As we close in on the end of week 8 of the Covid 19 quarantine here in NJ, I found the need to put down in writing how I feel it is going and whether I think I could continue to work in this type of situation for the future. The simplest answer is that I think I could but could I be successful doing it. In terms of supplies and equipment, I have a laptop with a second monitor screen which allows me to be mobile and allows me to expand my vision by viewing multiple windows at the same time. I have a decently fast internet connection to the outside world so that I can connect to my email and office computers for any information and software I need. I can also remote into any of my customer’s servers to be able to update, program or assist in solving any of their problems. And finally, I have the ability to have verbal and visual communication with people in the outside world so if I can coordinate with my co-workers or with the customer’s staff where ever they might be. I can talk and see them using Zoom or Teams and even my cell phone.
With all this, I can ultimately do my job just as well as I could before this all started 8 weeks ago but something is still missing. The first thing that I find missing is the start and end of day. It almost seems to me that the work day starts after I brush my teeth, shower and eat my breakfast and ends when I get into my pajamas, brush my teeth and get into bed. Because there is no real ‘leaving’ to go to work and no ‘leaving’ to go home, the boundaries on the work day become blurred. Normally when I leave the customer, I put my laptop in my bag and it doesn’t come out til I get to the customer the next morning. Since I have no real commute other than to walk up and down the stairs from by main living floor to the upstairs bed room where I work, there really is no begin and end of day and I don’t turn off and put my laptop away. This lack of commute also gives me the ability to work all hours of the day since I don’t have my normal 30 to 60 minute commute each way. Since my laptop is always on and every other employee at work is working remotely, emails can be sent at any time during the day as they are not commuting either. This now causes me to react to the email as my natural curiosity is to check the email to see what is going on.
Additionally, although I have means to communicate with fellow employees at my company and at the customer’s office, it is just not the same. The traditional gathering by the coffee pot or water cooler to discuss the latest reality television show or the latest trend in any subject is just missing. That collective communication to hear the opinions of other professionals in the workplace versus the political prognosticators on the television is a vital way to determine how the everyday person is interpreting what is going on around you. It is also hard to know if the person you left an email or voice mail for is around and just busy (or ignoring you) as compared to stopping by their office to ask them a question or to get clarification on an issue. In my universe, that casual conversation on how things are going could lead to a discussion about how I can better help the user get their job done. Maybe I can create a new report for them or dump some data out to Excel so that they can create a sales presentation. This need may not have ever come to light unless the non-work related conversation began in the first place. This adds to my value with the customer as it is wholly based on how much of a benefit I perform in the scope of their business. That little extra help could lead to bigger and more important requests as they now know new options are available to them.
Finally, although we are creatures of habit, too much habit is not good for us. A change of scenery is important to humans and we need to grow and see what else is out in the world. Sitting at the same desk staring at the same four walls day in and day out does nothing to help our creative juices. We become stagnant and yearn for the ability to see what is out there. Our minds wander to what else there is in life and our focus about what is in front of us starts to wander. This lack of focus then leads to lessened productivity and then boredom. It is important to get up and stretch our legs and go out for a walk to the proverbial water cooler. We need to see others to get our minds going and to electrify our creative juices. We need to be close up with other people.
In conclusion, I don’t think I want to be the person that works from home on a regular basis. Yeah, maybe once in a while when you need a worker to come to your house or when you might not be feeling particularly well and you need a work from home day but at least this person would vote to get back into the world and leave home for the chance to get back to the workplace where ever that might be. I know I am ready to go.