I work from home

Published on 20 June 2019 in ,

I work from home.

I went up to our acting boss in February 2015 and told her I would soon be leaving London for Manchester. I implied I’d be resigning. Cos that was what I was planning to do. My job was in London. I was moving to Manchester. It made sense. She looked a little worried. Probably because the colleague I worked very closely with had recently handed her notice in as she was moving to Switzerland. And because our new team boss would be starting in a couple of weeks time and he was about to lose most of his product team before he’d even started.

“Would you consider working from Manchester for a few months? To help the transition?” she asked. I said, yeah, sure. No problem at all.

I work from home.

I went up to my new boss in his first week. It was our first proper conversation.

“How do you feel about working from up there?” he asked. “You could work from home some of the time. And we could get you a desk in Salford. You can come down to London every now and then. In my last job I had someone in India. Salford’s a lot easier.”

There was an office in Salford. I’d applied for a couple of jobs there the previous year, anticipating the move. I hadn’t got them. One of them they wouldn’t interview me because my then salary was then too high for them. They were looking for someone more junior. And cheaper.

I work from home.

It was Easter. Our lives went into a massive upheaval. Two adults (one pregnant) and a three year old moved into the in-laws house in Greater Manchester. A temporary thing whilst we got ourselves sorted and looked for our own place. The inlaws had lots of space. I bought a reasonably priced computer monitor, and an Ikea desk chair, and set up my office in Catherine’s mum’s craft room, next to the kitchen. My work laptop, external keyboard and various other bits had all come with me from the actual office.

I took a week off to house hunt, buy a car, and generally settle in. And the following Monday I opened up my laptop. I opened up the Google Hangouts we used for meetings. I said hello to everyone in the office. I became the person who dialled into meetings from a different part of the country.

I work from home.

Many years earlier I’d worked in a large team with someone who worked from home. It was before video conferencing systems. Before everyone had laptops with webcams.

He was almost invisible. Most of the time we never heard from him. Was never sure what he was doing. Who he was working with. Every now and then we’d have team meetings, and he’d come in. We’d go “Who is that guy?” because we’d forgotten. Later I did some projects with him. He was a nice bloke. Did a good job. But it felt like he was almost forgotten. We wondered if he was actually given any work to do half the time.

I decided I didn’t want that. I wanted to feel part of the team even I was 200 miles away. I wanted to see people. I wanted them to see me. Video calls was a must for me. My boss wholeheartedly agreed. We were on the same wavelength.

I work from home.

A few weeks later I made my first trip to London. I stayed in our old house which we were still in the process of selling. Most of our furniture was still there. I spent time in the office. Then I went back home. I kept on doing it. Mostly going to London for the day, but sometimes overnight. See people. Spend time with them. Keep up those relationships. Get that office conversation you miss out on when you’re not in the building.

For all the talk about how most office people could work from home, there’s one thing that’s harder when you’re remote. And that’s building up relationships with people. Especially when new people join the team. Or you get new people elsewhere in the business who don’t know you. It’s really important.

I work from home.

It’s September 2017 and I’ve just dropped my son off for his first day at school. I start a routine whereby I drop him off a couple of days a week. Then I go back to our home, and climb the two flights of stairs to my office in the old attic. The Ikea chair has been joined by an Ikea desk and an Ikea shelf mounted on four Ikea kitchen cabinet legs that makes a monitor riser. There’s some Lego on the desk. And a wooden pen pot from the Grand Canyon that I got when I visited it when I was 11.

The benefits of working from home really become clear. I like doing the school run. If I worked in an office, I probably wouldn’t be able to do it. I’d have to leave too early. But now I can take my son, spend a little time in the building he spends so much of his life in. I can – meetings dependent – pop in for assemblies and things. Attend sessions where the school invites parents to join them in the classroom. It’s great.

I work from home.

There’s still sometimes a little surprise when I ask people to include conference call details for a meeting, but mainly as they assume I’m London based like the rest of my team.

But the office is changing. Back in 2015 most of the people I spoke to were in London. A lot of the time it still is. But I have stakeholders in the office in Salford. The large team there, and those in London, are being joined by growing teams in Glasgow, Cardiff and now Bristol. A video meeting may involve people from across the country. More and more people work from home at least one day a week.

Generally teams are still co-located. Everyone in the same place, be it Glasgow, London or Cardiff. But that’s changing. More and more teams have people dotted around all over the place. A couple of people in Salford, other people in Glasgow. Some people in Salford, one person in Cardiff, others in London. Recently some of the developers in my team spent a month or so pair programming with a team in Salford.

At some point someone will no doubt join my team who also isn’t based in London. I will welcome that. And I can use my experience to help them if they need it.

I work from home.

Truthfully, I thought I’d only be doing it for twelve months. Then I’d get another job. Move into an office again. I thought I might go a bit crazy. That has yet to happen.

I save a lot of time (and money) by not commuting. I can finish work and go downstairs, make tea and have it with the children. The fact I get to spend more time with them is a huge bonus.

It’s not perfect working from home. There are challenges. But generally we’ve made it work. The family benefits are huge. On balance, it works well. And I still regularly go to London. And sometimes to to Salford.

Maybe one day I will return to the office. Perhaps for a couple of days a week. Working from home for the rest.

But not yet. For I work from home. And I like it.