2020 was a unique year for us, mainly because of the Coronavirus pandemic, but it has made us rethink the whole concept of working from home or telecommuting. In New Zealand, we are in a fortunate position where it’s no longer mandatory for us to work from home, but like many others, I still choose to WFH occasionally.
In this blog post, I share my experiences WFH of what works, what doesn’t, and some survival tips.
- Avoiding the commute. There’s no need to negotiate heavy traffic or crowded public transport! This is especially good news for those of us who live quite a distance from our workplace. It also saves money, and you can use the reclaimed travel time elsewhere.
- Brushing up on your communication skills. Working remotely requires us to use means of communication other than a face-to-face conversation. It allows you to become more efficient and proficient using Teams, email, and online meetings.
- Having more time with loved ones. Being at home while working means that you can take care of sick family members, or have more time with the kids.
- It can feel lonely. Some people (me included) find working from home lonely as we miss the company of our co-workers.
- Less productive environment. Where are my two other screens? This is one of the things that I miss during working from home! I also miss the office energy that pushes me to be more productive.
- It’s easy to overwork. In my case, living in a studio apartment means that there’s no physical separation between workplace and home, so there’s a tendency to work longer hours than required.
My survival tips (what worked for me)
- Setting up a comfortable environment. While this might sound self-explanatory, having a comfortable, well-equipped working environment supports your ability to concentrate and be productive. For me, this includes having a reliable internet connection, a comfortable and ergonomic desk and chair setup, multiple screens, and good lighting. Some quiet background music and a pot plant or two help as well.
- Regular catch up meetings. For projects requiring larger teams, I find that having a daily catch up helps keep everyone up-to-date with what team members are up to. It’s also a good place to raise any issues or concern that could impact the project’s deliverability. For a solo project (i.e. where I am the sole developer), I find a weekly update meeting with the client is sufficient to keep them in the loop.
- Leverage virtual collaboration tools. I think “Can you see my screen?” was my most used sentence in 2020. This speaks volume as to how we are collaborating online when working from home. It’s important to familiarise yourself with the features on your instant messaging software (in my case Teams). For example, how to quickly mute and unmute yourself in a meeting using keyboard shortcuts (PS: in Teams, it’s CTRL + Shift + M!), and how to make use of Whiteboard in Teams to draw pretty (I mean useful) pictures.
- Keeping up to date with what’s happening (just as usual!). While lockdown imposed restrictions on social gatherings, it doesn’t mean we can’t gather virtually. For example, many events from https://www.meetup.com and https://www.eventbrite.com are now exclusively online, and they’re often interactive – encouraging participants to contribute to the discussion. I also noticed that people had more time to share updates and information on social media, such as LinkedIn and Twitter.
I’m glad I have an office to go back in to – and that I have the freedom to choose. Even though it was only months for us, I felt like I spent a good portion of 2020 missing my workmates, the positive environment, and the Friday BBQ lunches.
But should New Zealand go back into lockdown, I feel better prepared (and well-equipped) to make the best of it.