I believe in working remotely, too.

We've now been living at our new house in Bray for almost two months now and we're happily settling in. The move to Ireland has had almost no impact on my work because I've built freistil IT as a virtual company from the get-go. It really doesn't matter where our team members do their work; it only matters that they do a great job.

Being able to freely move to another place is only one of the advantages we have as a distributed team. In his post on the Stack Exchange blog, David Fullerton lists several more reasons “Why We (Still) Believe in Working Remotely”:

  • It lets you hire good people who can’t move. Maybe they've just bought a house or they need to take care of a family member. Not being able to hire people who've made a commitment doesn't make any sense to me.
  • You don’t lose people to silly things like their significant other going to medical school. Or like fulfilling their wish of moving to another country…
  • When done right, it makes people extremely productive. We've built freistilbox with a team of three doing everything from IT architecture to payment processing and accounting. The flexibility of our work environment helped us not getting burnt out despite many challenges.
  • It makes you focus on more than butts in chairs. Big companies like Yahoo! and HP recently called their remote workers back into offices with the explanation that this will make their teams more effective. I think that's nonsense. “Going into office” doesn't equal good work and “counting butts in chairs” doesn't equal good management.

David goes on with giving some insight into their learnings and how they collaborate. I highly recommend reading the whole post.

Here are a few more reasons why we, too, think that the benefits of working remotely outweigh its disadvantages:

  • It makes expenses more effective. Instead of paying for more and more office space, we rather put money into the tools that make us more flexible and productive (powerful laptops, mobile internet access, collaboration software, coffee machines).
  • It makes teamwork multi-threaded. It's like parallel processes in an operating system: Once you have the “inter-process communication”, i.e. collaboration tools and processes, in place, each team member can work independently without relying on everyone being readily available at the opposite desk.
  • It makes choosing the right things easier. My family is the most important thing in my life. Back when I was working in an office, I could not go home just to babysit for half an hour while my precious had a haircut. Today, a haircut can be an opportunity for both of us to take a break from our usual responsibilities.

I'm the first one to admit that running a distributed team has its challenges. And there are ways to master them. If you'd like to know more, please leave your question in the comments!

Want to make more awesome from whereever you're the most happy? Join our team!

Just say “Hi”

For many introverts, it’s incredibly difficult to start a conversation with people they don’t already know. Paul Campbell recently wrote about this inner conflict in his blog post “Hi, I’m Obie”. I can relate very much because I feel the same when I’m at conferences, especially with people who I admire and would really love to get to know better. I remember so many occasions when I tried to join a group conversation, stood there for a while not knowing what to say and finally backed away, slightly embarrassed and disappointed about myself.

Paul then describes a watershed moment:

He put out his hand to shake my hand, looked me in the eye, and said “Hi, I’m Obie”. “Hi, I’m Paul.” I had never felt so loved.

In this moment, Paul had an epiphany: You don’t need to do extraordinary stuff to get in touch with people. Just say “Hi”.

Introducing yourself by name at a conference might not seem like a huge deal, but for me, it was just the recipe I needed to break the ice, to avoid the “what do I say now?” question.

I had the same insight start of last year, after reading a great ebook. It made a big change about which I wrote in “How to survive and succeed at conferences as an introvert”.

As IT guys, we’re familiar with the principle of breaking big tasks down into small parts that are easier to handle. The thing is, we can apply the “divide et impera” principle to the conversation problem, too: Instead of trying to tackle a whole group at once, just pick a person, stick out your hand and say “Hi, I’m $NAME.” I can assure you, noone will answer with “Yes? And?”

Except maybe if there’s such a thing as professional asshole conferences. But then again, you might not want to attend these anyway.

A new home

We’ve finally moved into our new house in Bray!

When we saw the property ad, still back in Germany, we immediately liked the house and didn’t expect at all that it would still be available when we’d arrive in Ireland. But after landing in Dublin on August 3rd and patiently waiting until the weekend and following bank holiday had passed, we actually got a viewing appointment. The house was still occupied by a Chinese family and we felt it was a great home for our family, too. When we left, the property agent, James McMahon, suggested we go up the street where we found a lovely little park and discussed our options. We decided to apply for the lease and went to see the local beach, excited what would happen now. What happened was that, after about an hour or so, James called me, saying “You can relax now, you got a home.” I was almost speechless. We still needed to provide a reference from our previous landlord but it looked as if everything was going great!

Of course, the current tenants needed to move out first, so even as we had landed a hit at first try, we still had to spend some time at the Dublin International Youth Hostel where we had booked a private family room. We had a good stay and put the time to good use by visiting interesting places like the Dublin Zoo.

During these two weeks, I found a great coworking space in Dublin named TCube where I spent some hours trying to get into working mode again (with moderate success). I’m certainly going to pop in again when I get to Dublin. I even got to experience the amazing networking effects that make coworking spaces so awesome: When I told him that I thought about forming an Irish business, Barry, who’s running the place, immediately suggested to introduce me to an accountant who is a regular visitor himself. After a few rounds of email, Richard is now preparing the paperwork for freistil IT Ltd.

We could get our hostel room only until Friday of the second week because it had already been fully booked out for the weekend after. Since James needed a few extra days to have cleaning and repairs taken care of, we had to find interim accommodation. We checked the other An Oige hostels in Ireland and found that Glendalough International Hostel had a room. We took the St. Kevin’s bus (everything around Glendalough has “Kevin” in its name) down to the Wicklow Mountains and found the hostel nicely located just off the historic monastery site. There weren’t nearly as many people at the hostel as in Dublin but those we learned to know were more than lovely. All four of us had so much fun! The hostel owner even offered to drive us to Bray with her car, gave us a few bedsheets for the first nights and a lot of good tips. Kind people like Trish are one of the reasons we’re moving to Ireland.

At both hostels, we did mostly self-catering which was quite time-consuming but also far more affordable than eating out all the time. It’s also more wholesome but I’ll freely admit that we had our share of white bread and jam, chips and candy. I was afraid that I’d gain back quite a few of those 12 kilos I had lost since June. Having now unpacked my scale, it turns out that I’ve actually lost some more grams!

Our new home is a lovely little house with 3 bedrooms. The smallest has become my home office and the other one belongs to the children. We have a spacious kitchen with dining area and a nice living room. Additional to the main bathroom, there’s a shower next to our bedroom and a guest WC under the stairs. In the back, we’ve also got a small garden. It’s certainly a great improvement over our shoebox in Freiburg. Boy, is it weird how many steps I have to take to get a cup of tea from the kitchen and back to my desk upstairs. There is an “upstairs” to begin with!

The house is located in a nice and quiet neighborhood and I guess there’s quite a number of kids around that Amalia will get acquainted with.

Moving in has not been all rosy, though, because the previous tenants left quite a mess behind, especially in the kitchen. But so far, James helped us get everything sorted out.

Tomorrow, Amalia will start school and she’s already pretty excited to be a big girl now. We’re curious how quickly she’ll learn the language as soon as she’s properly motivated by meeting other kids her age.

So, we’ve arrived and we’re happy. Hello Ireland, nice to meet you!

Ireland, here we come!

How exciting! Later today, we’ll board our Air Lingus flight to Dublin. With one-way tickets. Besides our children, we’re bringing with us just two big backpacks and a bit of carry-on with the most essential things. Everything else waits packed in boxes at our parents for the day when we have our own Irish address.

Until we find a new home, we’ll be staying at the Dublin International Hostel. We’ll see how long it will take us to find a decent house in Bray. I’m a bit nervous about that particular task, but since all of the Irish people I’ve talked to were quite optimistic, I’m confident as well. And, honestly, a bit of uncertainty is part of the adventure!

For up-to-date news on our journey, follow me on this blog, on FourSquare and on Facebook!