Ah, yes, working remotely. The bane of many employers before 2020 and the new normal now. If anything can be said about the health crisis that has been taking the world hostage for the past years, it has drastically changed how we do things (at least in our branch of work).
For me, a lot has changed during these past years too…
Before 'it' all started
Let’s go back a few years in time. The year is 2015, and the norm is working as a consultant at the main office or with a customer. Back then, most clients did ask for the implementation team to come sit at their main office to have close contact with the internal team and business.
And to be honest, that all made sense because everyone was at the office and video conferencing only happened occasionally. My average commute was 30-40 minutes, depending on traffic; compared to others, this is peanuts. My wife has to endure 90 minutes and more to get to her client’s location on a good day.
Depending on your role, that is a lot of “wasted” time. I have learned to use my commutes to have 1-1 talks with people (not much else to do except focus on the road), and yes, I use hands-free calling!
Those “short” commutes did come at a price, sort of speak. I started my days at 7 AM (waking up at 6 AM), so traffic was practically non-existent on my route. This allowed me to end my workday at around 15:30, so traffic would be manageable.
Thalia was born
Your routine needs to change when you put a child into the world! I was mentally prepared for this, but oh boy. The first six months didn’t change much since my wife was on maternity leave, but daycare came into the picture after that.
Getting to work at 7 AM wasn’t an option anymore as it only opened at 7. No problem! We’ll adapt.
The impact on my commute, however, was drastic. My 30 to 40-minute drives became 60 to 70 minutes on certain days. That is a huge difference! I also got an electric car then, and by 8 AM, all chargers were usually taken. An annoyance, but not too much of an issue as I had plenty of miles left.
Figuring it all out
Then it happened, lockdown! Daycare, schools, shops, and workplaces started closing their doors by government order. In a world where remote would happen every once and a while, everyone had to work remotely. What a change in pace, and I was not prepared.
My wife and I both work in IT consultancy, meaning we can work from anywhere. So, no problem. Right? It turns out that having a daughter that just learned to walk and can not be brought to daycare or grandparents can make it quite tricky.
What did we do? My wife worked out a schedule where we could still work full-time while taking care of the house and our daughter, but that meant working from about 7 AM until 10 PM, alternating between who takes care of the ‘household.’
We did this for eight weeks; I still need to understand how we managed to pull this off. NEVER AGAIN!!!!
After that, we decided to bend the rules and let the grandparents help (thank you!)
Luckily our company decided to embrace this new way of working entirely, and we got a complete set of working materials to do our thing at home:
- Standing desk
This made it a lot easier to organise our workspaces.
Now, at home, my and my wife’s desks face each other. This posed no problem when I was a developer working on his code and tapping on his keyboard all day.
But as a company, Forward grew even during COVID-19 times. My role quickly changed from developer to technical lead to architect to Head of Commerce.
And that is when something interesting happened. I went from just doing a daily standup to days full of meetings.
My wife, who is in a more functional role, also had meetings all day long. Which wasn’t a problem when I didn’t have any, but now we were constantly having meetings simultaneously.
To the point that people started to think that there was an extra person in the meeting.
So that you know, my wife is an SAP Consultant. I guess people in my sessions were learning SAP, and people in her meetings were learning about Salesforce.
After a while, I moved my desk to a separate room to prevent us from disturbing each other’s meetings. It was a shame, but some of the things discussed shouldn’t be heard in other meetings (especially since we don’t work for the same company).
The new normal: remote
Two years later, here we are. Thoroughly accustomed to remote work. And productivity has not plummeted as some anti-remote doomsday-sayers were predicting.
Even in my role, meetings are remote in 80% of the cases. And for many of them, it doesn’t even make sense to go to the office just to be locked up in a separate room all day. I can do that perfectly fine at home!
I usually go to the office when I hardly have a meeting to be approachable for my team to ask questions or chat.
Less stress in the mornings
When I work from home, I get a lot more time to spend with my children (yes, during COVID, my son Thano was born) and to have breakfast at an average pace. (Though my daughter wants to break the record of slowest eater sometimes)
Instead of cramming everything into an hour, I have two hours to prepare everything for school and work. Sure I have to work later than I used to, but I’m home.
Woohoo! I don’t have to face rush-hour traffic!
The future of remote work
But now that COVID-19 lockdowns and regulations are being removed, companies appear to be pushing to go to the office again. Luckily for me, that isn’t the case, and we can decide for ourselves!
But it is a consultancy firm; if a customer asks to work at the office, there is not much we can do against that except to put on the negotiation glasses.
It’s hard to say where this will go, but remote work is here to stay. And that is a good thing! We have all the proof now that working from home does not negatively impact productivity; for many people, it has increased productivity a lot!
Side note: Events are back! Wooohooo!