What I really like about Eric’s article is that it’s written from the experience of someone, like me, who has worked remotely for years. Because right now I’m seeing so many articles talk about how awful working from home is, without being aware that this is not the norm when it comes to remote working:
“Most importantly, flexibility is going to be key. So is empathy.
Working from home on a regular basis is very different from working remotely or “Home Office Fridays.” The kids aren’t in school and I’m certainly not going to a coffee shop to pick up a latte with a side of coronavirus (the number of people still clogging the Starbucks drive thru is seriously confusing me). It is impossible to work between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in my house — it’s too loud, too chaotic, and no good can come from shouting people down from their shouting. They’re kids and it’s the end of the day.”
I recently saw another article that, sadly, led with the “news” that working from home means a huge jump in cases of depression, based on one study of freelancers in the UK. So now that all of these companies have shown that it can work, and they want to decrease real estate costs, they’re going to force everyone to go home and work from there, where they will be all alone and depressed.
Now, notwithstanding the fact that working freelance is not the same as being part of a remote team, they also made the fatal mistake of thinking WFH = zero social interaction, which it doesn’t.
Right now, it kind of does though. Normally, if I needed some extra social interaction, as Eric describes I could go work at Starbucks for an hour or two, smile and chit-chat with the barista, or other customers, etc. I could go meet a friend for drinks after work, we could hop in the car and head down to New Orleans or out into other parts of the state on Saturday morning, etc.
None of that is happening, which makes this seem more “lonely” than it might otherwise be.
As Eric also points out, for many people the “stress” of work from home is the fact that the whole family is home. Rather than a place of quiet focus away from the office, parents now basically have their kids at work all day.
Again, really not the norm for remote working.
One other area that he doesn’t mention, but that my wife and I were discussing last night, is when you normally work from home, you have the opportunity to have a work space that fits your needs. When I got hired to work remotely, the company sent me a docking station for my SurfaceBook, two monitors, a better webcam, a headset, etc. I bought myself an adjustable standing desk. (That header photo above, is my monitor setup, because this is where I work, every day.) I have an office area which is where I do work, and the rest of the house where I “don’t” work. For many companies working from home now meant take your laptop home and don’t come in. They don’t have any of that, they are working at kitchen tables, with one small laptop screen, or from a spare bedroom, or their own bedroom, etc. Again, if you were doing this all the time, you’d have a better plan in place, and companies supporting it would provide better setups.
Are there challenges to working remotely all of the time? Sure. There are some adjustments that need to be made in terms of getting out of the house, having an end point to your workday, and sticking to it, making sure you communicate with your team, etc.
None of them are insurmountable.
In short, I want to use Eric’s experience to remind you that what you see right now on your coworkers webcams, and in their frustrations, isn’t because they are working from home, it’s because we are all living in the middle of a pandemic, and trying to get work done.
This is not normal.