Remotely Productive: You can work from home | Jay Hayes | TEDxWilsonPark


I’ve come here to tell you that working from home works. It’s a reality and it’s here to stay. You can do it. Now I’m not suggesting that you have to go start a small business or become the next internet superstar. You can have a fulfilling successful career with large thriving companies right there in your home or on the road. It really doesn’t matter where you live or go. Do you have doubts? Well hear me out. 

I’ve been doing this for quite a while now and honestly I couldn’t be happier as an employee, a husband or a dad. Hey I’m Jay Hayes I’ve been working six years fully remote. With another couple years partially remote in that time I’ve seen remote work done really well and not so well.

My first job out of college was with a pretty big company in rocket city, Huntsville Alabama and while I was there I actually ended up getting an apartment that was right next door so I would get up in the morning and either walk or ride my bike. There was a real small clearing to get to the office I couldn’t have been any closer. You know this is probably why eventually I decided not to put up with the commute

I had it really good. Then life happened as it does. I proposed to my beautiful wife and we decided to move to Florence Alabama so we packed up my little apartment and moved our life 70 miles away from my job. My commute went from two minutes to two hours. I loved the company and I loved my job but I felt like I was growing and I decided to stick it out. Now thankfully I work in the tech industry and if there’s any industry that’s right for remote work it’s this one. 

You know I spend a lot of time working quietly on the computer but another part of my work is communication and there is an endless list of communication tools out there ready to help you get things done new ones come out all the time. Don’t fret if this sounds really hard. I mean honestly it is really hard but there is already a wealth of great companies out there that have this baked right into their culture. You know remote work creates an opportunity to work with these amazing places that you may not know and even exist. And it’s a really amazing opportunity. 

I remember when I was first starting at after college getting into my career I felt this pull. I felt this distinct pull as if I needed to leave in order to achieve my hopes and dreams and honestly that was exactly the advice that I was given. You know that pull can also cause some of our most talented people in our community to pack up and leave town. And really we want those people to stay here and contribute to our local community. You know remote work, it levels the playing field. I’m pretty young and I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing companies. I’ve worked with people who are the best of the best in their industries. And all of this without having to pack up and relocate my family all over the country. In fact in a way my salary is funneling money from these big economies, these bigger cities, right back into our own local economy.

So after a couple years of doing the remote thing I realized pretty quickly that this commute it just wasn’t going to scale for the life I wanted to live. My wife and I had started a small business and we decided to move on. The company that I was with at the time they actually allowed me to work just a couple of days from home every week but funny enough the project that I was on was actually with a team that was located in Washington DC. So I would make that commute still three days a week to get on the phone and work remote. In hindsight it seems kind of ridiculous that that’s what I had to do but I don’t blame them. They didn’t know any better. l don’t know if it had a negative effect on me, but it felt pretty crummy. In fact some days I would go to the office and my coworkers would poke fun at me.

Could you imagine right they would say things like “Oh Jay nice of you to show up today” and “look you’re wearing pants AHA.” Yes I’m wearing pants, yeah I knew that they didn’t really mean anything negative by it, but it still had this nasty effect on me. 

I later read the book why work sucks and how to fix it by Kelly Ressler. She called a term for this: she calls it sludge. Those are her words and she uses a word that kind of paints this picture of something nasty and sticky because that’s exactly how those words made me feel. 

It was awful. One of the biggest benefits of remote work is the freedom that it gives you; it puts you in control. You know it doesn’t matter how overbearing your boss or your coworkers can be. Ultimately they can’t be standing in your home, looking over your shoulders putting pressure on you.

The worst case scenario is maybe they’re on the phone or on the computer and you can turn those things off. This is a powerful boundary that puts you in control of how you work and how you control your time and your attention. It’s a really important boundary that you have to maintain in order to stay productive. You know like any skill, consistently productive remote work is one that improves with time and experience. Like I said, I’m six years into this thing and I’m really still trying to figure out how work fits in life.

Let’s talk about life for a moment. I have been working from home for a while now and it’s really tempting to allow your work to become your life you know and this is especially true for remote workers because you’re working right there in the house. You know life is going on around you and if you’re not tempting you can lose the boundary between work and life and ultimately lose yourself.

There’s really nothing that has been more powerful to help me emphasize that boundary than working from home. I love my wife and I love that on many days we’re just a shout around the corner from one another. It’s a privilege that we get to work in close proximity and I believe that our relationship skills can be attributed to that proximity. But regardless you have to maintain a healthy boundary in order to stay productive. Never underestimate the power of getting out of the house.

You’re in control. You know if you need to go work from anywhere go, go explore your city. Find new places to work from. In fact I’ve recently taken up walking meetings and the idea is if I have a meeting that doesn’t require my hands on the keyboard then I’ll just get out of the house and take my phone.

Listen in on the meeting, grab a little bit of exercise along the way. Speaking of exercise, you have time. Now this is a huge benefit of remote work if you’re not commuting then you will have more time. It’s the math you know. Take advantage of this exercise. Cook good meals, spend more time with your family, but remember that your health isn’t limited to your body. You also have a soul and your emotions and it can get out of shape just like your body can.  So fine time for alignment to exercise your soul and oh yeah get dressed. This has got to be the most fun thing to make fun of when it comes to remote workers.  And I gotta be honest: the temptation is real you know. If you’re not gonna get out of the house what’s the point, why waste the time right? I will tell you it’s because you will feel so much better about yourself it’s just like exercise or treating yourself to a small indulgence.

Finding the time to get dressed in the morning will be a huge boost of your confidence and your energy. It’s well worth the time. So you know, as you begin settling into this new lifestyle of working remotely you’ll probably want to start iterating on it. You know you have a number of working hours. How can you replace some of those working hours with more living hours? Never underestimate the power of changing environments. You know I’ve said it already, but get out of the house. In fact the author Mark Patterson of the book the Circle Maker created a formula for this. Math is useful he says; a change of pace plus a change of place is equal to a change of perspective.

I found that that is absolutely true. I also recently took up bullet journaling and it’s really changed how I keep a record of my day. You know that I’ve been productive and the specifics of bullet journaling aside don’t really matter. The real value of it is at the end of the day you know that you’ve gotten something done. It’s really powerful to know that. So do you think are you ready to try working from anywhere? You know, make sure your company is already on board with the idea.

That’s great and give it a shot to see what processes fit really well with the distributed team. And what you might have to tweak in order to make it work well. Or maybe you’re not interested in remote work, well that’s ok. I would still encourage you to support the idea because you may have colleagues that could really benefit from the flexibility. You know, consider a single parent that has a hard time finding consistent childcare or maybe someone with a physical disability that makes it very difficult to leave their house. Remote work can change their life.

So I would encourage you to support it. You know it’s not about being lazy, no it’s the exact opposite. Remote work is about working really hard on your terms. It’s about freedom. Maybe the company that you work for doesn’t support remote work. You’re already on board well with the challenge. You might be helping by trying to convince them that it’s a good thing to do. I would encourage you to do this if you know you can convince your companies to support the freedom. Yet you know it’s past your manager. A copy of the book Why Work Sucks or asks “try the five why’s technique” on them. You know, ask why do we have to attend meetings in person? You can really get to the root of the problem. 

So how could remote work change your life or your career? You could be a better employee, a better spouse, a better parent. This isn’t about the life we’re living only or this isn’t about the work we’re doing. It is about the life we’re living and work

Unless you’re really privileged you’re going to work. So change your story from work is life to work is just a part of life. It’s the part that lets me live the life I want to live. Thank you so much for your time and attention. I hope that this has encouraged you. I’ve found that remote work has changed my life for the better. No question there are days that are challenging, but I have a hard time imagining work any other way. It works


Fred splits his corporate time between the office and his WFH office. He believes that a few days of working remotely is a great way to boost productivity and employee happiness. Fred started WFH Adviser in order to share insights and products with people who are beginning their WFH journey.

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