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I am starting work in a small startup (4 active members) as a lead developer. The CEO told me "you can work from home, it is up to you, but if you want to move in, just let me known when". The office is rather small.

Surely it is much more comfortable for me to work from home: it is quiet, a lot more space, a better room, no travel time, my home computer workstation may actually be better. But... the best cheese can be found in a mouse trap, so I try to be careful not to ruin all my career here from the beginning by accepting this idea.

How can I identify whether this "work from home" proposal is a real proposal that I can accept and be thankful about, or just a nice phrase that I am strongly expected to answer "no, I am ready to come to your work place immediately" to? The position is good enough, working from home would not be for me a requirement.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – enderland Mar 6 '18 at 15:32
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    If you are the lead developer, how many of the other 4 active members are developers? Development can be a team activity and being in the same physical space can help with that from time to time. If you are the sole onsite developer, that is an important part of the decision. – TafT Mar 6 '18 at 18:03
  • Could you clarify that developer means "Software Developer" in this instance. Development Departments can generate photos, electronics, furniture, the list goes on. – TafT Mar 6 '18 at 18:04
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    Why does this have to be all or nothing? Could you go into the office a day or two a week or just as needed? – user8365 Mar 6 '18 at 19:25
  • A nice compromise might be to head in the office once a week or so to see people face-to-face, that way you're not absent from the get go. Make it a weekly team-building lunch with free pizza and they'll love seeing you in the office! – Joel B Mar 7 '18 at 23:00
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Is it ok to accept the proposal to work from home?

It sounds like the CEO trusts you, and is offering up the work from home arrangement as a token of that trust and to perhaps help with the small office accommodations.

So, if you're okay with working from home, then do so; if not, let him know you prefer to come into the office.

Your choice.

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    Maybe the OP can accept both proposals and work both ways. The office is more social and everything, but the alternative allows them to travel. If the OP is just starting their career, they may not realize the negative side of working from home (isolation mainly). – Panzercrisis Mar 5 '18 at 19:34
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    There is one issue I have found consistently across many environments is that anyone who works from home becomes isolated over time. Decisions that effect them are made without being consulted or forewarned. Any word said on the matter would be either too late or not taken seriously. Eventually some level of disrespect creeps in. I recommended periodic half days here and there to stay in the loop, get face time, attend meetings to offer input, etc. – closetnoc Mar 6 '18 at 0:07
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    @closetnoc this happens only in badly managed environments. – Sarge Borsch Mar 6 '18 at 8:55
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    @closetnoc: I think this is more likely to happen in large companies where a tiny minority works from home, as opposed to OP being 25% of the entire staff. Especially since he's the lead dev. – Flater Mar 6 '18 at 9:03
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    @Flater it starts with the people working non remotely asking for advice/guidance to senior developers that are at their current location instead of scheduling a call with someone remote. They don't really take the job, they just help their team out with stuff the lead should be doing. But as I said it might be person bound. Anyway the OP should be aware of the possible dangers. – Jungkook Mar 6 '18 at 10:31
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Take the offer for its face value and enjoy not having to listen to another traffic report.

As a business owner, I changed our policies and had everyone go work from home. I made this decision after a fair amount of discussion with the team. As my staff had proven time and again that they were self starters and didn't need someone to make sure the tasks were being completed, we plunged in headfirst.

The changes allowed me to do several things. First was to downsize the office space I was renting, thereby saving quite a bit of money. Second was to take a significant portion of that and increase people's pay.

Interestingly, I still maintain a small office, but I'm generally the only one that shows up. After two years I haven't had cause to change my mind.

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    I am glad this worked out in your situation. In large organizations, you would find mixed results. Nice answer though. – Mister Positive Mar 5 '18 at 16:24
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    yo, you hirin'? – Bryan Boettcher Mar 5 '18 at 16:24
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    @MisterPositive: i've found that work relationships are different in a small company vs a large one. It seems like there is more of a willingness to work issues out than just give up and move on (from both sides). – NotMe Mar 5 '18 at 23:58
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    @BryanBoettcher: I've put your resument(tm) (resume comment) on file. – NotMe Mar 5 '18 at 23:59
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    @BryanBoettcher - If I didnt have to wade through a dozen emails with the same basic value of people looking for jobs like that every week it would probably have been funnier. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 6 '18 at 15:00
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Especially for a startup, working from home is often a mutually beneficial arrangement. You get all the advantage you mentioned - flexible working, your own workspace, no commutes - and the company doesn't have to pay for office space for you. That said, your concern is justified - it's easy to overlook somebody who you never see.

A good way to get the best of both worlds is to try and spend some time in the office as well - one day a week, or even half a day, is probably plenty. For example, if there's a weekly status meeting, come into the office for it instead of joining remotely. As well as showing your face, this means you get to be involved in the pre/post meeting chatter which you'd usually miss out on, as well as catching up with the office staff and making sure you're up to speed on any internal news.

This can actually look better than working from the office, because you don't have to come in - you're choosing to.

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    Also, in my own experience as someone who has worked from home for long periods, even someone who generally doesn't mind working alone, you will eventually find yourself going a little stir crazy if you're full time working at home and have nobody around at all. Getting into the office, even just one day a week, can have great mental health benefits in addition to showing you're serious about doing what's best for both you and the company. – delinear Mar 5 '18 at 17:04
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    @delinear is absolutely right. Plus, being in the office lets you stay connected to the "vibe" or "tone" of the business. 1 day a week, minimum, but it can be a short day. Mix it up on what day of the week, but make sure who you report to is available that day and knows you'll be there. – Wesley Long Mar 6 '18 at 21:15
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    I'd say do make it the same day of the week - then people can plan on being able to talk to you that day; It is also useful to concentrate all your discussions that day, allowing you to work without interruptions the rest of the week. – Dragonel Mar 7 '18 at 0:12
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It's BETTER than "OK"!

I was once in a similar position and I believe that you should jump at the opportunity to work from home as it will be beneficial and rewarding for both yourself and for the company.

Since I'm basing my opinion on *my own experience( with, here's a little background:

I had a job as Lead Developer over a small team, and I was about to become the single father of a newborn and was considering Paternity Leave. I was in the middle of a huge project (automating payroll & performance reporting for 5000 employees) so neither of us wanted me to put the project "on hold".

After discussion with my boss, we decided I'd try working from home full-time with no set schedule as long as I met deadlines and attended relevant meetings (remotely via speakerphone). The company had never before allowed anyone to work from home (especially with such sensitive data.)


Productivity

As you stated, at home you are more comfortable and can set things up exactly how you want them. Ambience (like music, temperature, lighting) are your preference (without the boss having to worry about finding a "happy medium" to satisfy everyone.) emphasized text It's no secret that "a happy worker is a productive work". (Actually, studies show that there are other emotions more important to productivity, but happiness is important too!)

Since you are new, and you are the Lead, I would recommend that you setup regular in-office meetings every 1 or 2 weeks (but no longer). *As an example, perhaps...

  • Fridays 1:00 - 2:30: (in-office) Mandatory meeting with your team (exclude the boss) where you to check in with everyone, get status updates, set goals for the following week, plus some generally friendly chatter.

This will be helpful to keeping your projects on-track, making sure everyone's on-board 9and nobody's falling behind), and will remind your team they they do have a Lead who's paying attention, not just off in his/her own world.

  • Fridays 2:30 - 3:00 (in-office): Summarize your meeting into something a short ad-hoc report for the boss, summarizing what you're working on, current status, and next week's goals.

Perhaps include a simple graphical past/current/future list of milestones (ie., a project timeline like this) that the boss will understand with a glance, and will keep in the back of his/her head as your current status.

  • Fridays 3:00 (in-office): Pre-scheduled recurring meeting with your boss to present your weekly update. The boss will surely be impressed with your initiative and your management skills.

Many people choose Monday mornings for this kind of meeting, but research shows show that that's a bad idea.

  • Fridays 4:00 (off-site): Go out and socialize with your team, especially at first, and to celebrate completion of milestones, new staff, accomplishments, etc. Go to a pub for an hour or get appy's somewhere, bowling, etc. Don't get intoxicated every time but I believe everyone wants to work harder for an supervisor who they know is "keeping an eye on them" but is also a "real person who likes to have fun". Use this as a chance to thank them often and acknowledge their effort (even when under-par!)...

Remember, Taking breaks is still important even when at home, but will be more refreshing because you might have a better, more nutritious meal (than you would have had from the work microwave), have a nap, jump in the hot tub, go flirt with your neighbour, etc. See this formula for perfect productivity.

In my case I would work around the baby's schedule. Baby wakes up at 2:00 am, to fussy to sleep? No problem! I'd put the baby on my lap and gently bounce my knees while in front of the computer for an hour. Baby needs several naps per day? No problem! That's several 2 hour periods of super-productivity. Baby's crying in the background when I'm speaking on a conference call? Okay that did distract the call topic a few times, but it was mostly from others on the call telling me what I superhero I am for multitasking like this.

Physical setup of your home office will affect productivity as well. There are a ton of resources online to give you ideas, including this article from Forbes (and more "fluffy" articles like how to create a Zen office on a budget).


Flexibility

I think it's important to convey to your boss that you are 100% flexible, should he/she need to change this arrangement in the future, either temporarily or permanently.

Employers like to know that you're willing to go out of your way, putting your personal life and preferences aside temporarily, when required for the good of the business.

Of your workplace has in-office meetings, I'd suggest doing your best to attend most or all of those in person, because it's a lot easier to communicate with people you don't know in person, plus you don't want to turn into "that faceless person that was in the office that one day and sends us emails all the time."


Career Limiting?

I think it doesn't have to be career limiting to work from home, but there are situations where it could be.

As mentioned above, I believe interaction with coworkers is extremely important. As mentioned above, you don't want to be "that faceless guy" because some coworkers will have no problem speaking negatively (or "gossiping") about someone they don't even know.

Make sure to participate in group activities others setup like lottery pool, charity collections, birthday cards etc. Setup a Secret Santa exchange during the holidays. Occasional staff party's are also extremely important to attend (for career reasons first, and then second for de-stressing).

Working from home (while caring for a newborn) turned out to be the most productive and fulfilling period of my entire career and of parenthood. I ended up getting multiple promotions and awards for my work during that time... It was definitely a highlight, and I miss it terribly!


Cheese

I've never heard the expression you used, the best cheese can be found in a mouse trap, but I disagree with it both literally and figuratively.

Given the choice between putting "expensive cheese" or "aerosol cheese", and knowing that either will catch the same number of mice, I would go cheap (unless I was planning on eating the mouse afterwards).

From the company owner's point of view, what would be Perfect? He/she would probably prefer it if his employees were happy and highly productive with little-to-no interaction from him/her, zero inter-employee conflict, deadlines being met, while always being aware of current status of all projects, and (most importantly) easy profit.


Consider Carefully

Nobody here can tell you exactly what you should do in this case because there are many variables to consider, and nobody else knows the dynamics of your particular company or employees.

Being a new company, you might be better off to work in-office for the first few weeks and then change to a home position. Both your team and the boss will see this as an obvious indication of your priority.

If the boss has to manage your team when you're not in-office, then you're not doing your job properly and need to get more involved immediately. If the boss wanted to go to Hawaii for a week, would the company "fall apart" or could you manage things yourself?

Make yourself available to the boss and your team by phone, at any hour. If you're making up your own schedule then others shouldn't have to work around it. If you decide to work from home but ever get the impression that others feel that you're inaccessible then something needs to change immediately.

Incidentally, I believe the "home-office/parenting multitasking" arrangement contributed to my child growing up into the relaxed, patient, organized non-narcissistic teenager he is now...

Starting from birth, he learned that although he's Dad's #1 priority and will always have his basic needs taken care of, real life requires attention to be split among several priorities. I was paid well to attend to my baby's needs while doing a job I wanted, on my schedule.


Do It!

At the end of the day, the owner wants a company that can "run itself," not just to the bare minimum, but that can flourish even without the boss's interaction. The fact that you were given a "Lead" title implies that the owner doesn't want to have to deal with day-to-day stuff. That's your job.

If handled properly, working from home could be an excellent arrangement that will benefit the company, and more importantly for your own well-being and job satisfaction.

Good luck!

Be sure to let us know what you decide to do and how it turn out!

  • This answer reminded me that in other countries it exists such a thing as "spray cheese" and I shuddered... +1 for the comprehensiveness, though! :) Spray cheese...brrr... – xDaizu Mar 6 '18 at 8:34
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    @xDaizu - I've never tasted that crap and I'm not actually sure if the mice would even eat it. It's probably just flavoured silly string. – ashleedawg Mar 6 '18 at 10:34
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In today's work environment, especially in startups, this is not a loaded question.

If you genuinely believe you can be as effective (if not more) by working at home as you would be if you were commuting to work every day, then by all means, feel free to stay home.

Frankly, the choice depends on your character. Working from home means less transportation and the ability to chose your own timetable (i.e. take a break at 4pm to pick up the kids from school).

On the other hand, you lose the social interactions you have in a work environment, be it for social events or when you have to work closely with someone (it is easier to just walk to someone's desk than to wait for them to answer your slack notification).

It also entails for you to have more discipline, as it could lead you to either underwork (I'm at home, I'll have a small video game break) or overwork (it's 10pm and you're still working).

Further interesting read on the benefits of working remotly can be found all over the web, such as here.

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    +1 OP's confusion mainly seems to stem that he/she considers working from home always preferable to working in the office. If this is the case they should go for it, but there are pros and cons to both. – DonFusili Mar 5 '18 at 14:05
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How can I identify whether this "work from home" proposal is a real proposal that I can accept and be thankful about, or just a nice phrase that I am strongly expected to answer "no, I am ready to come to your work place immediately" to?

Hard to say how you can prove the intention. But I'm old school: Since you say it's not difficult for you to get to work, then you most certainly should, especially when first starting out, and being the lead developer. You need to be where the action is taking place if you want to establish your position, authority and credibility. You need to learn face-to-face about the people you are working for and with. There is nothing that can replace personal interaction for that.

Right now, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by going in to work every day.

Remember: No matter how much you work and interact on-line, as soon as you go off-line you are out of the loop - clueless. You might as well be on Mars. That's never good for anybody, particularly a team leader. (I'm speaking from bitter experience...) You could get on video conference and give what you think is a great motivational speech about team interaction, but miss out on entirely on all the eye rolling and laughing that takes place after you log off... (Sure, that can happen when you're there as well, but it will be much easier for you to pick up on it or hear about it when you're on site.)

Once things are established and your position is solidified, perhaps you can consider working from home, at least part of the time. But by then you may realize how important it is for you to be on-site every day.


Note that I'm making an assumption here that there is some sort of central office where the CEO and most of the employees are working. If the whole company is virtual - everyone, even the CEO - is working from their own location, that's something else entirely.

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As other posters have said, assume good faith.

I have worked in a cube for 12 years, from home for 5, and had mixed weeks (2-3 days from home) for 4.

My advice is to say you want to get to know the team, and would like to be in the office so you can catch up face to face, initially for 3 days/week.

Once you feel you've got to know the team, interactions on IM and voice chat become almost as good as face to face, and you can cut back to travelling to the office when needed (maybe with a default 1 day per week).

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No reasonable CEO would make the offer if the expected answer is no. You have to assume good faith in a situation like this.

Research on working from home is mixed

If it works well it works very well. Sometimes it doesn't work at all.

Pros. Enhanced concentration Cons. Workers can feel alienated and cut off from culture or can have trouble self-motivating

I would recommend trying it out and planning on coming into the office once or twice a week for improved communication and culture. Be prepared to revise the decision if it doesn't work out in your specific case.

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