Working From Home
The first week of the COVID lockdown, back in March 2020, a journalist friend of mine started a Hungarian Facebook group to share work from home experiences. As I have worked from home all my life (except for two weeks), I wrote a long post about my experiences and thoughts. 2.5 years later, my post still receives some occasional likes, and someone even quoted from it – without naming the source :/ You can read the English version of my original Facebook post below.
I would not call myself an expert on remote work, but as I have been working from home for the past 20 years, I will share some of my experiences.
To be more precise, it started 25 years ago. As a student job, I helped running one of the first web servers of Hungary from home, late in the evenings, in my free time.
Later, as a PhD student, I only traveled to the university campus (in a small town, close to Budapest) when I really had to. Essentially, I was there only when I had to attend or give a lecture. I did my research experiments when I had to be in Gödöllő anyway.
After graduating from university, I worked from home for a small US-based company. I never met my boss while working there and met only one of my colleagues at a conference in Brussels. I only met my boss seven years later, when I gave a talk at a conference in Washington, D.C.
These days, I am still predominantly working from home. I go to the office once a week. That’s when I have my English lesson, team meetings, and so on. (Editor’s note: this is called a hybrid work method nowadays)
And now, here is my list of WFH experiences, which of course might differ from your experiences:
Working from home is difficult without motivation in your job, and it is difficult to stop when you are motivated :-) I belong to the latter group: most of my work I would do as a hobby as well. This means that most of the time, it is difficult to stop working and switch to other tasks. If you have minimal motivation, or nothing at all (other than your salary), you most likely need to be in the office and experience peer pressure to be be able to work.
Self-determination. It does not mean that you do not discuss your task list with your line manager, of course. However, if based on these discussions, you cannot work on your own, prioritize your tasks, and manage your time, working from home will be difficult for you. On the other hand, if you can present what you would like to work on (and why is it important for the company), it also helps you work on interesting challenges.
You are part of the team, even at home. If you do not feel like you are, home office is not for you (or it will be a lot more difficult, at least). I guess it also has to do with being extroverted or introverted. For introverts, working from home is easier, as they even require regular alone time. I belong to this category as well.
Communication. No matter where you are working from (a park, the top of a mountain, or the sea shore), your team relies on you, and you can rely on your team. During work hours, you must be accessible, just as if you were in the next room. Unless it is a really critical situation, communication should be asynchronous. What does that mean? Phone or WebEx should be a last resort. Asynchronous communication means that you react quickly, but not necessarily immediately, to incoming questions or requests, without interrupting your current task. During my university years, we used e-mail communication. At the US-based company, we used IRC. At my current workplace, we currently use Teams, but previously we also used Hangouts and Slack as well. Distance must not be a communication barrier. (Editor’s note: asynchronous communication is practically any kind of chat)
Humor, stress reduction. These belong with communication, but it is worth giving them an extra emphasis. When you are in the office, you can have great discussions over coffee / tea / cigarette (well, this last one is not for me), laugh at jokes, or reduce stress through talking. This must also work online. We have some dedicated Teams channels for these kind of discussions. However, we do not mind if our meetings have a few funny moments as well.
I guess there are many other WFH topics, but these came off the top of my head.
In the past 2.5 years, most people were forced to work from home for shorter or longer periods of time. Many kept on working from home even after return to office (a.k.a. RTO) became possible. I have talked to quite a few people about WFH recently, and I think most of my points are still just as valid today. What do you think? You can reach me on Twitter and LinkedIn.