I left the office at Friday the 6th of March 2020 thinking I would be back after Holi on the 11th of March. My laptop stand, keyboard and mouse are still on the desk where I left them. Little did I know that this was the start of a very long period of working from home. It has been over a year, which makes it a good time to take a look back at how working from home changed my life.
A normal day of going to the office started around 7.30. I would wake up, take a shower, make breakfast and leave. It takes about half an hour to get to the office. After a coffee, I would spend time at my desk and have casual conversations with colleagues. At the end of the day I would have completed 60% of the things I wanted to do that day. Then there is the commute back around 6, arrive before my girlfriend would, make dinner and end the day, usually exhausted.
I do not miss the commute at all. Yes I would spend the commute listening to podcasts, I do miss that. I do not miss being stuck in traffic, and I love the extra time I get back for it.
At the start of the lockdown, we were allowed to go outside once a week. This forced us to go into a rhythm of doing groceries once a week, usually during the weekend. With both us being home for all three meals, it means we get to decide together what we want to eat. I underestimated how good it feels to cook and eat healthy food together with my significant other.
Staying at home also meant less physical exercise, at least at the start. I’m a big fan of bouldering and would love to that at least twice a week. We decided to start with yoga. After watching Craig Benzine try yoga for a month, we started with giving the 30 days of yoga from Yoga With Adrienne a chance. It stuck. We have been doing yoga every day for almost a year now. At the end of our working day, we go for a 45-minute walk around our society.
Making a distinction between work-time and private-time requires effort. Especially here in India. Going home would mark the end of a working day, but when you work from home, these lines can blur. The fact that you work from home means, at least for some of my colleagues, that you would be available all day. Being Dutch, I highly value my work-life balance. I work to live, not the other way around. My girlfriend on the other hand seems to be in a more difficult situation. Her clients and colleagues appear to start their working day when we would like to end it, resulting in endless phone calls and e-mails while making dinner or going for a walk.
Another important distinction between work and private life is where you perform your work. We just moved into our house, had the bare minimum furniture, which did not include a desk or even a dinner table and chairs. Working from the couch it was, or actually, it is. I asked office multiple times if my desk and chair from the office could be moved to home, as it not used where it is now. Unfortunately they did not allow this. Writing this make me realise I should buy a desk and chair, it has been too long on the sofa.
When I go for my next contract negotiations, I am going to negotiate a compensation for maintaining an office at home. After all, if a company doesn’t have to provide an office, they could at least provide a workable environment. India can be hot in the summers. This means that during summer we turn on the air conditioning all day every day. Who knew you could spend almost 300 euros a month on electricity?
Not having to travel to and from work freed up a lot of time and mind-space. That is the reason I could start writing this blog. As a senior consultant, I am expected to be writing blog posts about technology. While at work I was not able to find the time for deep-work. Now, I am amazed at how much easier it is to write a blog post without the distractions of an office with people and coffee.
Talking about coffee, I’ve come to realise it is very much a social activity to me. I would usually drink about 4 or 5 cups a day. At home, we start the day with one French press with hand ground coffee, and that’s it. The rest of the day I drink water and sometimes a cup of tea.
I am now working on my third project which is completely remote. At the first project I worked with some colleagues that I had met at the office, and some had not met. Striking a conversation with them over chat or video-call was easy and came naturally. The second project was my first full-remote project. The client was a company in Mumbai, where I worked with colleagues from all over the country. I have never met any of them, and video-calls did not come naturally. At my current project, we have a daily stand-up with our videos on.
Socializing is important. Being able to the people you interact with has become very important for me. When you go to the office, or to the office of a client, you get a feeling for how things work. You get introduced to people you might need to work or interact with, and can easily approach them. If you don’t put in the effort to give the same welcome while working remotely, it can give an alienating feeling.
Any company with mostly remote working employees needs to put in a good amount of effort to make sure the developer culture will be nurtured. Failing at this right might not seem to have that much of an effect yet, but this is going to be the most important task of an employer. If you can work from, where you provide your office, then what is the role of your employer? I can see three main tasks for my employer: be able to provide interesting projects, enable me to become a better version of myself, and create a healthy working culture with colleagues and clients. If my employer fails to provide these, it is time to move on.
I started this blog writing about the things that I know, venturing into the things that I want to know. I got a big smile on my face when I received my first e-mail from somebody asking questions about the things I have written. The feeling of somebody taking the time to read a blog post and mailing a question is fantastic. Since then, I have received a couple of dozens of e-mails from all over the world. Every time I get an e-mail I am showing it to my girlfriend like a kid that got a new toy. So please keep them coming!
Let’s summarize my pros and cons of working from home:
- Increased private time
- Increased time for deep-work
- No more being stuck in traffic
- Reduced coffee intake
- Fewer distractions
- Making healthy food with significant other
- A regular rhythm
- Increased physical exercise
- Reduced listening to podcasts
- Reduced casual interaction with colleagues
- Difficult to become part of a companies culture
- Increased electricity bill and home-office costs
- Increased risk of blending work and private time
I have redefined for myself what it means to have a good employer. I do not want to go back to the office, at least not 5 days a week. I would prefer to have a 100% remote job, with an occasional visit to the office specifically to meet and interact with colleagues. Team building is important!
Let me know how your work-from-home experience is. What are your pros and cons? Do you want to go back to the office?