< up
2024-06-07

working on the road - self experiment

tl;dr: Self experiment about working on the road. It’s challenging but opens up new possibilities. I worked in the train and within a coffee.

My productive comfort zone is behind a desk within an office having sparing partners for sharing and discussing ideas. Need more focus? Noise canceling headphones to the rescue!

But as time flies, work environments change and even with fully remote options or colleagues new environments spawn. New challenges arise. How to connect to fully remote collegues? How do they feel, sitting alone on their desks most of the time? What opportunities emerge if I open up myself working from somewhere else than just the office?

Contents

  1. Covid
  2. Motivation
  3. The experiment
  4. Challenges
  5. Bonus: Working within a coffee
  6. Summary

Covid

Within covid, I was the only one left in the data center as local contact person in case immediate action was needed. I refused to work from home as I needed this contrast within the office to be productive and to avoid distractions more easily.

I got used to tools like mumble, whereby, zoom, jitsi and we quickly learned the pros/cons such as ups and downs of having only active communication. Active like one person needs a subject to start a conversation while it was hard to just replicate the office where you can jump into a dialog that takes place around you. Yes, you can always be online in one channel with all the others, but that also challenges my focus. This works for other teams pretty well, having one broadcast room.

I needed to get use of discussing ideas actively and over the wire.

Two years within the pandemic with streaks over several months without seeing anyone else in the data center, I felt the need of change.

Motivation

Change yourself before the change comes to you1

Within covid it was only a matter of time before our first fully-remote colleague joins the team. Other teams already opened up for remote work and it was fare more easy for recruitment to offer this benefit working from home. Having an open and fruitful office culture full of construtive discussions, I asked myself how this might change having fully remote colleagues. How do they feel alone at home? How does the environment affect the productivity? I was curious about the new challenges we might get.

Time management-wise, doing home office cuts the time for getting to the work place simplifies appointments. Like when the spedition tells you they come by with the new sofa between 7am and 6pm…

New visions arise:

I wasn’t ready for this, but I wanted to give it a try. So I worked four weeks from home. I was tired, four hours felt like eight. My back hurt due to my unergonomic desk and desk-chair. On the other side, I could simply go out of my working room to leave the work context.

I bought a better desk-chair and a standing desk, changed rooms to make the work place more “home-office-native”. It changed a lot. Now I do home-office on every Friday, it feels like a ritual.

Next step is to work from the road.

The experiment

I’m currently traveling to Berlin2 and thought it would be a nice opportunity to test this out by writing a blog article about it. My goal: finish the article before arriving at the destination.

Challenges

Finding a table

It starts with finding a table with power outlet, as my 10yr old mac book’s battery is crap. I quickly scanned the train as it arrived and found a neat one.

Noisy neighbors

I like to socialize with others and give everyone his personal space as I would like it myself. But yeah, you never know what you get. I wasn’t traveling alone but setting limits helped. Noise-cancelling headphones are also key having neighbors doom-scrolling tik-tok with audio on loudspeaker.

On the other side are conversation good distractions to gain focus again. I called my mom and talked for about an hour.

Change trains

As I’m living in a small city without inter-city train connections3 and I travel with the Detuschland-Ticket4, I need to change trains quite often.

Changing trains is stress. Even if trains are on time, you need to pack all your stuff, walk to the next track, find a new seat (see Find a table) and get back to work. If trains are not on time, like today5, you need to keep attention for announcements, refreshing the train app6 and consider alternatives.

Focus

As with all working environments, focus must be gained and kept up. Interestingly my neuro-diversity didn’t crossed my plans about that but actually did the opposite I guess. I felt kind of a hyper focus writing about this topic. Words have flown, sentences emerged, structures got visible.

Mobile distractions

Similar to Noisy neighbors challenge but more about the work and their tools itself. Cut the unnecessary stuff and get straight to the work unlike my first attempt:

  1. create new post via blogctl. Oh no, the blog repo isn’t checked out.
  2. No WLAN inside the train, hotspot needs to be turned on, luckily I have a new provider granting me enough traffic.
  3. Bad bandwidth, pulling takes ages…

I then recognized that I don’t need internet to open a new file and just start writing plain text, as I always do. I just need to transfer it later into my repo, no problemo.

Sure there tasks that are depend on a connection within my job:

Bonus: Working within a coffee

Next day, the article was already finished, I though about another expierment within a coffee.

Similar challenges: Internet, noisy neighbors plus you need to spend something.

I enjoyed my place inside looking outside to an intersection full of people in Friedrichshain. I always wanted to work within a coffee on a fancy laptop7 sippin on my americano while doing productive stuff. I guess I can make a check mark on that one \o/

Summary

From a neuro-diverse perspective, I surfed the productivity wave on writing this post while riding trains. Structure, words, sentences emerged without any barrier and made sense immediately. I haven’t written for months now, and I was happy to have something relevant to write about again.

I reached my goal of finishing this article before arriving8.

All the challenges are potential stress factors and need to be considered. Long connections might help keeping the focus up for a longer period of time. I guess ICE’s with WLan are also more suitable for working on the road.

This self-experiment was fun and I’m proud of all the words. It’s not easy to make clear whats hidden behind behavior, feelings or moods. This post helped me to articulate my prejudices against working on the road and to process some fears by actually gaining experience.

Greetings from Berlin!9


  1. I made this up by myself as I don’t remember any quote about that.
  2. going to the Dua Lipa concert \o/
  3. Namely ICE/IC in Germany.
  4. Also called 49EUR-Ticket, allows to travel with all regional and city public transports.
  5. In my case the RE (Regional Express) to Chemnitz was too late for changing to the RB (Regional Bahn), alternatives cost more (since IC’s are involved) or take a lot of more time. Luckily RE has a higher priority than RB, so the RB waited for us.
  6. namely DB Navigator, everything you need to travel by train in Germany, very handy, gives you push notifications before changing trains and in case plans change.
  7. the one with the fruit, but 10yrs old
  8. Well, aside of typos and the images but Done is better than perfect.
  9. Thanks Paula for the concert impression