Office, Home, and why Hybrid doesn’t work for everyone.
A view from the code coal face
So, after 18+ months… we’re all well versed in the pros & cons of working from home for ourselves – and we probably have pretty strong views on where we want to be in 6 months time.
- Yes, there are people who are working on a very old computer at home, because their work computer’s… well, at work.
- Yes, there are people who are working from their bedroom, because they flat-share or need to have a private space to work.
- Yes, there are people who have whole families trying to work from home, all in the same house, all at the same time.
…. and they’re all probably desperate to get back to somewhere with space, with a real desk, and with real office equipment to work with.
- On the flip side, there are people who are not having to commute 30 miles to work each day; who are not spending £200 a month on train fairs (other commuting options are available, they all cost money.)
- On the flip site, there are people who are enjoying getting to spend 2-hours a day more with their family, because they’re not commuting.
- On the flip side, there are people who find that having a real kitchen at home, and real time available, are having better, healthier breakfasts and lunches….. and maybe even a nice walk in the crisp autumn sun.
There have been a number of thoughts on the pros and cons of where you work – Water-cooler conversations; that synchronicity that leads to disparate projects discovering common ground; local support with solving problems (“How do you average over different excel sheets again?”); impromptu meetings and problem-solving sessions; lunchtime gaming sessions; heck, even friendship.
Here’s another thought about hybrid working…. and I wonder if you’ve thought it through: What are you working on?
No – not the name of your projects, or your job title…. I mean the thing your fingers dance across, and your eyes scan… I mean your computer!
There are two aspects to this I want you to think about:
1. When you switch from “home” to “office” – where are your files, and your programmes….. and don’t forget all those handy little macro’s you’ve made in Excel, or clever aliases you’ve made to run commands, or small programmes you’ve acquired to make life easier. Where’s your personal dictionary for Word, or the code for that website you’re editing, or all the icons on your desktop?
2. When you’re in the “wrong” place, how do you “do work”?
Different people work in different ways.
If you’re one of those people who happily live with a “Managed Desktop”, then all of that follows you around. The downside to the managed desktop is that it NEEDS a network, will struggle over a slow network, and there are some things you can’t do… like install personal programmes on the computer.
We’ve watched many people bounce around the office with their laptop – can you absolutely work quite happily on a laptop (yes, even code-monkeys can) – but there is a flaw with the laptop route: they are twice the price of an equivalent desktop computer! (and they rarely have the grunt of a desktop – built to be small and light, there’s a compromise somewhere.)
Myself, I’ve been a programmer for *cough20harumph* years, and I’ve used multiple monitors for pretty much all of that time…. and you get used to working with a certain amount of screen “real-estate”
So here’s my problem with a “Hybrid Model”: I need to be wherever my computer is.
My computer has the code for all the services and projects I work on – 67GB of files over 80+ current & previous projects.
My computer has all the tools I need to work with (and I interact with 14 different technologies in just 1 service) – from editors and support libraries, to management tools and cross-network commands.
My computer also has the CPU grunt and RAM capacity to compile fairly large programs (multi-gigabyte data-objects are common for me), and I’m used to having, and using, 5 or 6 open windows simultaneously.
If I’m not where my computer is then I’m not where my programming systems are – and I’m at a massive disadvantage for doing any productive work.
Graphical Interfaces to not work well over a network; and even if they did…. what screen am I looking at? Am I actually going to be able to pick up the editing I left open on my computer, or am I a second “log in”…. do I even want to allow remote access to my work computer (privacy and data-at-work is a real problem)
So is there a tech solution that would work for “hybrid working” for me?
Yes… sort of: replace the ~£1000 desktop with a ~£3000 laptop, and then provide a 2nd monitor & keyboard setup for the second work-place (£800+)…. OK, so yes – that’s not realistic
No…. the real solution for “hybrid” for people like me is to work at home 9 days out of 10, and organise all the in-person meetings to happen on the 10th day, the day I commute to the office, the day I don’t get any productive coding work done, the day I donate 2 hours & commuting costs to work.
Personally, I’m really loath to give up the extra 10 hours a week I have at home; the better lunches; the extra money from not commuting.
I’m going to point out that: because I have the computer at home, I can work on in the evening; because I have the computer at home, I can choose to problem-solve during the weekend; because I’m at home, I’m happier.
One final gotcha.
Here’s one final twist to the whole deal… see this computer you’re using for work – who owns it?
What insurance is covering it against fire/theft?
I checked with my own insurance company back when it became clear that I’d be here for more than a couple of months. My insurance will cover a work laptop in my possession, at home; and will cover my personal computer when (temporarily) not at my home…. but it does not cover a non-portable computer that’s not mine, at my home.