I see a lot of discussions happening, and they have been going on now for some time, around working from home or remote working. For a lot of people, it seems this is a new idea, happening due to our current pandemic. However, that is not quite true.
For many years, I am one of those that have argued for allowing workers do their job, from home. Mostly this has fallen on deaf ears. To a large extent, it still does! Why is this?
Let’s look at the benefits, from the employees perspective. Well, at least, my perspective, since I can’t really talk about anyone else.
Of course, this applies to the masses that are desk bound during their working hours. If your work is not, then needless to say this post does not apply to you.
For me, it starts with the commute. Here in Dublin, I would regularly have to spend an hour and a half just to get into the office. Of course, about the same time to get home. That is 3 hours of my day, which of course I am not being paid for either. Yet I have to spend this time in order to do my job. During winters it is pure nasty to be in a bus in Dublin. Every is sweaty, coughs and sneezes and because it is too warm for a lot of people, the windows are opened, causing a small tornado inside the bus. Perfect growing ground for a flu, or worse in this day and age, covid.
Working from home means I don’t need to spend this time sitting in a bus. I can sleep a bit longer. I can have my breakfast in peace and quiet. No stress. I also do not catch any illnesses due to being on a crowded bus. I also don’t get soaked when the torrential rains hit Dublin. All of these are wins in my book.
Food is next. It means having lunch out, daily. Another cost, and time suck. Everyone has lunch at the same time in a big city. Meaning queues, stress, and regularly eating at my desk. Not really pleasant either, and usually the quality of the food is somewhat less quality than I’d like to have, but what can you do?
Working from home means I can order in healthy and high quality ingredients for my lunch. I can prepare it myself, knowing it is healthy food. Eating healthy means more energy for my working day. I can focus better, I can work longer (if/when needed), and I stay healthier. Means I am less likely to need a sick day from work too.
At the end of my working day, being in the office means I once again have to chase down a bus, stay and wait for a bus (no matter the weather), and then stress to get to where I need to be next. If I have anything else for that evening that I need to get to, I now have an hour and a half less in order to get there on time. This means stressing, maybe jumping in the car and drive like a knuckle head to get somewhere on time.
Why don’t you just drive into work then?
Well, first of all, you need to park somewhere for the day. A lot of companies in town only have limited parking spaces, if any at all! Which means street parking which is quite expensive. Driving through Dublin in rush hour is also magnitudes slower than taking the bus. So, you get zero benefit time wise to take the car. Dublin City is also constantly changing the road layout, slowly but surely forcing out cars from city centre, where most of the offices are located. This makes driving in Dublin City not just slow, but also very frustrating and stressful.
Working from home, I am utterly removed and isolated from the time suck and stress associated with driving back home after a long day, and no need to be stressed about going to the next thing I have on for the day. It is an absolute win for me.
Planning my day
All of a sudden, my day gets clearer. I have an additional 3 hours I can spend on me or my family. I have more money in my pocket. I have less stress in my life. I have much more flexibility on where I can live, which directly contributes to quality of life and to my personal finances. And I can go and take a delivery at any point in time of the day. Long gone are the days of going to the post office to pick up a package because they tried delivering it when I was working.
How about work then?
Since I can get more rest, and a whole lot less stress, before I even get into the office, it means I can focus much better. I can prepare my morning in such a way I go in head first into the mornings raft of over night emails. I can the work through what needs to be done that day and get started on it.
As I have redone one of the bedrooms into a home office, I have a space where I can focus completely undisturbed on my work. I no longer get pulled into things, causing me to lose my thread on what I was doing, forcing me to spend time as I get back to it on checking where the heck I was. Each interruption costs around 15 minutes worth of time to get back into the rhythm one was in. Removing these interruptions is invaluable to getting things done and out of the way for the next thing coming around the corner.
Instead most of my communications are now done over emails or chat messages. Which means I can respond when I have a moment to do so, instead of being impolite when someone is pulling my elbow at my desk.
For discussions and information sharing with my peers, we can schedule a time that suits all of us. Much better than being interrupted, or interrupting someone else, because most people have time now, but that one person. Once a meeting is scheduled, we simply use video conferencing. All of a sudden, we have removed the need to be in the office simply to discuss this one item, for half an hour.
Meetings are the bane of the busy worker. Removing meetings means more time to focus on the work, and not the chatter. Meetings should be on a single topic, time bound and focused on resolving that one topic and get everyone on the same page. In the office, lots of meetings are “status updates” or “catch up” style meetings, which would be better served if there only was a way to share information effectively along with effective project tracking. Oh, yes, we do have those!
Project tracking tools and documentation systems help massively with sharing the information that you and others need. Document everything! Keep your tickets / project management tool updated with as much details as you can add in there. These tools can give you timelines of delivery of items, where are the operational documents, decisions taken along the way with reasoning behind each decision. Using these can reduce the time meetings take up drastically allowing every employee to focus more on the tasks they are hired to do. Rather than sit and chat about things that have less importance.
How many times have you been in a meeting that had low to no relevance to your job, and didn’t say a single word? I bet quite a few times. Waste of your time. You will never get back that time, and your deadlines are now that bit closer without you having done work in this time period. Utter waste.
Meetings can be drastically reduced, giving me much more time to spend on really figuring out that task at hand, plan it out, document it properly, work through the task, and see and understand better if there is other work that should be done along side it or because of it.
Stop wasting your employees time in meetings!
Meetings can, and are, really effective in a work force that works remote, simply because they value their own time and don’t want to waster other peoples time for no good reason. In other words, much more effective meetings. Video conferencing software and tools today are much more effective than they were even a couple of years ago. Using them wisely is a key factor in being able to work efficiently and productively.
A lot of the people complaining about working from home or remotely are those that feel they need social interaction through the day. For me, this doesn’t hold true. In reality, if I want to be social, I’ll ask you to go to the pub for a few scoops or come on over and we’ll have dinner. But this is me. Others have a need to see and hear other people near them, or simply being able to get out of the house for a day or so. Working remotely does not negate those needs, or the possibilities for such social interactions. For some people, working from a cafe once in a while is enough. For others they would prefer to go into the office regularly. I can’t say here which works best for anyone but myself. For me, I prefer to be able to put on loud music and just get into my work.
Managers that complain about working from home options seem to be complaining mostly because they do not believe their staff can be as effective at home as in the office. To those managers, I think you’re in the wrong profession. If your staff can’t work effectively when being remote, how will that improve when being in the office? It has been proven during this pandemic that productivity has gone up by quite a lot. The statistics on this is there, and is quite overwhelmingly in favour of working from home, if your job is desk bound as mine is. Being able to hang over their shoulders will not help them get work done, it will however stress them out and get them burnt out much faster than being able to work in a more relaxed environment.
Some people make points around needing to have space in your home for the office, costs of utilities should be paid by the employer and so on. What I have found is that apart from needing the space, you need a good desk and chair, a good monitor and a decent webcam. If you’re in IT, somehow my guess that you already have this is not too far off the mark. Especially if you geek out about IT “stuff” like I do. However, for a lot of people IT is just a job that makes them decent money. I am going to be a little dismissive though. Getting these items, your company likely pay for it, or towards it at least. It is worth spending a bit to have a good working environment, and really, the desk and chairs in most offices are really subpar and utter shite. In most cases they barely pass the minimum requirement that is put upon them and used well beyond the time they should be thrown out. Some offices have good equipment, but they are a lot easier to count.
As for paying for your utilities, from what I have noticed, my bills have not really changed since I started working from home full time. It is more a cry for “being fair” to the workers than anything. Which I can agree with. At the same time, the difference for me has been negligible and not even worth the time it takes to get compensated for the difference.
Indeed, I see very few drawbacks to working from home or remote.
Benefits however, I see many more of, and all of them help me do my job that much better and effectively.
Am I critical? You bet I am. If that didn’t show through reading all of the above, I would consider that a failing on my part. It is meant to be critical. Having tried advocating for this for years, having wanted to live on the country side instead of in a city, I even had one boss ready to fire me if I moved out of the city. Despite him saying it was fine for me to move, that me working remote was not a problem. But why am I so critical? Well, my work does take up quite a lot of my time every day. If I am not passionate about what I do, why I do it, and how I do it, why should I do it? Id’ be in the wrong place if I wasn’t passionate about what I do. It is why this is so important for me, because it is a big part of my life. If I didn’t care, this blog post wouldn’t even be here.