For the last 6 months I’ve been working from home. My job, like that of most other knowledge workers, isn’t really location dependent and can essentially be done from anywhere with an internet connection. About 6 months ago my project commitments started to ramp up and I arranged to work from home to better manage my time. I can honestly say it’s been transformational.
To start with, I appreciate that not everyone is able to work from home, or even wants to. It can be lonely, you can feel disconnected from the rest of the workforce and the home environment can be full of distractions. For me though, it’s been a phenomenal experience.
With my job, Head of Data Engineering at a data science consultancy, the office is full of almost non-stop interruptions. I do my best, most creative work when I can focus and large open-plan offices are not conducive to achieving or maintaining focus at all.
As you may have read about elsewhere, it’s not always easy to properly separate work-life from home-life when you live and work in the same place. In the early weeks I was over-working a lot. I’ve learned to compartmentalise much better as time’s gone on. I’m lucky enough to have an office space outside of the house (we actually converted the back half of our garage), so that helps, as does having a separate laptop and phone for work and home. As a consequence, I’ve got a lot more done in the time I have available and still maintained a decent distinction between home and work.
The biggest difference though has been in my relationship with my family. When I go into the office I have a one hour commute in each direction and a one hour break for lunch. That’s three hours a day that working from home gives back to my family.
Over the course of a week that’s an extra 15 hours of family time! 15 hours! My kids are home-educated so they don’t have school to go to, but they’re very active in local home-ed groups so they’re in and out of the house all week. They know not to disturb me when I’m working, but love the fact that we have time for after work activities like going swimming, or to the cinema, which we weren’t really able to do before as I got home too late.
I have time to eat breakfast with my family and help get them ready in the mornings. I can eat lunch with them when they’re not out and about and I’m always home in time for dinner. Being available from 5:30pm means there’s more time for games or social activities, swimming lessons, baking cakes, watching movies, riding bikes and so on before bedtime.
At one point, my wife suffered a painful burn to her hand and was unable to drive for a few days. Most of the kids groups are local, but I was able to drive our daughter over to her woodwork class in the next town over and carry on working from a local cafe with minimal disruption to my day. It’s a great feeling being able to help take care of my family in situations like this and get my work done at the same time.
Not every job offers any amount of remote working and the UK is definitely behind the US in this area, so jobs that are 100% remote are very rare indeed. It’s becoming increasingly common to expect some amount of remote working though and the amount of co-working spaces springing up, even in relatively quiet places like my little corner of the world is testament to that fact. As traffic seems to get increasingly worse, hopefully more companies will be forward thinking enough to take the remote working plunge. As the technology used to support this way of working continues to improve, I think it’s a trend that’s here to stay. It’s cheaper than taking up office space, and makes a lot of employees (like this one!) very happy indeed. And I know my family would agree.