half full half empty drink in clear drinking glass on table beside laptop

Work | Working from Home, an Unpopular Opinion

Well, a lot has been said, especially of late about the benefits of working from home. I absolutely agree that working from home during this pandemic is a great and necessary thing.

It’s the nuances of team dynamics that I miss. No amount of Zoom or Microsoft Office Teams can replace or duplicate that. 

And yes, sure, staying home to stay safe and therefore working from home is a gift for the few, as many jobs cannot be worked from home. Yet so much has been written about the positives of working from home I feel like we are trying to talk ourselves into viewing it positively, as we have no other choice but to be grateful that we are employed and safe. I am grateful.

But when this ends and vaccine is available we will have to recognise that working from home does not work for everyone. More specifically, working from home does not work for me. I can make it work, I have made it work. I will make it work. But I’d rather be at work. I miss my tribe.

Putting aside a whole plethora of jobs that can’t be done from home, and what do we have left. Mainly white collar, semi professional and professional jobs that can be adapted to work from home. What a lucky little subset we are to be able to work from home.

When I first worked from home, back in 2003, it was my choice. Now there is a clue. My choice. It is now my responsibility to work from home. To keep me, my family and the wider community safe. I agree, 100%. But when I worked from home in 2003 it was because I had an eight month old babe and I was breastfeeding the beautiful babe. It was good for him, good for me and a mothering joy to savour, that was after I got over the excruciatingly painful mastitis (twice). I worked two days from home and one day in the office, leaky boobs and all.

I worked like this until I stopped 14 months later to pop out babe number two. Then again, once he was eight months, I did two days at home and one in the office. This was not so enjoyable, as I had two breast feeding kiddos and seemed to be constantly interrupting my work flow to feed one or the other. Yet it was still convenient. And still my choice.

The joy I felt for that one office day a week was something akin to elation, almost a religious experience. I wore proper clothes, got take out coffee, ate my lunch alone, travelled on the bus, people watching the whole time and most importantly had no child clinging to me and had adult conversation. It was bliss with the bonus of an hourly rate thrown in. I probably would have gone in for free.

Since I went back to work full time, I have still worked from home. Show me any CEO who has not worked from home and I think I would scream ‘liar liar pants on fire!’ There are 101 reasons why working from home is necessary when you are a working mum, being a boss and trying to juggle many, many commitments. And besides I have loved my jobs, so working a bit from home never seemed a chore.

But this is different. No choice, no time to plan, no end date and no other social interaction. It’s a bit of a sh!t sandwich if you ask me. I’m no extrovert, call me ambivert who genuinely likes people. That’s me. I especially like my tribe. The people I gather to work with. I miss many aspects of going to work. And let’s be honest, staying home to work when you also have kids staying home to be schooled is a step too far. I supported the school closures, and still do, but I did not foresee the need for me to do year 10 philosophy, teach excel tables and revisit marketing 101. I am a mother and a boss, not a teacher. Teaching your own is trying, frustrating, exasperating and I do not like it on a day in, day out basis. I thought we’d just let the kids have an extended break from learning and watch a bit of educational TV in the afternoons. I was wrong.

i will start working when my coffee does sign

So what else is wrong about working from home …. here is my top ten list of why I will go against the popular opinion and say it’s not all tea and scones, productivity gains and an end to unnecessary meeting (who has unnecessary meetings … not me), when working at home. I am talking the people centric stuff, not bad internet, no dedicated office or kids at home. So here they are:

  1. No spontaneous collaboration from just being around each other
  2. No ready source of expert knowledge on xyz sitting down the hall
  3. No sharing frustrations with a given situation and finding a solution together
  4. No person perk up when you hit a tough spot
  5. No sharing little wins and progress ‘in the moment’ that it happens
  6. No value add just because you can to a colleagues load as you don’t so readily see the load
  7. Momentum changes as the pack isn’t swimming together any more – the swift swim out, while the slower swimmers get left behind
  8. Personal accountability doesn’t work for everyone as some folk work better within the structured space and time of an office environment
  9. A disconnect forms regardless of / or because of the replacement technology
  10. That inbuilt connectivity between tasks carried out by different people weakens as we work away in our own little bubbles

It’s the nuances of team dynamics that I miss. No amount of Zoom or Microsoft Office Teams can replace or duplicate that. A big part of this is the non verbal clues we pick up from our teams as we cohabitate in a shared office environment. There are now gone. While individuals may thrive in the work from home environment, how do the team, as a whole flourish? I’d be keen to know your thoughts. Cheers Le

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