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Remote vs office or the importance of having a choice.

alanmynah
Born in πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦, live in 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿, write JS during the day and Go/Elixir in the evenings. Questions or just want to chat? Get in touch, I'm @alanmynah on Twitter.
Originally published at alanmynah.com ・6 min read

Photo by visuals on Unsplash

I started following my take on three strikes rules, where if I want to rant about something for 3 consecutive times, I need to sit down and have a cool-headed think about why it winds me up so much.

Remote vs office has been on my mind way more than 3 times. But really what prompted this post is that someone I work with said (words to that effect, this is off my memory here): "I like and want to work from the office, but I'm made to feel as if it's something bad." And you know what? Despite me not sharing the desire for office work, I sympathise with the sentiment that no one should feel bad for having a preference.

I know where this is going

Before you jump to any conclusions, yes, I love working remotely and I hope we (those of us who want) continue. But when we have a chance to reopen, we should not go back to the mirror image of what we had before the pandemic.

Just imagine. Working from the office one day a week is a massive perk. You are allowed to get it after probation and it would involve a contractual change πŸ˜›. Those who wish to work from offices on a more permanent basis, say 2-4 days a week, are essentially forced to haggle and sacrifice some of their salary for the privilege. Yep, the reverse was a real story, I once heard a dev from Cambridge tell me.

Where is a downvote button here?

I can see where the anger towards 'going back' is coming from. I really do. From encouragement by the gov't, to pretty much a property developer fessing up that they'd lose a tonne of money if we don't, but covering their primary motive up with concerns about 'fatigue' and convenience of doing "life's admin". As if people can't do it at the local high street. Unless you live at Canary Wharf, in which case my commiserations. There are very few places that I'd compare in soullessness to concrete barracks of my native Dnipropetrovsk, but there you are.

People are also fatigued for a multitude of reasons that have pretty much everything to do with the pandemic and not having a choice.

Are there benefits to working from home?

  • No commute? Saving HOURS daily? Yep.
  • Easier to focus? Aha.
  • More and hopefully better sleep? πŸ’―
  • Saving some cash on petrol, insurance, train tickets? Oh yes!
  • Supporting local trade not just at the weekend? Hey, no prizes for guessing where I will be buying my coffee when the local places finally open up.
  • Saving some money on not eating out during work lunches? Erm, sure, but not after things open again πŸ˜†
  • Climate change? Yeah, I hope so anyway. Yes, yes, I know, I heat my house too, but I don't have 5m tall ceilings, and it's much easier to control one room in the house, instead of an open-plan office. But if you live in a converted church, scratch that one out.
  • Seeing your kids and family more? Definitely! Some of you must have this funny smile on your face, thinking "I bet he doesn't have kids after reading that" and you would be 100% right, Sherlock. But think about it, they'd have been at school now while you're reading this; your home office filled with silence. And during holidays you'd have been gone to someplace sunny or snowy, whichever you prefer. But you can't. See, that 'no choice' thing again?

We were told it's not possible

So all these people that are like me that love working from home are somewhat anxious that this might not last. Previously we were told that "we need to have a discussion and kick off trials", "we're not sure how productivity might be affected" (this one deserves a separate rant, but not 3 strikes yet), and "it would require some investment into home setups and we don't have a budget for that yet (aka, will never have, πŸ˜‰-πŸ˜‰)" and then BAM! over the next couple of days and some painful MS Teams installs later, it's now come to life. Although, let's be honest, for most, we just brought our laptop home. Soooo it is possible and judging by the emails I received and had some forwarded to me, everyone's CEOs are telling us what a great job we did! πŸ₯³πŸŽ‰πŸŽŠ

Yes, yes, ok, some places were pretty strict with confidential information policies and static IP access to production, possibly some dev infrastructure hosted in-house with access only over the local network. Now as I've caveated the 'well-actually' 1%, how many of you from the 99% were told straight up "we have an easy choice between office or remote, do as you please"? Some of us were in a truly bizarre situation, where you had to come to the office to work closely with a remote team in a different timezone! But WFH was a perk...

No better problems to write about?

What was that? Did I just hear "really, aren't there bigger problems in the world?" Ok, glad to have the relativists in the room too! Absolutely there are. Which one of the problems of the world do you care about the most? Oh, that's an important one, sure, we definitely need to do something about it. Hey, I can relate. We can focus on problems that we think we can do something about. And mine is to convince people to be more considerate when creating reformed workplaces.

During any of the remote vs office conversations, I keep remembering this graffiti, which is rather applicable to a lot of conversations in general, but this one in particular.

A tweet of a picture of a graffiti, allegedly written during Hong Kong protests, that was translated as: "We can't return to normal, because the normal that we had was precisely the problem."

So yeah, remote defenders, I get your point. See? I'm your man, I feel you and share your concerns. Due to a really strange set of circumstances we've got what we were always told is difficult or impossible to get. It appeared to be relatively easy too. And that left a bitter aftertaste in some of us. We didn't have a choice. Now the tables have turned and it feels like someone wants to take it away, back to what it was before.

What do you want then?

Moving forward, do we really want to be denying the choice to people who we work with?

Some of your co-workers LOVE to be in the office. Just as they were oblivious to how much you want to work from home, we were oblivious to how much they actually enjoy the office. It had downsides, but it was their preferred status quo. Why bang on about how much they love it?

Any perks to the office?

  • Personal conversations
  • Getting to know people a bit better
  • Listening to all the amazing books, and podcasts, and all the music on your commute?
  • Easier meetings (double-edged sword)
  • Getting together with them to celebrate.

And I know, I know, you like some of these too and the pandemic prevented you from seeing relatives and loved ones. You too want to catch up with people, but just don't value what the office has to offer over WFH. And that's ok!

Someone once said: "This pandemic has flipped the world, where extroverts were able to finally see how excruciating it must have been to introverts."

Drawing parallels, do we 'remotists' really want to torture 'officers'?

The future is distributed and it's really for your company to figure out how often all of you get together. Yes, ok, in our tribe, attitudes to Christmas parties range from 'hate them' to 'can barely stand them'. But hey, we can all remember some great stories, so getting together is ok, sometimes.

We must promote and advocate for the ability of our fellow co-workers to come to the office whenever they want or please. Just not drag us along.

We need to be able to have a choice

We all want to have a choice. Regardless of what the news outlets, property developers, or even your boss think.

Make your views known, your company should know where everyone stands. Don't send that thrashing tweet about how blissful and perfect WFH is and that heretics should be disavowed from WFH paradise. Simply don't be an arse, your co-workers will thank you. And hopefully, they will stand your corner for your ability to have a choice when your company thinks about getting you a season ticket loan again.

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