As I embark upon a new challenge after 20 years with one organization, I’m looking back on all the things I’ve learnt over that time. I’ve had many experiences that I’m hoping others can learn from.
First of all a little about me. I’m an Azure Cloud Solution Architect and I’ve spent 20 long and happy years working for Quest Software mainly on database performance tools. Through that time I’ve had a wealth of experience at the cutting edge of Azure development. I’ve learnt the craft of building software and an enormous amount about the challenges that come with that. I hope to through this blog share some of the knowledge that was sometimes a struggle to obtain.
In today’s environment where more people than ever are working at home, I’m moving the opposite direction, from working at home fulltime to working fulltime in an office again after over 10 years.
I’m finding it’s the little things in the change that matter most. So what I am finding most daunting about the whole process is that I’ll need to wear shoes. It’s now been over 15 years since I’ve had to wear shoes every day of the week. I notice that you feel hot every time you wear shoes, and here in Brisbane, where it’s warm to hot every day of the year, I’m going to need to acclimatize again. Who would have thought that would be my biggest challenge.
Working from home has been great for me. I got into it at a perfect point of my life and with the perfect employment environment. At the time, I had 3 young children, so some of the best things revolved around having a fantastic work life balance with them. For work, taking regular breaks is fantastic for letting the creative juices flow and letting your brain solve problems while you enjoy something else. I found that walking my children to school in the morning, playing every 2 or so hours with the youngest who was still at home and then collecting the older ones again in the afternoon naturally broke up the day into about 5 or so nice chunks of work time. They were long enough to achieve things. They were spread enough to be useful, and as my work evolved to dealing with people in more and more time-zones, having a couple of long breaks through the day really worked.
Towards the end, I was working with people in Ireland, Israel, China, Australia, New Zealand and the US. So basically dealing with a 16 hour time window of communications. But for me it worked well, it meant get up at 5 or 6AM and talk to someone in the US, have breakfast, maybe take a child to school. Do some work on my own or with Australia once I got back, then do some work with China. After that take a long break after picking kids up from school. Then another burst to catch up with people in Israel and Ireland as needed. Normally about 8-10 hours of work, spread over a 16 hour period and done at times that suited everything else I wanted in my life.
So if you are moving from working from home, I think the best thing to do is sit down, either on your own or with your manager, and figure out what things you would like from the experience and what things the organization needs. Then figure out a solution that works for both parties. I (and my manager) found that because I was getting everything me and my family wanted, I was working longer hours and that time was more productive than I would have been in the office.
While this worked for me and the role I was in at the time, I’ve watched a huge range of staff in different places work in completely different ways, from that I’ve reached a conclusion. In almost every culture and country I think as long as the home workspace was appropriate, people and teams seem to work best with 2 or 3 days per week in an office together and the rest remote. The most productive I’ve seen was 2 compulsory days, (it happened to be Monday and Wednesday) in the office and the rest people could do what suited them best. This was the happiest, most focussed and cohesive group I’ve seen.
The second thing was that a daily scrum or standup is even more important when a team are not working in an office. Without that one daily guaranteed communication, teams will become disjoint, other communication will suffer and things will not work the way you would like. That time seems to spawn a wealth of other breakout sessions that otherwise wouldn’t occur if everyone were beavering away separately at home.