunications company- the importance of communication isn't lost on anyone here. I honestly think that as long as people talk things through when they're having trouble and everyone stays on the same page, it's difficult *not* to do your work well, and work well together, no matter the distance involved.

What tools do you use?

  • 4 laptops, 2 cellphones, 2 hotspots, and water.
  • SignalWire platform for video chat. Slack, Salesforce, Gmail, Calendar and Google Drive are where I spend most of my time.
  • Slack (Primary Communications), Cantina (Audio/Video Conferencing for standups and deep engineering discussions), GitHub (Tracking issues longer term with feedback, including from other departments like support), iPhone (tether when not at the desk), Laptop (for working while traveling)
  • I have a million google docs and calendar invites to meetings.
  • Verto/Cantina, Slack, Google Drive, email, Facebook Messenger