I wrote about working from home a few weeks ago, and now that I am back from my winter vacation, I wanted to revisit this subject. We started more serious social distancing and self-quarantines in Finland around March 13. It’s been four weeks now, and we are still mostly in the same position.
How has that affected the way we work? Beyond just staying at home, has anything profoundly changed in such a fleeting time? Yes, and no.
A considerable change I’ve witnessed in recent weeks is that (almost) everyone now turns on video during the meetings. I thought about this topic a bit prematurely in late 2019, also. Webcams are mostly sold out everywhere, and I see many seasoned professionals resorting to crappy laptop webcams that sometimes point up to your nose. If I could make one recommendation to anyone looking out for a new webcam, it would be the Logitech BRIO 4K webcam. Having video on is great. It forces me to not fiddle with my phone or do emails on the side when I actively listen in on meetings. I’ve backtracked a bit on my original “I will always turn on video” stand in that I usually don’t turn on video if I’m joining a massive meeting with 25 people or so. This way, I rationalized to myself when leaning back on my IKEA chair, I give more presence for the speakers and presenters.
Another aspect of everyone working remotely now is that in public, people are clumped or grouped together by one property only – can work remotely or cannot work remotely. This is overseeing the fact that not all remote work is the same. I talk with a lot of people during a typical week, and I frequently ask how they get work done in the current climate. Those without kids, or with kids that are quite independent already, not much changed after all. Those with small kids really struggle with getting anything productive done.
I often get a feeling I’m not getting all the things done I’m used to getting done. On a typical day, I work around 8 hours, and an hour on my pet projects – this blog, a book, a whitepaper, a webinar or some such. Then again, this situation has truly super-optimized the way we all work – the non-essential tasks can be dropped, and a more focused approach to what really matters has emerged. Beyond just how many hours we work it now (finally) feels like we are starting to see what results in we are getting.
Tomorrow, this is how my morning looks like:
(I had to blur the details, as they all seem to contain personal information, sorry)
It’s back-to-back calls and meetings over Microsoft Teams, starting from nine in the morning and lasting mostly until 12.30 in the noon before a real break. I’ve started to follow on Linus Torvalds’s thinking in that you can have the best of both worlds: work remotely, AND not be confined to an office. So, I take a lot of calls when I’m jogging, sitting on the balcony, or fixing dinner. It makes a drastic difference in my energy levels and how I feel at the end of the day.
Another angle to this is that once you stop working for the day, stop consuming content for the day, also. Put the phone away, don’t reach for that iPad and don’t watch (too much) Netflix after dinner. Taking care of yourself and your immediate family should be the highest priority right now. And in the future, too.
I work with Azure and frequently write about my experiences. I’m a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, ex-MSFT. Based in Helsinki, Finland.