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Working from home

June 20, 2021

Let this be the blog post I shall link to when anyone asks me if I prefer working from home, or from the office. It’s the former, because the flexibility is unmatched. Before I start, I would like to point out that I am aware that working from home is not possible in all industries; but for me, as a software developer, it certainly is.

So — why should we return to our offices? In response to an article that stated that some people were just quitting instead of giving up working from home, someone eloquently put it this way:

There is no less valuable time than commuting and just sitting in traffic. All of it is negative, pollution, stress, wasted time, risk of accidents, all so you can get to the office, put on headsets and not talk to a single person around you (in many desk jobs).

I understand that working from home is not for all (parents with rowdy children can attest to that) but working from home during Covid has not been entirely indicative of the real thing!

Why? Well, mostly because of the entire fucking pandemic. You’re dealing with way more stress than before, and most companies weren’t prepared for this kind of work (or at the very least were unprepared for this massive shift in how we work).

However, this entire situation has been somewhat effective at illustrating the advantages of working from home:

  • You don’t have to get out of bed at ~6:30 if your commute is long and you need to be at the office at 9:00
  • You avoid dead time in traffic & its related stress (which adds up over time)
  • You avoid paying for public transport & fuel
  • You can take short breaks and get household stuff done during the noon break (need to quickly put some clothes in the washing machine? no problemo)
  • Meetings need to happen online instead of face-to-face (generally saving you time, as these meetings can otherwise take a good chunk out of your day)
  • If you can set up your home working environment properly, it’s more comfortable to work from home

The absence of caffeine

Okay, so let’s talk about one thing that many folks take for granted, but I do not consume: caffeine. I know many office workers use it to get through the day, but I don’t. I loathe the idea of having to become dependent on a substance that will systemically disrupt your entire body’s natural rhythm. (I’ve only ever drank tea, and that’s been mostly to remedy sickness or throat issues.)

So, I don’t drink coffee. Which means that compared to the average office worker who does consume the beverage, I am usually more sleepy. Or at least, I used to be. Now that I can actually get the sleep that I feel I need (from midnight to 8:00 or thereabouts) I don’t have to worry about feeling tired at the start of the day.

Focus time

I’ve also noticed that I can be quite productive from 9:00 to ~16:00. When it’s about four, I’ve noticed that my time is best spent on maintenance tasks, mailing and learning new things.

This is the case since the remaining hour or so that I work then is usually too little time to start working on things that require maximum brain power and I’m not fresh enough to do my best work. (When I worked from the office, I would say I was productive from 10:00 until maybe 15:00, so this is a definite improvement.)

I’ve always found that I’m more focused working from home, probably because I am not a morning person, and because I dislike interruptions. I used to arrive at the office and feel somewhat tired after a 45 minute commute. Some days, I literally felt like arriving at the office and just quitting on the spot. No joke. I was literally burning myself out.

Time for a workout

Compared to before, now I can go sit behind my desk in the morning and I can actually get things done way more quickly. I can quietly plan out the next features or systems for the project I’m working on.

Even better, when the work day is done, I can go for a 1.5 km run on the treadmill, or start lifting weights right away. I also don’t have to worry about missing a train, so if something takes 15 minutes more to finish, I can just keep working a little longer.

Oh, and by the time my train would have arrived at the station so I could drive home, I’m done with the workout and ready to start preparing food — something that I now have a lot more time for too, so I’ve been eating healthier as well (due to less “quick meals”).

Partially remote?

So, what about partially working from home, then?

I’m going to be very honest with you. I used to do this. It’s a bad idea. I found I came to loathe the days I had to go to the office, simply because I dreaded the travel time and having to wake up early. Even if it was literally once per month, I would not look forward to it.

All of this has made me very certain I’ll be working from home for the foreseeable future, even when the pandemic is under control.

But okay, sure — I also have to play devil’s advocate and talk about some other stuff.

Common complaints

Some folks need the social interaction and banter.

If you don’t frequently organise video calls or stay in touch, one is prone to feeling isolated, I get it.

This is why it is important to stay in touch and keep working together (pair programming, asking for advice, etc.).

The time saved by not having to deal with the commute has actually made me slightly more social, allowing me more time to spend with my family and friends after work. (That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate my colleagues, it just means I can spend more time with folks in a more relaxed setting.)

But some people actually enjoy the downtime of a commute!

To me, all this illustrates is that you are unable to fit moments of peace and quiet into your day. In my eyes, a commute is a bad replacement for time spent meditating, for example.

I myself am not religious, but I do like the moment of introspection prayer seems to bring religious people, and believe we can learn from that. Even folks that are not religious should find some time for introspection and meditation.

What if your office is like, 5 minutes from where you live? Why not go there then?

Oh, I get it. Sure, in that case things are different. If your office is close by, many of the complaints listed above go away. So in that situation, going to work isn’t going to sap away much time or energy from you.

As an aside, I like to think we don’t live in an age where an employee should be forced to move in order to feel decent about their job. (Especially not if you’re in the software development industry.)

What about the concern of blending home & professional life too much?

You need to be clear about separating work from your personal life.

I have two clear rules; the first one is that I never do anything for work after hours. I just don’t.

I also do not have my work mails on my phone. I’m ignorant of what is going on outside of work hours, unless it is very urgent. Questions are usually fine if left unanswered until the next day. If something is really urgent, people can still call me the old fashioned way.

What if my workplace does not want to allow working from home?

Time to consider searching for a new employer.

Conclusion

Anyway, that’s about it for me. Before I end this post, I think it’s important to acknowledge these points real quick:

  • Everyone’s different in how they relate to their job
  • Not everyone or every role in a company is fit for remote work
  • Some might enjoy working from the office more
  • It is important to feel mentally healthy in your job and how you work will absolutely have an influence on this

So, everyone, take care of yourselves, and really give working from home after the pandemic a shot. Just keep this in mind: it might not be for you, but it might also change your life. That, I think, is at least worth trying.