I have not blogged in over a month now and yes I absolutely feel bad for it given that only earlier this year I committed to blogging every two weeks. Things have been pretty busy at work and I’m also applying for permanent residency in Canada which has taken up a lot of my free time. 

Being busy at work – however – made me think about how working from home has become the norm over the last year and a half and how we so often do it wrong. 

The other day I was then complaining to a colleague that I wasn’t blogging enough, and she suggested that I write about just that. Now there is a lot to say here, and I think it’ll need more than a single post, so I hope what I have to say is useful. 

I’ll first start by airing my grievances in an initial post and then lay out possible solutions that I can see to them in a follow-up post in a couple of weeks.

In March 2020 many of us started working from home regularly for the first time in their life. At the time I was hopeful that this would lead to a real shift in how we worked. Today I think we have achieved some of these changes but – apart from a few outlier organizations – we are still not taking full advantage of the new – hybrid – environment. 

Many of us are still working exact office hours

With both friends and co-workers I’ve noticed that many still stick to a rigid schedule where they work a set amount of hours every day no matter how busy or quiet things are. This can make sense to create a routine and I don’t want to tell anyone how to lay out their work day but it is a missed opportunity for more flexible working.

Too many meetings

The reason people still follow rigid schedules is often that they have too many synchronous meetings. I most likely don’t have to tell you that being on a video call can be really exhausting especially if the people on the other end are strangers or if you have several seconds of delay on your line. I hate attempting to crack a joke on a conference call only to have the 3 seconds of awkward silence until I see if it has landed with people. Studies have been done that show that video calls are more exhausting on average than in person meetings hence why we should do more to reduce them as much as possible – even more so than in person meetings. 

Everything MUST take 30 minutes

Yes I know I’m cheating – this is kind of the same point as the previous one. But ask yourself how often you have sat through a 30 minute call to do something that could have been an e-mail or that should have been a 2 minute conversation over the phone or in an office corridor. 

Allocated meeting slots encourage people to fill out the time. Another way of saying it is that “the work grows to fill the space” and it’s not only inefficient, it’s also unfair on people’s time and can be randomizing. 

We somehow see working from where you want as a bad thing

One big benefit of working from home is that you can also work from the beach if you like. Equally you can work from your mountainside cottage in Utah if that floats your boat. 

Now for some reason a lot of companies have a problem with that. I can understand to an extent that your employer may request that you work from a certain time zone, but as long as you get your work done it really shouldn’t matter all that much. 

Obviously if your performance drops or you can’t unmute yourself during the team meeting because you’re actually in the jacuzzi that is a different story entirely, but why are we penalizing people for moving to Hawaii to learn surfing or for moving their family to the countryside where the kids and the dog have more space in the garden?

I should make clear that when I say “penalize” here, I specifically refer to the location-based salaries that many big firms have introduced or are now introducing. There is very little sense in these policies in my opinion. 

So how do we make hybrid working better?

In part 2 I will go through potential solutions for the things I laid out in this article. (and oh god it was great to get all these off my chest) I hope to see you in the next post. 🙂

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