1. Hey, can you please introduce yourself?
Hello 👋🏻 I’m Taras! I’m a founder and director of a startup called Calbot. We make a bot that schedules meetings for you and also protects your schedule and time to give you deep work. I’ve been in the UK for 11 years, and in the past 5 was studying Management and Computer Science at the University of Leeds. It was a great mix of subjects!
Whilst at university, I also ran another business called Crypto Daddy which is an online store for crypto-related merch. It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed the dynamism and agility of the crypto scene, but that business was very different from what I do now. In 2018 I sold Crypto Daddy to focus on my last year of university. This also gave me time to apply for the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa which allowed me to stay in the UK after I graduated to start a software company which is something I always wanted to do 😁
2. What motivated you to choose remote working?
I never really liked working in an office. Sitting in front of a computer all day was super boring for me and I wanted a bit more movement (both physically and metaphorically) in my life. I remember reading about Parkinson’s Law which says that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” and thinking that my time in the office is exactly that.
I could complete the tasks from management quickly and be done with it, but then they would give me more stuff to do, so why would I? Plus, the job was 9-5 and I couldn’t just leave earlier if I was done with everything, so again, why would I do the job quickly?
As a result of that discontent with the “traditional” working environment I knew that I wasn’t going to be a good “traditional” worker (nothing wrong with it, it just wasn’t for me!). And so, I started looking for ways to work on my terms. Turned out that starting my own business and doing it remotely was the answer!
3. What were your initial months like? Did it live up to your expectations?
I thought that working on my own business and working remotely was going to be amazing, but the first few months were actually a bit tough. I felt very guilty for waking up late and not working at the time “when you are supposed to”.
However, slowly, afterwards, I started to get into it and stopped feeling guilty about finishing work early or starting work late. The thing that helped me overcome it was, again, Parkinson’s law. I realised that I was “packing” a lot more work done into 1 hour with a 4-5 hour work day than I was in 1 hour in an 8 hour work day in the office.
This gave me more time to do activities outside of typical working hours without feeling guilty about them. For example, I started running between 3-4pm everyday in the park, which was brilliant, because the park is fairly empty at that time because everyone is at work. I can imagine this is also the case for gyms, swimming pools, etc. This change in outlook has completely shifted the way I look at time and helped me get into remote working more.
4. What have been the best, good and worst aspects of remote working for you?
I think the freedom it gives you is the best thing. I can work from anywhere in the world (subject to WiFi availability) and at any time which is awesome. In the last 8 months I visited Vilnius and Trakai in Lithuania, Krakow in Poland, Belfast in Northern Ireland, many different places in Iceland (obligatory northern light photo attached) and am soon going to Southampton.
But it is not all sunshine and rainbows. I think the worst part of remote working is the inability to disconnect. Because of different timezones people might message you early in the morning or late in the evening and you just have to reply because otherwise it will bug you for the rest of the day/ night.
I learnt to just turn notifications off for my emails, Messenger, WhatsApp, Slack, etc, and this helps a lot. Plus, I (obviously) use Calbot for scheduling meetings, so I never have to wake up at awkward hours for a video meeting or call.
The other annoying bit of remote working is visas and laws. I feel immigration laws are very much outdated when it comes to working remotely abroad. Unnecessary laws, outdated tax-policies and visa requirements are ruining what could be a world where people can come into the country for both work and leisure. Otherwise, at the moment, you need to get a tourist visa or a work visa. But then, if you stay in the country for more than 90 days and they suspect you are working there they might want to tax you on your income.
5. What tools do you swear by while working remotely?
Our team uses Slack for communication and I always have it open on my computer. However, their mission of “killing” is far from being achieved. Everyone still uses email and they will no matter what Slack does.
My email client of choice is Spark. It’s clean, has delayed send features, reminders, templates and helps me keep my inbox tidy. However, I am still mad at Google for killing Inbox!
Microsoft ToDo is brilliant as well. I tried Notion as well and I didn’t get it. Too many features and too bloated. Is it a todo list? Is it a note-taking app? Who knows? MS ToDo is simple and clean. That’s all I need.
My browser of choice is Brave. It’s based on Chromium and so has all the extensions and plugins, but it’s noticeably faster and doesn’t spy on you.
Microsoft OneNote is awesome as well. It’s simple and clean and has a straightforward system of sorting notes.
And I also use Calbot for scheduling meetings. Unlike Doodle or Calendly it is amazing at scheduling all types of meetings. Instead of asking people to vote on their availability, whilst you pray that everyone votes for the same slot, it filters down on each participants’ availability to find a slot that works for everyone. Plus, we are also testing a feature that protects your time and allows you to do deep work instead of being constantly distracted by meetings.
6. What is your golden advice to a new remote worker?
Plan your time very well. I really like planning every minute of my day (which could be too much for people), but it is essential that you know exactly when things need to be done and how long it will take you to complete them. Block off time in your calendar for work and make sure that that time is in one big chunk. Eliminate all distractions and hold yourself accountable for the deadlines in your work.
7. How do you expect remote working to evolve in the future?
Hopefully more people will get into it and it will become more commonplace. Corona has definitely given it a boost as more people have realised that they can actually do the same job, but from home (or from anywhere else).
Maybe, because of so many people working from home, we will also, finally stop being the slaves of Parkinson’s law which forces us to spread our work between a typical 9-5 and actually get to the Keynesian 15-hour work week?
I also hope that governments around the world will realise that current taxation, visa, immigration, data protection and work laws are completely incompatible with remote working. I think we are going in the direction where more people, teams and companies are becoming remote. Yet, things like EU’s data protection laws are clearly holding us back by enforcing unnecessary and bureaucratic regulations that only make life more difficult for startups, remote workers and remote companies.