This week has been very different from the rest. Twice a year for a few weeks, I engage in all day meetings which usually take place in person. On these days, we enter a conference room at 9am, eat through the day and emerge only at 6pm. These meetings last two weeks, test stamina and focus and are usually grueling yet engaging. However, this year for the first time ever we were doing these meetings from the comfort of our own homes, with multiple breaks and sometimes spread over more than a day so as to not tire an individual out. It is during this phase that I realized just how much I dislike remote work. I always knew that it wasn’t my preferred mode, but now I particularly hate it (yes I know, hate is a strong word). Here is why:
Space: At an office, space is a given. You have a desk, chair, keyboard, mouse, monitor and most peripherals that are considered basic necessities. What we do not realize is that space is a privilege. Not everyone has or can afford to create a similar space at home especially when there exists more than one person in the house. I am moving to my parents’ house next month and I know for a fact that I will not have an entire kitchen table at my disposal. More often than not, the bed will be my workplace and I can guarantee that it is not suitable for long working hours or focused attention. I know I am not the only one. Many of my colleagues rotate through different parts of the house through the day depending on their kids’ schedule.
Add to that, at an office one never worried about stationary, printing files, or replacing IT peripherals that decide to stop working. I very recently found out the cost of colour printouts and felt looted. Not to mention the walking around to find a place that can could provide these.
Unpredictability: If you live in India, you will most connect with this reason. Come pouring rain, and the electricity is bound to disappear if only for a while. If not the electricity, the internet connectivity has a mind of its own. While I have steady internet and rarely face electricity outages, both decided to fail me this week at most critical moments. On top of that, my house receives poor phone coverage. I spent the last 24 hours standing on the roof taking work calls and then having to race indoors every time it started raining. Don’t blame me for reminiscing of easier days where I did not have to worry about electricity nor internet and phone connectivity once I stepped into the office.
Pain: I have never spent more hours on the phone than I do now. Even though I switch between headphones and speakers, at the end of the day all I want to do is not have to take another call ever again. Not only does my head hurt, it makes me question why I ever got into the line of work I am in.
At work, I had the privilege of a desk with adjustable height. I would stand when I’d like, sit when I would want to. Now my house and long term plans, do not have space for such a desk. I know for a fact that if this continues, I will have far more ailments that I would have if I’d just headed into office. Some organizations are letting their employees purchase everything they need while some are telling their employees they should be happy they have a job. I don’t know which category your organization falls into but I will opt for an organization that will pay for a house large enough to accommodate ‘office spaces’ for every working member of the family.
Distractions: While at office, I worried mostly about things related to work. Now stuck at home, I suddenly recall chores that need to be done at various times of the day. What follows is the mental distress of knowing that I can get up from my desk and finish it now but I am technically working and hence I must save it for later. It takes an accomplished yogi to fight all the distractions when it comes to working from your living space. On top of that, if you live with other people around, you need to flex your schedule to accommodate theirs. As my parents say, ‘You are not living in a hotel.’ I am not a yogi and I prefer the confines of my office space where while distractions still exist, they are far fewer. At least the environment is primed for work and everyone around is also following the same schedule.
Conversations: Recall my pain with calls? Yet if I am to have any conversation to vent, de-stress or connect, it has to be – you guessed it – over a call. All social connections are now calls. Given that everyone around you is in the same boat and is actively working on cutting down the number of calls in a day, social connections are becoming strained. Calls, video or otherwise, will never replace the connect you build when meeting in person. Heaven forbid that I never meet the people I hope to build a strong working relationship with.
For all those who claim that remote work is the future of work, is a great equalizer and saves organizations a lot of real estate costs, I beg you to consider my pains. I know I am not the only one. I know Google has extended its WFH until July 2021. When the pandemic lifts, vaccines are democratized and the world is safe again, if you keep me from working from an old-school office environment, I can guarantee I will likely kill myself. (Ok, I am kidding. I’ll live).
P.S: For all those pro remote workers. It’s been four months now. When does it get easier?