My name is Joy and I have never worked from home. There, I said it. Well, while I have worked from home on a random basis when snowed in or awaiting the delivery person or when one of my kids is sick, I’ve never really done it for real. Until now, that is…
As regular readers of this blog know, we’re in the process of moving UTC’s offices from D.C. to Arlington, VA. The move out of D.C. went well and, as planned, we have about an eight-week period when our new offices are not yet ready and we are all working…from home. Cue dramatic music: dun, dun, duuun…
Actually, it’s been just fine for the first few weeks. Several of my staff already live and work outside of D.C. and because of that and our frequent travel we were set up for remote access. Every couple of weeks, we will have an in-person staff meeting at our new building’s conference space – the first one happened this Monday – to ensure crucial in-person communication. So, I doubt our members have noticed any major differences in how we interact with them. But they may have noticed the following with more frequency than before – hallmarks of working at home, so I have discovered:
- The conference call background noise that sounds like a vacuum is most likely a vacuum – it’s hard to get away from the sound even behind closed doors, and, in the winter, going outside can be a challenge.
- Most of the UTC staff have dogs, and they seem to have an uncanny ability to bark when the most critical detail is being conveyed on a conference call. My precious Taylor becomes a guard dog as soon as I pick up the phone. Taylor: “What do you mean, a leaf blew across the front lawn and it could have been a threat…and it got your attention, didn’t it?”
- For those of us who have kids, well, they like our attention too, don’t they? The other noise our members may be hearing is that of amplified kid “happenings” – similar to the canines in our lives, they have an uncanny ability to injure themselves, spill, or need urgent help on their math problems (to name a few) just as we are about to convey the most critical issue facing our industry and how UTC will solve it.
Here’s what our members may not have noticed:
- We don’t have a commute so theoretically have added anywhere from 30 minutes to two-plus hours to our more productive work time (as opposed to sitting in worse-than-usual traffic while taking conference calls).
- We can work in our sweats — all day.
- The kitchen table/couch/bed all serve as great places to create a make-shift desk.
In all seriousness, I have now personally discovered that working from home has its pluses and minuses. The challenge of not being able to look people in the eye to have a difficult conversation or convey a more complicated message is a minus and one that is part of our remote access world. Not being able to grab lunch or have a quick face-to-face chat with one of your colleagues at the last minute or in passing can cause disconnection and loneliness at times. Not to mention having your work hours bleed into your “at home” hours.
On the other hand, the lack of a commute and the ability to, literally, work in your sweats on certain days, while also popping in some laundry or starting the dishwasher in between conference calls, can make work and home life more seamless and efficient. The bottom line is, while I prefer working at the office, and see the benefits of doing so for me, I now better understand the difference, and can hopefully better manage my staff who work from home all the time. Until we meet again…