The WFH Challenges

The daily protocol for some of the world is changing rapidly these days. The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting many people. Many of us working in tech are blessed that we have the ability to work remotely, and lots of companies have started to allow working from home (WFH) to rapidly grow in the last month. I worry about those that don’t have the option, and I hope they find ways to cope.

I’ve been working from home for 17 years. My wife did it for large tech companies for almost 20 years. It’s not hard, but it’s not simple. Kendra gave us three tips last week, and I’m adding a few more since I ran across a piece in the NYT from a writer that’s been forced to work at home more due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It notes that working at home isn’t a panacea, and there are creativity losses from separation. I tend to agree, which is why I normally go to the Redgate offices a few times a year. The facetime is important.

I will say that the switch to working from home is an adjustment. Alice Goldfuss has a long post on this, and there are a few thoughts from Andrew Pruski on his first two years. If you’re interested, Eugene Meidinger also talks a bit about working for himself at home, and the loneliness of the first three months. Mala also has some resources that might prove helpful.

If I think back, I remember a lot of the challenges of being at home and not going to an office. I spent over a decade going to an office and starting to work at home was hard. My wife had been doing it for 7 or 8 years at that point and sharing an office was hard. She was always on the phone, which was louder than the open office plan I’d had at JD Edwards. Or she was gone, and I was lonely. I’d go for walks with the dog or hit the gym most days. I learned that I had a kitchen, but I was less prepared for lunch because I didn’t have to make it and take it anywhere.

At one point I took a part time consulting gig to get out of the house. That gave me more purpose and satisfaction, but it meant my days were more busy and I struggled to separate work from home. I still struggle slightly with this, but I have learned to balance life out. If I need a break on a Tuesday, that’s fine. If I need to work on a Saturday to catch up, that’s fine. Sometimes I actively make that trade, especially during ski season.

Working from home is a change, and it’s disruptive. I mostly work on solo projects, but I do need to collaborate and find the Slack, Teams, and video calls are helpful. I do have a separate office, and I’ve had to explain to family that working is working, and they should not just interrupt me at any time. I have to learn to take breaks, and I have to learn to build a routine. You will too, and it’s something I’d recommend. Take advice from others and try something for a week. See how it works for you, remembering you have to build some habits and try them out. Don’t abandon something immediately, and don’t think that the way you start working this week is something you’re stuck with forever.

Stay safe during this time and work to keep yourself mentally health until the world gets back to normal activity.

Steve Jones

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