Monday, July 28, 2014

Remote worker - yeah sure, who are you kidding?

Dimi Doukas blog - working remote on terrace
Working remotely on a terrace - beats the open office, eh?
My mom called me today and asked me 'are you at work or at home?' and when I answered 'both' there was a pause, longer silence where I guessed she was trying to figure it out what I meant. For her I kind of understand it. She's from the era (as she's 70 years) where she hasn't been so used to the idea of someone working at home. Although there has always been professions that has enabled working from your 'home office'. Like tailors for example or shoemakers. Before the era of shops and malls, they usually worked at their home where customers would come.

Not only the older generation have difficulties in understanding someone working at home. It's like you either work or you're at home. Like they couldn't be the same. I've found this thinking surprisingly common in IT business too. Surely, we sell 'remote worker solutions', but when it comes into working remotely yourself, for some reason lots of people have always some kind of fundamental doubt about it. You get the same kind of question from IT professionals that my mom asked me, 'are you working or at home?'. When you tell someone face to face that you're going home to work remotely or you'll be at home working tomorrow, there's this look in their eye, maybe a grin even. Like you've just told a widely known name for 'you're actually not working but instead doing something else'. Like sunbathing, gardening or just watching TV. Do remote work and you'll do less those things I'd say :) People who drop their gloves at four a clock (or three if they came late) will actually get to do a lot more other stuff than work than the ones carrying their work to their home (or keeping it there). Earlier I had my working corner in our bedroom. As the desk lamp was illuminating the room too much at night, irritating my wife, I bought an illuminated keyboard. I mean... 'how low can you go...?' :)

Even though I've been a remote worker as long as it has been possible, I still think remote work is invented by the employers (if not the devil himself) and not by the employees :) I find myself doing longer days as there's no breaks like driving to work or driving to home. So you'll end up sitting there until the night comes, unless you have a hobby or some event that would drag you out from your seat. And nowadays we have not only the remote working option from home, but with the smart phones and even more with the pads and 3G/4G connected laptops, we can work from anywhere. And we really work from anywhere. From our vacation, from the highway going 80miles per hour, from the movie theatres. So what happens with the technology evolving faster than our thinking, is that we're working more and more 24/7. In the end that's not going to serve anyone. Employees will be more tired, doing less with more time because of that, and the quality of their work will reduce. As in so many other areas, 'less is more' is true here also.  

Sometimes power outages are welcome, they remind that you could really do something else for a while. Having DSL connection isn't always a blessing. When you're passionate about IT, about technology overall, you seem to want to be connected everywhere. Sometimes it just goes over board. The pace is not days, it's not hours, not even minutes, but it's more seconds that we expect to get answers, to be picking up the phone, answering email and chat. I see that in my work where earlier you asked for pricing and expected it to be in couple of days (if the provider of the quote was fast), now we need (or think we do) it in minutes, couple of hours max. We can't go much faster than it is already unless we leave people out of the process altogether. Seeing so many times when we have a hurry for waiting in the end, I'm more often asking myself 'what's the rush?'. Why I need to do pricing in couple of hours if the order still would come maybe in weeks or even Months later. We're just got used to the idea that when someone asks for something we need to get the answer right away. The way of internet generation has learned to behave. If the web page is not opening in 5 seconds, you're already typing another page address. Not everything is priority 1 and I think that we should each of us remind ourselves. Only very rare cases actually is priority 1. And what happens is the old story about the boy who cried the wolf', if you shout too often something that isn't actually true, no-one will take it seriously when you really have a hurry. They just get tired you pushing to get everything this minute when you're not really needing it that fast in the end.

So balancing the working time and your off-duty time and drawing a more solid line between the two is important. We're not paid to be there 24/7 365d per year. It's good to be flexible and do things when needed, but if it starts to be situation every Month, every week or every day, then something is fundamentally wrong and needs to be fixed some other way than burning the candle from both ends all the time. I heard that in Germany it's even common that if you'd have a company phone, you'd leave that into the office when you leave the office. I know that in many other countries, like in Finland in my case, you use the same phone after work as well for you private life. So you'll have the same phone and number all the time. Reachable for both work and personal matters. Leaving the work phone to the office could be a tempting option :)

Will the pace slow down? It really needs to do that. Technology is not going to be a solution for that. Once again we need to realize the fact that we're not evolving as fast as technology. And we're not extension to the technology either. Like with fire, it can be a good servant but a lousy master. The same goes with technology. We just tend to forget that.


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