Working Remotely, In The Office, or Both?

Working Remotely, In The Office, or Both?

During my career, my work environments have varied from an office with a timecard to 100% remote work. Each work environments has its own pros/cons. Which environment would make you productive and help you find work/life balance? Remote work, an office, or a mixture of both? In this blog post, I share the pros and cons of each and the one I currently prefer.

Working In Offices

Offices are like organs: they come in different shapes and sizes. Equipped with video arcade machines, bean bags, and coffee makers, they are designed to inspire people. Fancy offices can also attract potential recruits, increase innovation, and keep people coming in to work.

The main problem with this is that most bells and whistles are bad for your productivity (unless you're fortunate enough to have your own room). Entertainment is more of a focus than ergonomics and a silent working environment.

There are two negative aspects of the office environment: lack of self-documenting communication (too much talking) and a low tolerance for verbal disruption (too much questions).

Noise & shoulder knocking

In my experience, having all of a company's employees at an office decreases the quality and quantity of written information. Poor quality of information eventually increases the number of questions. Smart companies use communication tools (Slack, IRC, etc.) for self-documenting communication even if all of their employees work under the same roof.

The following scenario is far too common in the office environment: a question arises, the thought "{John} may have an answer" pops into the mind, and then there's a knock, knock on John's door while he is solving a problem. I think we all do this now and then because we don't have sufficient information about what our co-worker is doing.

The problem with this scenario is that it is synchronous: the question must be addressed immediately. I would prefer proper use of communication tools to make it more asynchronous. After the question is sent, the recipient can answer at a suitable time. The recipient can also be a different person who happens to know the answer.

Surrounded with great people

The benefit of being at the office is that you're surrounded with people who have valuable information and skills. You can have memorable conversations that you would miss while working remotely. There is just one tiny thing when it comes to the discussions: Do we need to have them at the office? Go out to lunch with a great colleague, talk to colleagues at a meetup, or ask them out for coffee or tea.


If you must have a meeting, then being in the same room is much more valuable than hassling with communication tools. When you see facial expressions and hear voices clearly, you can read sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek, frustrated, etc., tones.

I think the worst situation is a group teleconferencing with a remote worker. More on that later.


  • (hopefully) inspiring people around you
  • having a meeting is easy (remember to avoid having unnecessary meetings)
  • asking questions is easy
  • having lunch with the team is super fun


  • asking questions is easy
  • dealing with noise
  • spending time on commuting

Working remotely

I find that working remotely provokes the greatest variety of opinions. Some people find it too lonely and too distracting; for others, the efficiency and freedom are appealing. It took some time to get it to work, but now I can enjoy the following pros: no distractions, a home office with good ergonomics, no commuting, and the ability to easily take a nap if required. When I take a break, I can make the time useful: fill the dishwasher, take out the garbage, talk with my wife, or get fresh air by walking my dog.

If you work remotely and no one expects you to show up at the office, why not work from a different country? Last autumn, I worked from Hungary for a month, and I am planning to do that this year, too.

Sounds perfect, right? Well, working remotely doesn't work for everyone. It depends on the rest of the team and the personality and nature of the project.

Communication, the social aspects, and distractions other than colleagues playing arcade games come into play.


If you work remotely right from the start without having met clients or team members "in real life," then you may miss crucial clues when communicating in writing or by phone. When you have met a person a few times, you can almost imagine her/him saying what they've written as you read it, which leads to better decisions when you respond. A well-written response leads to the desired outcome.

I haven't had any problems with one-on-one video chat, but when it comes to talking to a group, and the only video equipment the group has is a single laptop with a built-in camera and a mic...Horrible experience! You can see and hear one person talking, but the others are just mumbling in the background. Not seeing their faces makes things even worse. Are they happy with what you're saying? Is their silence a bad sign? Is everyone still there?

If everyone works in a different location, you're guaranteed to have a better conversation because they will all have webcams facing them.

Social aspect

The latest StackOverflow survey indicated that experienced developers are more likely than their younger counterparts to be remote workers, and they also value the option more. There are probably several reasons: working in a fancy office doesn't have an effect on them, they begin to value time as they get older, experienced people no longer require hand-holding, etc.

For some, face-to-face interactions are a big deal, and working remotely might make them feel lonely. I can understand that. I have tried to compensate for fewer face-to-face interactions by having lunch with a friend or socializing before and after my martial arts class in addition to talking with my wife and family. Those are just my ways to avoid becoming a hermit.

Distractions while working remotely

Depending on your life situation you might not have the luxury of a distraction-free home office or a separate working space near home. At home, you might have children running, renovation going on, insufficient space, etc. Working at coffee shops doesn't suit everyone. I can stay at coffee shops for a maximum of two hours before it starts to feel like I am occupying precious real estate for too long.


  • no commuting (time and money saving)
  • cozy environment
  • (potentially) less distractions
  • work could be done literally anywhere
  • breaks can be used to do chores


  • less social interactions
  • communication is more error-prone and requires effort

My Current Preference

When a new project begins, I spend about three weeks with the team and the client. My aim is to learn about the project and the personalities behind the names and faces. I also try to meet people who aren't on the team but may join the project later. As a freelancer, I try to keep in mind the fact that I don't get hired to make friends, but to bring value. Not making friends might sound harsh, but the client who pays for my services appreciates a tight focus on the project because freelancing contracts necessarily have an end point.

Once the method of communication has been established and people are familiar with each other, I start to work remotely more and more often. When the job is clear, smaller issues can be shared and discussed via tools like Slack. The reasons for a meeting could be, for example, the need to build greater functionality and discuss it in depth.

With this balance between remote work and the office, I still have enough information to make things correctly and a distraction-free environment in which to make them efficiently.

I hope this text made you think your current situation and where do you want to go.. And I mean literally where do you want to go each work day?