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The downside of working from home (WFH)

Working from home is great, it’s one of those perks of the current ways of working that makes life better/easier in so many ways.

I got to see my son growing up more over the last few years, I can stay on top of household chores and I can make use of my local area for walking at lunchtime.

It’s also not so great in other ways.

I spend a lot of my time alone, the work/life balance gets trickier to manage and then there is also the toll of trying to figure out my ADHD and how to get the most out of that.

Hybrid working isn’t necessarily the answer

I moved to my current role because we have an office in Glasgow – that means there is somewhere for me to head to and work when I choose to do so.

That lets me be amongst other people, there is the chance to talk about things other than those that impact my wife & children. I don’t always want to be talking about work, but it’s good to have the chance to do so – at the very least to be able to feel more connected to the wider organisation.

The main difficulty in going into the office, for me, is that so much of my time is spent in remote meetings. According to my update from Microsoft today, 28% of my calendar is meetings/calls with other people.

I have just as many meetings when I’m at home, but there I have more control over the environment so it’s easier to manage all of those calls. I have no other calls to overhear (everyone else has calls to join too), I have my own space to move around in freely for when I need a break and of course, the coffee machine isn’t too far from my desk.

More people, less team

Because of the remote-first approach to work, my teams from the past 4 or 5 years have been geographically distributed across the UK.

That’s been great for getting to travel to different cities to meet up with them every so often, but it does mean that a trip into the office still doesn’t equate to getting to work in person with the people that I’m on a project with.

This is the wicked problem of the modern way of working in my eyes. The root cause of a number of other issues that I face in WFH or taking a trip into the office.

I don’t miss having to commute to work every day, but I do really miss being able to be in the same room as my teammates every day.

Finding what works

I’m not just writing this to complain, which is also why I started by writing about the benefits of this way of working.

I’ve been able to be so much more present at home than I may have been if I was in the office 5 days a week.

To establish a better work/life balance I’ve found ways to bookend my weeks, to make the break on a Friday afternoon – the most enjoyable of which was camping in the garden every few weeks to really switch off and force the mindset shift (I may need to get back to this as the weather picks up again).

I started to head into the office regularly, although that’s fallen by the wayside with a newborn in the house and more ways for me to be useful by WFH.

A lot of people that I know and work with are civil servants, the majority of whom have to spend a certain number of days in the office each week. I’m thankful that this isn’t something that I am obligated to do, but I’m certain that it’s something that I may grow to benefit from doing – setting aside a number of days each week to head in.

For things to REALLY get better, I think there would need to be a greater shift at the organisation level. Not just my current employer either, all of them could do something different to have a positive impact here.

  • Project teams could be created from the people who are based at the same offices, meaning that it was an easier commute for them to regularly get together and work in person on their project/s.
  • More in-person sessions could be programmed into projects to allow for in-person time at key points of the lifecycle – allowing for organic opportunities to surface at times when they would be most valuable
  • Individuals could be encouraged to regularly block out their mornings/afternoons to allow them to complete their own deep work
    • With everyone else being mindful of this and respecting the need to take this time
  • A reduction in meeting count – I don’t recall having so many meetings in my calendar in all my years in the workplace before COVID, what value do they suddenly bring now?

Managing my ADHD

This final aspect is a new one for me to contend with. Well. It’s not – but the diagnosis is.

Each week I find out a bit more about myself and how ADHD makes things a little different for me – both good and bad.

This is the root of so many of the frustrations that I have in my life and that I’ve been trying (and failing) to tackle for the last 10-15 years. A lot of the mechanisms that I’ve developed over that time have had to be updated in order to be useful when working from home.

When I’m back in the office now, I again need to find new ways to adapt and overcome the challenges that can surface – though I now realise why it always made sense for me to wear headphones and listen to music whilst working in the office in the past. It was almost necessary!