Friday, September 11, 2020

Work From Home, Work Is Home

I'm a big, BIG, fan of working from home (WFH).

Anyone who's been following my writings (not saying that there ane any) knows I've been advocating WFH policies for the longest time - way before COVID-19 struck and forced many of us to join the WFH bandwagon.

This week has been bad, but also good. Bad because the whole city had a sudden severe shortage of water till our tanks have run empty and we're scrambling to call our friends to find a place to shower. Good because my work place had good sense to allow us to WFH once their tanks went dry too.

I've been practising WFH for the longest time ever. Especially during my good 'ol days at an MNC, and also during my practice days (when I was senior enough to manage my own files and time). I would waltz into office pass 9 in the morning, and sometimes leave before 4 in the afternoon. Lucky me, right? Well, that's only the good side of WFH...

Work from bed

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

* * *

Ultimately, WFH is a trade-off.

Anyone who's been following my writings (not saying that there are anyone) knows I've been advocating WFH policies for the longest time - way before COVID-19 struck and forced most of us to join the WFH bandwagon.

You exchange flexibility in working hours for irregularity in working tasks. When your boss allows you to take off from office anytime you please, he expects you to be on call pretty much 24/7.

To give you a picture, here's a totally fictional scene:

Boss: Heading off already?

Me: Yep, quick nap, then I'll continue working on the Stoom file.

Boss: Cool, catch you later on Zoom. Call in 15 minutes earlier to fill me in details?

Me: Sure, 945pm then!

Unfortunately, most other people in office don't know about the Zoom call or what happens when I go home (trust me, there's nothing exciting, just me staring at a computer screen). So they just assume I'm skiving or partying with my bros or something. To them, I'm a lazy bugger. Truth be told, my life is even more miserable than theirs. Ah, the irony...

* * *

So why do I put with this torture? It's simple. It's the best way to work. Not just for me, but for everyone.
Imagine the time is 11.45am. Lunchtime is fixed - 12pm to 1pm (non-negotiable). Your brain is on fire. You're feverishly typing away. Do you stop for lunch? Of course not. That will just break your momentum - and maybe even keep your boss waiting (he has to leave by 3pm - that's why he's the boss).

Obviously, any functional workplace shouldn't be fixing hours. It's not in their interest when their staff just watches the clock. That's when work gets stalled, and people can't get into the 'zone'.

Apply the same analogy to clock-in/clock-out hours, and weekday/weekend dividing lines. The best work output comes from people who aren't constrained by arbitrary timings. And that's a fact.

Did I just break the myth that WFH allows us to work less hours? Yes, that's the cold hard truth.

Does that mean anti-WFH people are the lazy buggers? Yes, totally!

Should more workplaces switch to WFH? Yes, but you really need to find like-minded people who have a strong sense of purpose and passion.

* * *

Indeed, it's harder to WFH than to work fixed hours.

Working from 9 to 5 just requires you to be disciplined between, yes, 9 to 5. Be on time, be visible - that's all you have to do.

WFH is harder because your performance is not measured by your input, but output. No marks for work 'Effort', but all about work 'Product'. It's not an obligation of conduct, but of result.

That's how I run my ship, if I'm ever captain. Here's a task, get back to me by this deadline. That's all. I don't care what time you start, how many hours you burn. All I care about is a job well done. Finished earlier? Well done, you've earned yourself a break!

Now, that's called 'work'. Clock in 9 to 5 no matter how late you had to work last night on an urgent project? That's called 'slavery'.

And above all, WFH epitomises the highest level of human autonomy, and social trust. Only mediocre people need a specific time and place to work. The best of us are constantly working, no matter where and no matter when.

Work is home, and home is work. And that's okay, because we're doing the work we love and call home.

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