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Downsides of Working From Home

Our cats generally only come downstairs to my office to yell at me to feed them at 4:30pm...which is still an hour before their feeding time.

Our dog is old and mellow (but also very stubborn), so she doesn't bark all that much (she's also mostly deaf, so she doesn't hear as much to bark at).

I think one of my cats has conditioned herself to the "entering meeting" chimes of a couple of different applications now. As soon as she hears them, she hops in my lap and starts headbutting my hands to pet her.
 

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Eltab

Hero
My problems sound trivial, thanks a lot !
We had to WFH in one week. I kitbashed a jury-rigged setup to substitute for a desk, in one child's bedroom. I live in a small house (but not a capital-T capital-H Tiny House) so no spare room to convert into home office. I am looking forward to my old fits-my-arm's-length desk at work again.

I have FIVE neighbors with barky dogs who have not yet established the neighborhood canine dominance chain - top that !
 

I think that it's important to reach out to your coworkers, just to talk. It can be about work stuff or not. Whether it's an IM, call, or videocall, it helps. I know I need to be better about that, as it's easy to get focused on whatever I'm working on.
This. We have our required meetings, but I also have three hours of the week that are scheduled to just socialize with co-workers -- without the boss, even though our boss is pretty understanding (and family to half of the workforce).
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Sorry to hear about your father, and your work-from-home. One of the biggest issues with getting work-from-home approved in the first place was a distrust that people would be actually working.

I was lucky - I'm IT and we supported all of the Americas, so we were kitted out that even if there was a blizzard, we could work remotely. Because we already had things in place (read: they wouldn't have to spend any money), we were tapped to pilot work-from-home in 2015. And because measurable productivity went up, we were allowed to keep doing it. Here's a bit of what made it work for us, but it assume white collar office work.

But it was a large adaption to get used to it, and we lucked out with our big bosses who set the expectations not only among us, but up the chain. First, we were very results oriented as opposed to hour-oriented. And those tasks were measurable. So they could see milestones getting done and didn't care if someone took 10 minutes to say Hi to their kids when they got home from school or finished something after dinner. This really critical, because otherwise there isn't a sense of things getting done to senior management. Hopefully you already project managers or KPIs with baselines of what they can reasonably expect while you are in the office.

Second, get a work instant messager. Plenty like Slack out there everyone can hit over the internet. Being able to chat with people informally is really a big thing. The equivalent of popping your head over a cube and asking a question, or chatting while getting coffee. And really call people you work with. There were times when we'd log three hour calls - 20 minutes of planning something out we were working on together, and then the rest of occasional chatting and connecting to the person, random "put our heads together" when having problems, and sometimes just companionable silence but there was someone there.

I put all ofthat in the past tense - my company has been acquired and the new company doesn't do work from home ... but I'm attached to the corporate head office in Denmark and have to work remotely with people anyhow so I've managed to keep it going. Which is good, commuting to the new office would steal about two hours from my life. And I appreciate it - there's always been the "need a few more minutes" and work late (salaried, no extra money), but going above even that now and then is more than worth it to avoid the commute time.

So I guess the advice can be summed up as: get them focused on deliverables, and make sure those flow, and get instant & informal communication set up among your peers and the people you work with.
 
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Dioltach

Adventurer
I think one of my cats has conditioned herself to the "entering meeting" chimes of a couple of different applications now. As soon as she hears them, she hops in my lap and starts headbutting my hands to pet her.
I've been working from home for 17 years, and virtually all my communications are by email. So when my wife is away (she usually spends at least a month a year visiting her parents abroad) there's very little in the way of actual speech going on. So whenever I'm talking to the wife on Skype, my three cats go crazy: walking over the desk and nuzzling my face and hands. I assume they think I'm singing to them.
 

Eltab

Hero
We had a conference call today with a dozen(?) phone participants. You cannot tell who is speaking - important if the boss is giving instructions - because all voices sound the same when filtered through two phones. Also, no visual cues when somebody wants to speak so three or four of us would start at once.

Yay for meeting in person, even though my work team would need to use a banquet hall to properly social distance ourselves from each other, and have a cheerleader's megaphone to make ourselves heard clearly.
 

Ryujin

Adventurer
We had a conference call today with a dozen(?) phone participants. You cannot tell who is speaking - important if the boss is giving instructions - because all voices sound the same when filtered through two phones. Also, no visual cues when somebody wants to speak so three or four of us would start at once.

Yay for meeting in person, even though my work team would need to use a banquet hall to properly social distance ourselves from each other, and have a cheerleader's megaphone to make ourselves heard clearly.
Every weekday I have a 'meeting' with my manager and 14 co-workers. Most of us are on video, through Google Meet or Google Hangouts, so we've got the visual cues to avoid talking over each other (most of the time). There is, however, that one co-worker who always wants to go on a rant about things we shouldn't be supporting, who just talks over everyone. Including my manager.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
We had a conference call today with a dozen(?) phone participants. You cannot tell who is speaking - important if the boss is giving instructions - because all voices sound the same when filtered through two phones. Also, no visual cues when somebody wants to speak so three or four of us would start at once.

Yay for meeting in person, even though my work team would need to use a banquet hall to properly social distance ourselves from each other, and have a cheerleader's megaphone to make ourselves heard clearly.
Part of the growing pains of WfH - you learn to have smaller meetings, and often will do a videoconference.

Zoom is cheap and good - one person with a $15/mo subscription can do unlimited 100 person meetings. We use it to play several RPGs, and we did a 44 person surprise 50th birthday party (along with word/speaking based games).
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
Part of the growing pains of WfH - you learn to have smaller meetings, and often will do a videoconference.

Zoom is cheap and good - one person with a $15/mo subscription can do unlimited 100 person meetings. We use it to play several RPGs, and we did a 44 person surprise 50th birthday party (along with word/speaking based games).
We have 18 people on my team and we do a call every morning. Only one person speaks at a time, everyone mutes their mic when not speaking. Everyone shuts off their camera if they are eating at their desk. You just get used to the WFH life after a while I guess.
 

An unmuted person crunching away at chips is an irritation in both an online meeting and an online D&D game.

We have 18 people on my team and we do a call every morning. Only one person speaks at a time, everyone mutes their mic when not speaking. Everyone shuts off their camera if they are eating at their desk. You just get used to the WFH life after a while I guess.
 


Janx

Hero
I've been doing WFH for a decade. Nobody has ever done a camera meeting. Every client hasn't bothered with that. Why waste bandwidth?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Why waste bandwidth?
Because, if you are doing it properly, it isn't wasted. Especially for a group of people who are trying to work as a team, or otherwise collaborate.

Go figure, a species that has an oversized chunk of its brain capacity tasked with facial recognition... actually works together better, and understands each other better, if they can see faces.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Because, if you are doing it properly, it isn't wasted. Especially for a group of people who are trying to work as a team, or otherwise collaborate.

Go figure, a species that has an oversized chunk of its brain capacity tasked with facial recognition... actually works together better, and understands each other better, if they can see faces.
I was going to say this, but you said it better. There's a huge amount of communication bandwidth in our faces and motions.

I will add that putting faces to voices helps humanize the people on the other side as well. Better for developing/strengthening relationships.

I've only WfH for 5 years, half of @Janx whom you were replying, but I've been working for well over two decades with a global company not headquartered in the my country. Orders of magnitude being "more real" to corporate moving from email to voice, and then again voice to video. And I tell you that for non-English speakers I am able to pick up more of what they are saying in a videoconference than just voice. (Though most put me to shame with how good their English is vs. my ability with other languages.)
 

tomBitonti

Explorer
I was going to say this, but you said it better. There's a huge amount of communication bandwidth in our faces and motions.

I will add that putting faces to voices helps humanize the people on the other side as well. Better for developing/strengthening relationships.

I've only WfH for 5 years, half of @Janx whom you were replying, but I've been working for well over two decades with a global company not headquartered in the my country. Orders of magnitude being "more real" to corporate moving from email to voice, and then again voice to video. And I tell you that for non-English speakers I am able to pick up more of what they are saying in a videoconference than just voice. (Though most put me to shame with how good their English is vs. my ability with other languages.)
We have both voice and video, but usually the video isn’t important, and is often off for individuals. When it’s on it’s often just a small thumbnail for each person.
That may be because most meetings have either presentation material — a design document, or a list of issues — or meeting notes, for example, scrum notes — which have focus. Also, folks will often split their focus, say, to a side chat, or to check e-mail, or to other work if they are just monitoring a meeting.
Be safe, be well,
Tom Bitonti
 

Janx

Hero
We have both voice and video, but usually the video isn’t important, and is often off for individuals. When it’s on it’s often just a small thumbnail for each person.
That may be because most meetings have either presentation material — a design document, or a list of issues — or meeting notes, for example, scrum notes — which have focus. Also, folks will often split their focus, say, to a side chat, or to check e-mail, or to other work if they are just monitoring a meeting.
Be safe, be well,
Tom Bitonti
exactly. Plus, some of these people don't have great bandwidth. I'd rather HEAR clearly than get a garbled video and voice.

Sure all that facial feedback is great. But there are reasons it's not used and it's not holding them back.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
exactly. Plus, some of these people don't have great bandwidth. I'd rather HEAR clearly than get a garbled video and voice.

Sure all that facial feedback is great. But there are reasons it's not used and it's not holding them back.
Really, in today's day and age when we can deliver HD movies to everyone's houses all day, there really is no technical reason why it's not used.

If you have garbled video when you are doing it, my guess is you are using wireless. Or have a crappy home internet and other people using it. Because with a good wired internet connection, todays solutions will give you both at high quality. Even transcontinental - known from doing regularly. Or maybe you're using some cut-rate service, or thru a VPN and routed badly. Basically, if it's not good, there's some mess up going on that you can fix instead of living in the past where there were legitimate technical concerns about it.
 

MGibster

Hero
Working from home presents some challenges to employers and employees alike. I've been working from home since mid-March and I haven't been as productive as I would have been in the office. I feel disengaged, have a difficult time with motivation, and am not satisfied with work as much as I was before Covid-19. My company is extremely supportive and I don't have to jump through any unnecessary hoops like emailing my boss my minute-by-minute activities throughout the day. She doesn't micromanage at the office so why would she start now?

I'm a little better about it now. Work has slowed down quite a bit but I've taken the opportunity to enroll in professional development courses online. So, hooray for that. I've also softened by stance on working from home. I was okay with it for other people but firmly against it for myself. I'd still rather work in the office but I can work from home if I have to.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Working from home presents some challenges to employers and employees alike. I've been working from home since mid-March and I haven't been as productive as I would have been in the office. I feel disengaged, have a difficult time with motivation, and am not satisfied with work as much as I was before Covid-19. My company is extremely supportive and I don't have to jump through any unnecessary hoops like emailing my boss my minute-by-minute activities throughout the day. She doesn't micromanage at the office so why would she start now?

I'm a little better about it now. Work has slowed down quite a bit but I've taken the opportunity to enroll in professional development courses online. So, hooray for that. I've also softened by stance on working from home. I was okay with it for other people but firmly against it for myself. I'd still rather work in the office but I can work from home if I have to.
If your situation is anything like mine, there may be two factors contributing to this.

First, when I started working at home it took a bit to get up to speed. We were not used to jumping on IM or a call to each other much more readily than previously, and felt a bit adrift. I was used to casual collaboration - even just explaining what I was planning on doing often could shake lose issues or improvements even before other's feedback, and I didn't notice that lack immediately. My work (IT) often needs late or off-hours, and I'd find myself checking emails because I heard the "ping" of it coming in after dinner or whatever, and that lead to me never really feeling I was off and getting a bit burnt. All of these were solvable, but we needed to adopt a more work at home culture.

That was back in 2015. COVID-19 has brought it's own issues. Without differentiators the days blend together and the weekends dont' have much special to break up the work week psychologically, when we are used to a clear differentiation. When we do talk to coworkers we aren't as cheered, we can hear the stress and anxiety in their voices as well. Assuming we're not passing around stories of those sick, of family who has passed, or those laid off. For me this was a major hit, and if I had been doing it at the same time I had expereienced the early Work-from-Home issues it would have been a really nasty one-two punch.

That's just my experience, yours may differ. But a whole new way or working that will take time to acclimate to, on top of months that seem to go forever of stress and anxiety is frankly, an ugly place to be stuck in.

I wish you the best of luck in sorting things out and finding your personal solution.
 

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