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Working Remotely: A Weekly Retrospective – The Final Chapter

Greetings Fellow Community Adventures!  I know I missed week fourteen.  I have put a lot of thought into it and made the decision to end this series of articles.  I’m not finding the same week over week value I did in the first few weeks, and I imagine that if I’m not finding them as valuable it’s likely others aren’t finding them as valuable either.

However, I made a promise that I would do an “overall” retrospective that looks back starting from week one until now, at everything that has transpired over the past fifteen weeks.  Let’s dive in and review everything! I’m going to use some slightly different categories from what I have been using in the past articles:

What came easily:

  • Communication – My wife and I have always been good at talking to each other.  Expressing out thoughts and opinions, making sure we are on the same page, and helping each other work out problems.  I think this is the main reason we have been able to survive as long as we have with as much of our sanity intact that we have.  We learned early on that trying to work and watch our son at the same time just wouldn’t work.  By having a single parent designated to focus their attention on our son for a two-hour block at a time (you could still “work” but the other parent was locked away to provide focus).  We found we were much more productive, and we felt better about things at the end of the day.  We have also continued to work together to solve any problems that have come up over the last fifteen weeks and I can't express how much I appreciate her support through all of this.
  • Being on remote meetings – Our office already had several permanent remote employees or others who worked from home regularly.  Being on a zoom meeting was nothing new for me as this precedent was already something I was familiar with.  Being on a remote call was also at times more comfortable for me as I could sit and watch the conversations happening and simply chime in via chat when I wanted to raise a point.  During in person meeting I sometimes struggle to find the right moment to add my thoughts to a conversation, so this was an easier option for me.
  • Coping with isolation – I’m an introvert, and therefore being away from people wasn’t a struggle for me.  In fact, most days I enjoy the fact that it’s much quieter at home than it is in the office as that can be very distracting.  I also have a good group of friends and a strong grasp of communication technology when it comes to gaming that I was regularly chatting with friends which playing games online together that in some ways I didn’t even notice that we were stuck in isolation.

What was/still is a struggle:

  • Balancing work and home life – This is one of those things that will always be a struggle.  But my wife and I have found a way to support each other that makes this as manageable as possible.
  • Office/desk setup – This was a struggle at first, but I found a good solution to separating work from personal space which really helped with the mental separation as well.  As the weeks have gone on this is one of those things I forgot I struggled with at first.
  • Learning how to say no I’m still bad at this, but I’m getting better.  I should also say that it isn’t always no, but most times just not right now.  My team is smaller than it was before the pandemic started and we were short-staffed at that point which has only made things more complicated.  However, everyone seems to be very understanding that things are going to have to wait and that we are always working on the highest priority item.

What are the most important things learned:

  • Communication is important   I know I said that this came easily to my wife and I, but it’s worth repeating.  We would talk regularly about what is and isn’t working.  That is how we came up with “focus time” for working productively early on.  We would also continue to co-ordinate meeting schedules to make sure that we weren’t in a situation where we were both bound to required meeting at the same time if possible.  With everything out in the open no one was a pressure cooker waiting to explore and we were able to work together to find solutions to the problems that arose.
  • Setting boundaries between work and non-work hours – I learned this one far too late in the game.  I felt guilty that I couldn’t put in as many working hours as I normally would, when I wasn’t trying to balance being a parent and working full time all at once.  There were many evenings where I would make myself available for questions and I felt very stressed because of it.  After sharing these struggles with my manager, I was reassured that it’s ok if I can’t get a full workday in as it's more important that we get through this.  I’m still not great at this but I’m getting better.
  • Make sure that every day includes some time for yourself  This should go without saying, but I don’t always remember to do this, and I can at times feel burned out when I don’t have a bit of time for myself at the end of the day.
  • Take comfort in the fact that you aren’t alone  There are times I have felt like I'm alone in the world and failing at everything.  Then, I'll talk with some friends and discover they are going through the exact same things I am, and it's comforting to both of us to know that we aren't the only ones experiencing these struggles.

While I’m not heading back to the office just yet, I think I have learned how to cope with working from home.  In fact, I’m starting to enjoy being a remote worker! 

Is this the end of my article writing days? Absolutely not!  I have plenty of articles I want to share with the Community, I just don’t have enough time during the week to do everything I want to accomplish.  By putting an end to this series, I will have more time to share some of those other insights which I think will be more valuable than continuing this series of articles. 

I really appreciate you taking the time to walk this journey with me, and I hope you have enjoyed and found some value out of this journey with me.  As always, continue to stay healthy, safe, and awesome!

8 comments

Jimmy, curious what you think...

I am not loving working from home (which is Minnesotan for "I am hating working from home") but I do think a fair amount of it has to do with the fact that I don't do anything social outside of work right now, either. I started this experience thinking it'd be a good chance to test working remotely, but lately I've felt like it's a terrible representation of what working remotely would actually be like. Until I can close my computer and go get happy hour with a friend or go to a concert or go anywhere that's not my kitchen, ten feet from my computer, I'm not sure I'll know that it's really like.

So. As you say you're "starting to enjoy it..." do you think you would be prepared to make a decision on whether or not to continue working remotely? Say, wishful thinking, the world opened up on August 1! Would you rather...
a) go back to the office,
b) say "no thanks!" and keep working from home, or
c) ask for a few weeks/months to make a final decision?

(Assume there's no in-between available where you work in the office 2 days/home 3 days or something similar.) :) 

Like # people like this

Thanks for sharing your experiences with us and good on you for saying "no" to writing weekly updates when it became more of a chore than a joy.

Like Jimmy Seddon likes this
Jimmy Seddon Community Leader Jun 30, 2020

@Samie Kaufman - Your Gal at Gliffy I know plenty of co-workers that are in the same boat you are.  Based on your hypothetical scenario, if everything were to open up like "normal" August 1st, hands down I would make the request to continue to work from home.

Now it's worth noting that there are some additional things that factor into that decision.  Before the pandemic started I was already working with team members that were 100% remote so being on a zoom call was a regular occurrence, and co-ordinating efforts remotely was normal for me.

I also hate driving and I have a 30 minute commute from out of town to my office with no public transit options (I looked into it).

Finally, I'm not much of an in person socialite (probably why I love the online community so much).  I get together with friends virtually all the time still and I don't feel disconnected that way.

That being said everyone is different and I know that not everyone would agree with me and that's ok, for those that are itching to get back to the office I hope you will be able to get there soon!

Thanks for this post. I am experiencing zoom fatigue and thats the next level to battle! Otherwise, thanks for the tips and the retrospective!

Like Jimmy Seddon likes this

Thanks for sharing this. I've struggle with some of the things that you already did. I love to work from home but also I like to go to the office from time to time. And I think this is one of the few things that I miss these days.

Anyway, I'm glad that there are other people around there having their own fights but more or less in with the same "enemies".

Like Jimmy Seddon likes this

Great article and a good overview of your experience Jimmy!

You mention setting boundaries and how challenging that can be when working from home. I totally agree. Where I live, we are fortunate enough that the country has started to open up again. We've been able to return to the office for a few weeks now but I still find it hard to set the boundaries between work and family. Maybe it's the fact that many countries are still in lockdown and the economic uncertainty is still there which brings a lot of stress and it is easy to compensate by working a little bit more and during weird hours. But having clear boundaries is still super important and I encourage people to continue to be mindful of this even when they are allowed back to the office. 

Stay safe. 

Like Jimmy Seddon likes this
Thomas Bowskill Community Leader Aug 04, 2020

Thanks for the read @Jimmy Seddon 

Make sure that every day includes some time for yourself 

^ This is something that I've been bad at for personal life (but getting better); but I also think it applies to many of us during working hours. By this I mean spending time to work on the non-essential fun / pet projects that aren't vital, but are enjoyable. This remote working world has made every meeting and interaction so focused, that it's back-to-back work on the important things -- that becomes an overload to the brain pretty quickly. I find it really cathartic to get an hour here and there to work on something challenging, but less intense and critical; there's something about the lack of pressure that just makes this kind of work fun.

 

Not sure if healthy of not, but my approach to getting the work/life balance is to get started super early before the family start to wake up. That way I can get more time off when the kids are awake. Thankfully for me, I used to commute 5hrs a day and start in the office at 7AM, so I'm pretty accustomed to early starts! The commute time has definitely turned into work time though :/

Like Jimmy Seddon likes this

but I also think it applies to many of us during working hours.

I have a mixed feelings about it, really. Ideally during my remote working hours I try to keep it as similar as I would in the office. Eg. Avoid distracting myself with entertainment for more than 30 minutes/8h. Generally it's all too easy to get lost in non-work-related activities while working from home.

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