The year of “remote working”, some insights from a seasoned one.

homelab

Although I’m happy that finally more people are able to work remotely, are not forced to join traffic jams in the morning, the reason for this is not something to be happy about. But here we are, the reason behind this is out of our control, we just need to provide the best solutions to customers and make it as smooth as possible for everyone involved.

Working at home involves a lot more than just having a desk and a computer. The fact that one is not in the office, surrounded by co-workers, getting a coffee together, hearing about yesterday’s soccer game, is new to many. How does one cope with this new environment?

I’ve been working at home since 2005 or around that time. Not full time back then but on and off depending on the occasion. I did a lot of remote management during late evenings and weekends, not always to the liking of the family. For two years, outside traveling to conferences, I’m home-based 100%. In this blog, I like to share my experiences. By the way, this is my coworker 😉

There is no “office-time”

The first thing to learn and realize is, there is no office-time. This is mostly more a shocker to the manager that is used to have complete control with everyone at arm’s length. It, however, will be something to get used to also for you working at home.

Depending on your job, of course, you could shift work to hours you like to work. I personally am more productive in the morning until around 2 pm and at the beginning of the evening. I could stress myself trying to squeeze out work at 4 pm but that is my finest hour so why would I?

If your kids come home at 3.30 and you like to have a drink with them, have a talk about their day, this is your chance. Drop your work, go for it. Once they are asleep or after diner you will find a moment to finish up your work.

Personally I find it relaxing to go for a 30-40 minute run around 2 pm every other day. I start around 8 am so with a quick lunch that makes it at least 5 hours of work done already. it clears my head, I finish some things after that and work during the beginning of the evening.

A rhythm with a good balance between work and family life is important. working remotely gives you the ability to do this to the max… but there is a catch…..

With great freedom comes great responsibility.

I don’t know who’s quote this is but it is a true one. No one can see if you are working, you could be hanging in the swimming pool all day with the kids occasionally answering an Email to appear online.

Working at home gives a lot of freedom, you can work whenever you want, however you want but work needs to be done. This is the responsibility factor in this, do your job. With no one walking by your desk during the day (no one but your partner, kids, the dog, cat) you are your own boss.

Some find this difficult as they see and feel the temptation of hanging out with the family. As long as that hanging out is compensated there is nothing wrong… but some fail to see that. don’t be that person 😉

We are connected, this is 2020

Away from the office does not mean that you have to be offline and can’t have a friendly chat with coworkers. If you miss the coffee moment with coworkers, want to discuss things every morning, plan for it. Get your coffee, have a seat and chat. There are a lot of solutions out there to enable this. Some examples:

  • Microsoft Skype
  • Microsoft Teams,
  • Zoom
  • GoToMeeting
  • Google hangout
  • Slack
  • WhatsApp

All these tools, there are a zillion more, give you the ability to have a meeting, have a chat. make use of that. Microsoft Teams is used more and more and my current employer is one that enables this to work in a virtual environment. here ends my marketing attempt, I let Monica give you a demo.

Office space or couch?

The biggest challenge is finding a place to do your job. Is the kitchen table appropriate or is your partner “being at home” distracting you too much? I sometimes start in the living room, next to my trusted coworker, reading up on news and email but move to my “office” when I need to get work done.

Distraction is killing your work, that is no different than in the office. The only difference is that most distractions at home are ones you normally deal with in the evening. I have that with my parents, lovely people but old and not really understanding what my job is. My dad can just call me up and say “Since you are at home (I work at home, where else should I be?) can you go <fill in the blanks> with me to drop something, pick something up“.

device

People who never worked at home will not understand your work at home. The times I. heard people asking other people (I live in a village, they know everything about everyone) if I was unemployed because he is always at home. It is not seen as a real job, not in my village.. farmers or construction workers they have a real job, you see them at work.

Device choices

I truly hope your employer had a remote working plan, to begin with, that you had a device to take home and work on. If you don’t life is tough, you may need to misuse the family PC for your work-life.

Personally I’m against that but in times like this, if you have to balance between getting sick and working on a family PC, the latter on is better. It is also bad because no one knows what kind of crap you are running on those machines, it may be harvesting password while you logon…

Still, I think I would talk to the manager and see if there is a small budget to e.g. get a Raspberry Pi and a monitor to create your own remote workplace. Assuming you use any kind of virtual or remote environment, a raspberry Pi would give you access to that and you’ll be fine. Sure there are challenges to this, not everyone is a geek and can install one… but ask around if someone can help you. for less than $100 you have a home workplace, no more nagging kids or partner that want to use the family PC while you’re in a meeting.

Where is my whiteboard?

I’m sure I’m not the only one with a love for whiteboard.. so damn easy to explain things, think out loud and work on things together. but at home, a whiteboard (well I have one, but I’m a geek.. I have two even).

There are three options here;

  • Write on the windows – no worries you can clean them
  • build a lightboard and write/present on that – a bit more work but fun
  • use Microsoft lightboard app

The first one, I used to do that in an office where architects thought it to be a great idea to have no whiteboards because of some delusional idea. I need a whiteboard when designing something so I reverted to the windows. This freaked out some architects and office managers but it worked. if you have whiteboard markers you can easily wipe it off (99.9% 😉 )

Building a lightboard is cool I did it. Check out my blog series here – https://robbeekmans.net/euc/diy-light-board/ – it is a few blog articles explaining how to build on. it is cool and if you have the time worth doing so.

The last option is easier, install the Microsoft Whiteboard app which gives you a pretty neat whiteboard on your PC. https://products.office.com/en-us/microsoft-whiteboard/digital-whiteboard-app. you can use it with multiple users.

Mental health

One last thing to mention. working at home, being isolated is something to get used to. if you work at home too long without ability to meet coworkers or go out it gets to you. Don’t underestimate this. take time to get out, take care of your mental health.

Summary

I’m gonna stop here, don’t want to keep you off your work, a short summarization;

  • Find a good spot to work, distraction kills work, shift, walk, talk
  • Work on times that you are productive – there are 24hours in a day, make use of them and work when you feel energized
  • Take a break, we are no robots. take a break for your mental health. Go for a walk, a coffee, a run, the gym, the shops, cook. only when you feel energized will you deliver something useful.
  • Get your clothes on before the meeting, not formal (depending on the meeting of course) but business casual. If the meeting is a department meeting they know you work at home, the tie can stay away.
  • Find tools to meet up with coworkers, have a chat a day. ping them, call them this is 2020, we are not relying on pigeons anymore to deliver messages.
  • With great freedom comes great responsibility. remember this one, they let you out of the cage but now you have to fly on your own.
  • …and enjoy being on the remote workforce. you saved the environment a bit, cleared the roads, stopped a virus.. pretty well done for 2020 goals.

…and please stay healthy if possible.


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0 thoughts on “The year of “remote working”, some insights from a seasoned one.

  1. thanks, these are very good tips. Yes, actually working from home is much different from working in an office. I started working at home now and realized it. I will use them!

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