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I have a job at the moment that is paying fairly well (Engineering); however, I'm not finding the work very stimulating, so I have been looking for other opportunities. I have applied for a job that sounds like it would be more stimulating; however, during the phone interview I found out that it will be a completely remote job, working from home.

In my current job, I am working in an office and I quite enjoy going into the office every day, interacting with my colleagues; getting to know them; and feeling like I am part of a team.

Obviously, there could be some advantages to working from home; however, I am concerned that working from home every day could be isolating and perhaps might even become a bit depressing. How can I know if this type of working will be for me, before I take the plunge and switch jobs?

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    Does your current office have a telework policy? Could you possibly telework in your current job a few days a week? – David K Jul 18 '18 at 18:14
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    I can and do work from home sometimes in my current job, although it's still hard to know how I would find doing it all the time. – Time4Tea Jul 18 '18 at 18:22
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    I feel this will strongly depend on the kind of new job you take. One thing is being able to do it remotely, and other is the content of the job. Do you already have some target companies in mind? I agree that you could take a week off and try to work home, but how will you simulate a real job? – DarkCygnus Jul 18 '18 at 18:27
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    Have you considered a co-working space? – henning Jul 19 '18 at 16:46
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    @henning I hadn't, but I will certainly look into it. Thanks! – Time4Tea Jul 21 '18 at 15:39

13 Answers 13

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I have been working 100% remotely for over 3 years. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to gauge how successful and satisfied you'd be working remotely:

  • Do you have a space you can dedicate to work, away from noise and visual distraction?
  • What is your best form of communication - can you get your ideas across clearly via email and IM or do you often need to talk through problems face to face?
  • Do you have a strong social network or regular activities outside of your coworkers and your home?
  • In your free time, if you set out to do something productive, do you get sidetracked by things around your house (TV, phone, family)?

A lot of satisfaction depends on company culture as well. Some things to ask about:

  • Expected hours and flex time especially if you are salary: will you be allowed to work in your most productive hours, or have to stick to a schedule
  • Is the rest of your team remote or not, and do they ever meet up in person
  • Expected response time to email, calls, IMs

Another thing to consider - if not everyone is remote, it can be a damper on your career prospects since it is easier to develop rapport and have advancement conversations in person.

Personally for me, the perks are well worth the occasional feeling of isolation.

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    Are there some things you struggled with when you began working 100% remote that had you re-think your commitment or was it all easy street? – Mark C. Jul 19 '18 at 15:39
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    @MarkC. it was a big struggle for me, I started out in-office for a year. Then moved for my spouse's job and started remote at the same time so it was a rough transition. A routine, social circle, and challenging work were so helpful, and now I can't imagine not having most of my week WFH. – taffy Jul 19 '18 at 20:13
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    Not just advancement conversations, but pure advancement. If you're the only remote person, it becomes difficult to manage a team of people who are all not remote. I'm not saying it isn't possible, but it's a much harder sell. – corsiKa Jul 20 '18 at 4:36
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    Most of the times, engineering jobs have, or should not have any type of advancement. Yes, you could become a team leader but on top of that there are only the management positions. – Sulthan Jul 20 '18 at 6:50
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    The point on "In your free time" really needs to mention Stack Exchange... – a CVn Jul 21 '18 at 7:31
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...I quite enjoy going into the office every day, interacting with my colleagues; getting to know them...

It doesn't sound like the type of job for you. At least from the perspective of being isolated for extended periods of time. You describe yourself as the type of person who enjoys interacting with colleagues. If you would also agree that you're extroverted, then you will not enjoy working from home in all likelihood. Depending on how flexible the company is, you could simulate the office feel by working at a coffee shop but it's not identical.

I worked from home for years and loved it. But I'm introverted and enjoyed not having to talk to people and being allowed to just focus on my work. My advice would be to seek an in office position at a different company.

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    Thanks for your answer. I do also consider myself more of an introvert, but I prefer the office environment and I think it has benefits for teamworking/teambuilding. – Time4Tea Jul 18 '18 at 20:16
  • Why do you feel like you can't get to know your colleagues and won't be interacting with them? I've been WFH for four years now; and while I can't eat or do activities with my coworkers, we do talk to get to know each other. – Andy Jul 19 '18 at 23:34
  • @Andy Perhaps you feel differently, but I feel that there is an element of personal interaction that can't be completely replicated remotely. Of course, I would still be Interacting with them, but phone/e-mail just isn't quite the same as face-to-face, imo. – Time4Tea Jul 21 '18 at 15:47
  • @Time4Tea We primarily use headsets for discussions & meetings, so when I said talk, I literally meant talking, not email/chat. – Andy Jul 21 '18 at 16:48
  • @Andy ok. Of course, I agree that talking over the phone can help with communication/getting to know them but, imo, it's not 100% 'as good as' interacting with them face-to-face. In my current role, I work with colleagues who are based at other locations, whom I interact with by phone/chat; however, I wouldn't say I know them as well as the colleagues that I see in person every day, go out to lunch with, etc. – Time4Tea Jul 23 '18 at 0:14
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How can I know if this type of working will be for me, before I take the plunge and switch jobs?

You can't.

You haven't experienced this type of working arrangement before, so you can't be sure that you would like it until you've actually tried it.

Every new job has aspects that you haven't yet experienced. You can never truly know if you will like it or not until you do it.

Remote working isn't for everyone. Some really enjoy it, but others don't. I enjoyed working remotely one day per week, but I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it full time either. You seem to be expressing doubt about it already. That might be a clue that it isn't for you.

Consider the pros and cons. Think about what you would do if you accept the job but then discover that it isn't what you. Then make your decision.

If you decide to give it a try, be prepared to give the adjustment some time before reaching a conclusion.

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How can I know if this type of working will be for me, before I take the plunge and switch jobs?

I think you can find satisfying jobs that can be carried out from the office. Not necessarily the fact that a job is remote means that it will be satisfying.

To see why this is true, ask yourself if doing this not-so-stimulant job from home would make it more interesting. No, right? Because the job is still the same, the difference is that you are now unsatisfied at home.

We can see that this will depend on the nature of that job, and it can either be satisfying or not. So, I say that there are two things to consider here:

  1. As @user1666620 suggested, try to simulate the process of working from home for a while, so you can see if the dynamics is good for you.

  2. Then, if you see that is possible, check if your candidate jobs seem satisfying, regardless of the fact they are or not remote jobs.

If you see both things are possible then it might be that remote working is for you.

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    @DavidK yes, thus the importance of recognizing that satisfaction and remote are independent things. If the job OP spotted seems satisfying, it is that way regardless of the way it's worked. The fact that it's remote is different as remote != satisfying – DarkCygnus Jul 18 '18 at 20:15
  • yes, what @DavidK says is exactly correct. I do recognize that job satisfaction and remote working are two separate things. I think, as you say, DarkCygnus, I will have to weigh up the pros of the type of work I would be doing, against the uncertainty of the remote working. – Time4Tea Jul 18 '18 at 20:20
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For the past 2 years I've worked from home as a full-time employee programmer for a company I previously worked for on-site for 9 years. Here are the differences I've noticed:

  • Less ambient activity means far less distraction. In the office, any conversation in earshot is likely to be relevant to my work, so I naturally eavesdrop a lot. As a programmer this kills my momentum. The bustling of dozens or more other people nearby also generates a lot of noise in general.
  • On the other hand, I feel a lot more out of the loop. The general health of the company, changes in department strategy or direction, opportunities to help solve problems quickly or pursue advancement - I no longer discover these early by observing office activity, I have to wait for people to tell me about them later, if ever.
  • Communication does not have to be an issue. The whole department uses HipChat to communicate constantly. We set up HipChat's integration with Zoom for easy, quick, reliable video conferencing and screen sharing which we use multiple times per day. There are also plenty of free online tools for collaborative brainstorming, note taking, etc. that actually make remote conferencing feel more effective than cramming everyone into one room in front of a projector. I've also not felt lonely or isolated at all, though I could see why more extroverted folks might without another person to sit next to.
  • That said, if most of your team is working in the same room, again you'll probably have issues with missed verbal conversations they share. Working in an office, if the person over your shoulder probably has the answer you need, it's faster and easier (and less socially awkward) to turn around and ask them to their face than it is to type your question into a chat room. My department has had to learn to curb this behavior and/or repeat the results of verbal conversations in chat for our remote workers.
  • No communicable diseases. Those A-types that come into the office even when they're coughing and sneezing more than breathing can't reach you over the internet! Though the flip side is, it feels like my immune system has started to get lazy: the few times I've been sick since going remote have been among the worst I've had since childhood.
  • There are many perks to being at home all of the time. I get to see my family more often, and my pets are never lonely. I'm more aware of the state of the house, and can tend to emergencies like leaks right away. It's easier to eat well and less expensively, since I have my whole kitchen and pantry to myself all day. On days when I'm feeling ill but not too sick to work, the discomfort is far more bearable and manageable at home. My internet connection and networking hardware are top-notch, which is great for after-hours streaming and gaming. And a lot of business-related things like that, including office space and equipment, qualify for tax deductions if you take the time to document them.
  • Zero commute. Probably my favorite item on this list if we're being honest. Save hours of travel each week, reduce wear on your vehicle, reduce fuel spending, reduce risk of auto accidents, more time in the morning to yourself, immediately start your after-work home routine the moment you sign off. Also put in overtime without delay whenever the mood strikes you.
  • It's very feasible to travel without taking time off of work or neglecting your duties. My employer gave me a work PC which sits on my desk, and I've set it up so that I can remotely connect to it with my laptop from most anywhere with an internet connection. Hotel and coffee shop wifi is plenty, and when I've needed privacy for video calls I've used Zoom's mobile app while sitting parked in my car. Last month I went on a road trip and drove 3000 miles without missing a day of work or using any vacation days. Other times I've gone up to the mountains for a week and worked sitting on a patio overlooking the wilderness, enjoying the area I'm visiting on evenings and weekends. I could see it being viable for lifestyles of frequent or even constant travel.

A lot of people who ask me similar questions to yours are concerned about productivity - "I couldn't do it, I don't have the discipline." This is only a concern if you don't have deadlines, or if you don't work on a team - these force you to keep up. Also, being 3 time zones away from where most of my coworkers live and therefore needing to wake up a lot earlier to keep my schedule aligned with theirs (their 9AM is my 6AM), scheduling a brief team meeting to coordinate the day's work near its start (mine is at 6:15) is very helpful for keeping you on schedule. That said, if you don't have a team or deadline or regular meetings, then your work ethic is all that will keep you in line.

So, to wrap all this up in an answer to your question: if you're put off by any of the above observations, then it's probably not worth risking your happiness (and therefore very likely your job) to try working from home. On the other hand, if you have an opportunity to try working remotely at minimal risk, then I always highly recommend giving it a shot for at least a couple weeks, if not months, regardless.

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    "... the few times I've been sick since going remote have been among the worst I've had since childhood." I noticed the same thing after being remote for a little while (as did a close relative). It's especially bad if you have a child in daycare! – kevlarr Jul 20 '18 at 14:27
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I worked a 100% remote job for around a year and the thing that ended up being the most important was:

How much will the rest of the team communicate with you?

In my case, I was the only remote worker, everyone else was in the same office in another state.

It ended up working really well because the rest of the team made sure to do all important communication over slack. They also shared quite a lot of the social chit chat / memes / gifs etc over slack too, so I definitely felt like I was part of the team.

Another thing that helped a lot was that I would often start a voice or video meeting to a co-worker and left it open so we could see / hear what was happening and lowered the barrier to simple questions that would normally go over the cubicle wall.

If the team is 100% remote, it's much more likely that there will be some system of socialization as it's in everyone's interests to make it happen

I would definitely make sure to ask a lot of questions around team culture, day to day communication and how often you see each other in person before making a decision. The interview should be as much about making sure you will be happy as making sure you can perform the role.

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    Thanks for the comment about asking in the interview about how communication works with everyone in the team being remote. I think that's good advice. – Time4Tea Jul 21 '18 at 16:02
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Coworking

To expand on a comment made by @henning:

Have you considered a co-working space?

and to offer my experience in the hope it will help in your decision-making...

About 18 months ago the company I work for moved offices. Up to then, the commute (by train) was long but manageable. However, the new offices were too far to realistically commute to everyday. The company was very accommodating ("we don't want to lose you because of this move") and were quite happy for me to work from home most days.

Although I had worked the odd day from home in the past (for example if the trains were kaput), it was a case of laptop-on-the-dining-room-table... something that can work for a day or two, but not most days of most weeks. The conventional wisdom is, of course, that if you are going to work from home it needs to be in a dedicated space where you can go "from home to the office" at the start of the day, and "from office to home" at the end (I've even seen people say that while they may not wear "full business attire" while in their home-office, they consciously "dress for work" and "change into something casual" at the end of the day to reinforce the home/work split).

Unfortunately, I wasn't in a position to create such a dedicated space (it might have been a possibility, but other things fell through). Instead, I looked around for a "co-working" space. This Wikipedia page goes into more detail, but briefly: you rent your own desk-space, often in a shared office with other co-workers (from other companies, or working for themselves). The company that owns the office space typically provides certain levels of amenities and "office facilities" (some included in the price; some paid as you consume them). For this type of space, you can (generally) kit-out your desk as required – I'm a programmer, and have two monitors and a docking-station permanently on my desk: I just come in and plug-in the laptop.

The advantages are:

  • You're still in a "real" office environment (at least to some extent; the number of people around you and their composition tends to change much faster than in a company office, depending on how long those other people rent for) – a degree of "social interaction" is easier to achieve than being at home.

  • There is a clear distinction between being "at home" and "at work".

  • Depending on where you can find space, your commute-time can be drastically cut (maybe not as short as walking from bedroom to home-office, but mine went from the best (worst?) part of two hours each way to a 7-minute train ride and a walk across the town hall square!) Although I was "OK" with my previous commute (I'd adapted to it over the years), reclaiming all this time was a massive boost to my "work-life balance").

  • A VPN means I can work as effectively as being in the real office, and Skype makes interacting with colleagues almost as easy (although as other answers have touched on, it can be easier to fall "out of the loop" if you and your colleagues don't make a conscious effort not to let that happen).

The downsides:

  • There is a disconnect from actually being in the main office (again as mentioned in other answers: the overheard discussion to which you would have replied "I know the way to fix that..."; the social intercourse with colleagues is not the same).

  • There is a cost involved: as with "real" office space, this is going to vary by location. In my case, the monthly rental is near-enough the same as the cost of commuting to the new offices would have been (and slightly higher than the old commuting costs). For me, that slight increase is a small price to pay for the convenience of not having to commute every day.

Obviously everyone is different, but I can say co-working works very well for me, and should definitely be something to consider.

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    If your company pays for your co-working space they can make tax deductions...maybe they are willing to support them that cost. – Rui F Ribeiro Jul 20 '18 at 19:38
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    @RuiFRibeiro Is that the case in the UK? Even if they were to get some tax break, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't get the whole lot back, and because they don't require me to co-work, then (a) they're unlikely to pay for an office space for one person, and (b) I have a suspicion that them paying for it (when I could, at least in theory, work from home) may be seen as some type of "benefit in kind" and added to my tax burden. But as I say, in my case, it was close enough to the old commute cost, that -- with the other benefits -- made it really not worth worrying about. – TripeHound Jul 20 '18 at 19:58
  • This is a very helpful answer. Thanks very much for your insights - if I get the job, I will certainly look into coworking spaces. – Time4Tea Jul 21 '18 at 16:00
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This seems to be like the kind of decision where if you have to ask yourself if working 100% from home is for you, you know it's not for you.

That being said, if the job has other excellent options, like a significant increase in pay, or some other benefits then it might be worth considering even if it 100% work from home is a drag.

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    I disagree that considering the options is evidence that you should pick one option. It's a big change that could have advantages and drawbacks, and it could be unfamiliar territory if the OP doesn't do much remote work. I don't see how the question is much different from "How do I know if I should stay in academia?" or "What should I consider before starting a job with an open office plan?". I don't think gathering data to make an informed decision is evidence that you should have already decided. – Nuclear Wang Jul 18 '18 at 20:16
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    @NuclearWang I think the difference is, working from home 100% of the time specifically is one of those things where if you're hesitant about it much at all, it's a clear sign it's going to grate on you the more you do it. It's similar to taking a job with a long commute or one that involves talking on the phone with customers all day in that respect. There are just some things that are irritating to most people that you have to know you'd like them before you'd even consider trying them. – Kevin Jul 19 '18 at 4:41
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If you haven't done the work-from-home thing permanently than the shock of not being around people can be disconcerting.

My previous position was a six-month contract that was fully remote. This was after 21 years in an office complex with 4,500 people. The first week or so was very nice (loved the commute) and my dogs were extremely happy (dad's home, dad's home).

After about the 2nd week I was missing human interaction. I'd take my laptop to the local cafe to have a cup of coffee and work from there for the morning. This cut down on the boredom.

Once I started this I really liked the working-from-home and was sad to see the contract end.

In summation - only you know how you work and which environment will 'work' for you.

Good luck!

  • Thanks for your answer. Hmm .. yes, I can imagine how working from a coffee shop or library might help with the social aspect, and would also give that separation of home/work and help prevent me from getting distracted by home stuff. This is v helpful, thanks again. – Time4Tea Jul 18 '18 at 20:23
  • Another thought is that there may be other people in a similar position, working for this same company in my area. In which case, perhaps I can convince them to go to the same coffee shop and we could still meet and interact personally? Obviously will depend on their working style. – Time4Tea Jul 18 '18 at 20:28
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    @Time4Tea What you're describing is a coworking space. Generally you pay a monthly fee to get the use of desk in an office with other freelancers and remote workers along with a few other perks (free coffee, printing, social events). WeWork is the largest chain, but there will be a bunch in any city. – divibisan Jul 18 '18 at 23:55
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    @Time4Tea I'd find out whether you're expected to work with data that you're expected to "protect". It may well be that due to it being personal information or just company confidential stuff that they would not be happy with you working on in a public space. – Philbo Jul 19 '18 at 15:12
  • @divibisan thank you for your comment. I hadn't heard about coworking spaces before you mentioned it, but it sounds like it could be a great option, especially if I start this new role and start feeling a bit isolated/distracted. – Time4Tea Jul 21 '18 at 15:55
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I don’t have a frame work for making this decision but I can share my experiences working remotely by my self for two different employers.

When I faced the same situation I decided that couldn’t work at home by my self. I not a very social person so I don’t speed a lot of time with non-family outside of work. I knew if there were not people around me I would get lonely. I rented a desk in a shared office space so that I wasn’t alone for 8 hours a day. I could have water-cooler moments while working remotely.

An other important think to consider I how well the interactions with your co-workers and managers will be. Make sure your company is willing to have you physically meet regularly so that you feel you know each other. You must be able to build a trusting and empathic relationship with others. If not you will feel like you are working with strangers which is very stressful.

You will need to work hard at communicating with your co-workers. This may seem counter intuitive but if you think you are the sort of person who likes to work independently on projects this may not be a good opportunity. If you work independently while working remotely you will isolate yourself from knowing about and influencing important decisions. You will end up feeling like and been treated like a cog. Instead you need to want to work on team projects. This will force you to interact with people in other locations often and with rich exchanges of information.

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I have been working from home for 9 years. I have occasional travel to client offices but other than that I am glued to my screens... To answer your question; yes, it can be lonely and sometimes depressing. The conversation and discussing solutions to issues is missed. The humor, the banter, even gossip.

The perks, as answered, are great. If you are not stuck to a timeline and do not need to be available all the working day then you are free to choose what to do. You can get a lot done with no distractions. Make sure you fill the time saved with productivity.

Stay away from binge-ing Netflix and computer games. Plan your day ahead and keep to it. It can become so easy to get distracted. Head to the gym. Enjoy some sunshine. Just stay on plan, take lunch, regular breaks and keep the mind active.

The pay has to be good. Yeah, no commuting, no retail lunches and habitual morning snacks. You will save a LOT.

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Take a week or two off work and work on a project at home for 8 hours a day. See if you go crazy or just procrastinate the whole time. If you don't - go for it.

Alternatively see if your current workplace will allow you to work from home for a while.

  • I've just taken some vacation, so I'm not sure I can afford to take another week off right now. Working from home for an extended period might seem strange, without a good excuse. I feel like I probably am more productive in an office environment. – Time4Tea Jul 18 '18 at 18:24
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    Working on a private project is not really comparable to remote work where you might have to take part in conferences and otherwise communicate with your manager, colleagues and/or clients. – Llewellyn Jul 18 '18 at 19:39
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    @Llewellyn it's the closest you can get to it without actually having a remote work job though. – user1666620 Jul 18 '18 at 20:21
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In my last job with a small startup software studio most of the team preferred working from coffee shops or from home, I was consistently one of the only people in the office and I gave working from home a shot a few times.

What I found was that at home there are far far too many things to do other than work. I found that I need to have a formal environment to work in otherwise I simply don't work with any consistency, I'm always stopping up to make a drink, or put some music on, or responding to social media or really anything other than work.

My solution was to either work in the office (alone, most of the team never came in) or go to the public library and use the shared spaces there to ensure I had people around me and didn't go nuts.

This outcome was very predictable based on my hobbies. I paint a lot, but I can't do it at home for exactly the same reasons as being unable to work. I simply can't retain the focus. So I paint at a studio in town and only do preparation at home.

So if you find you can retain focus on a hobby for hours on end at home in the midst of all your life's distractions, then maybe working from home is for you, but if not. You should probably try and find an isolated environment to work in.

protected by IDrinkandIKnowThings Jul 20 '18 at 12:51

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