So, let's talk about WFH...

These are strange times we’re in! At no time in the past 100 years (and certainly in my lifetime) has there ever been a pandemic of this scale.

We’re all adjusting to working in alternate ways, and unfortunately for some, not working at all since the Government schemes are becoming less accessible to those in real need. I want to start out by saying that I feel for those that have lost their jobs - I’ve been in that position where you are unsure where the next pay packet is coming from, and that is not a nice feeling.

However, here I want to discuss rant on a topic that has interested me for some time; working from home.

As we’re being forced (either by the virus, or our Governments) to work from home, the impact on businesses and individuals alike has been interesting.

The company I work for has just announced that they wish us to start coming back into the office “at least one day per week”. This is because there are some of us not working well at home, and I am included in this, in part.

The issue with businesses requiring staff to come into the office in the current state of affairs, (not that my workplace has - yet) is that some people will not feel comfortable getting public transport, or even being in an office, however socially distanced they are. Besides, the Government guidance is to still “work from home if you can” (as of July 2020).

There is still a deadly virus going around, and people must be allowed to have control of their own destiny. For those that are lucky enough to be able to make that choice, that must not be removed for the sake of profit.

I see this particular issue being a point of contention with many companies that can, but do not want their staff to work from home.

I have found that I work well from home only when I don’t have too many interruptions. This isn’t a new phenomenon, as context switching is something that I contend with daily, but context switching at home seems to be somehow more detrimental to my productivity.

Another struggle that is specific to this pandemic, rather than “normal” working from home, is the sheer number of communications channels that I now seem to have. I currently have the following methods of communications with various teams/clients/stakeholders for work:

  • Email
  • Telephone
  • Slack, I’m currently on 8 of these
  • Three lots of Microsoft Teams (I know, how horrific)
  • Mattermost (internal)
  • A secondary email for a specific client communication
  • Google Hangouts
  • Cisco WebEx (one of the most horrific pieces of software I have encountered in this list)
  • Zoom
  • FaceTime

As you can see, this is not a simple set-up, and running most of these clients on my relatively new MacBook Pro leaves little room for the 100’s of Chrome tabs I need have open!

I don’t like everything about any of these, and I get various levels of notifications from each. Some (like Slack and Teams) have more weight than others. I do however like anything that allows for asynchronous communications (which these all do) as this is important for any successful digital communication.

Being more rested, less stressed, and having a tidy-home are welcome advantages to working from home, and keeping the home clean and fresh is something that can only be good for you.

Aside from the personal and business impacts, there are the obvious, and not so obvious environmental and societal impacts of working from home.

I, for one, am not getting a tram every day. Although in Manchester the Metrolink is sustainably powered, it still produces 54 grams of CO2 per kilometer. That means on my roughly 5 km commute I am creating 540 g of CO2 for the round-trip. Therefore I can now, with a smug grin, claim that I am reducing my CO2 emissions by 2.7 kg per week!

I am one of the few in our office who’s commute is by public transport. I would hazard a guess that more than 70% of the office commutes via car, consequently producing 123 grams of CO2 per kilometer. This group tends to live further afar, creating (and therefore currently saving) 127% more per km than I!

There are also significant reductions in traffic in Manchester. I imagine this is true across most towns/cities in the UK, allowing safer, and faster travel for a few occasions when I do need to use the car.

In summary, this rant just shows the complexities and difficulties of the balances we need to maintain our work and personal lives that have been imposed on us by this virus.

It is important, for me certainly, to ensure I’m meditating daily to ensure I stay grounded and to prevent the current crisis from getting on top of me.

Saying that it has not been plain sailing, even though I have maintained employment throughout - again my deepest sympathies go out to those whose lives have been turned more upside-down than my own!