19 months ago the thought of me staying at home for 23hrs for months would have terrified me, however we got out routine sorted which helped a lot, this included Joe Wicks 0900, BoJo presser at 1700 (do this but don’t do this), becoming at P2 teacher 1330-1600 (elbow pads in the post), family walk on the golf course 1600-1700. Throughout that period my working arrangements shifted from room to room as my setup evolved into a desk in my spare bedroom with a large screen and laptop. I have also blogged about the transitions if your interested in the detail but now I am now a hybrid worker.
Hybrid, what’s that? Well it’s kinda like a bit of office working and a bit of home working and for my working situation it makes a lot of common sense. Why does it work for me? The flexibility is something I have craved for years. I worked at home 1 day a week for 13 years, it allowed me to focus on documentation (if you have had the pleasure of working with me you know I love a good process document and making things transparent for anyone involved, who wouldn’t, share the fun), building servers remotely and other individual tasks with maybe the odd phone call to ask people to press a button on campus. Over the 13 years technology has evolved from email, messenger, skype for business (once you got it working) and now teams or Zoom.
Technology evolves and whilst we adapt it seamlessly into our non-working lives, with some of us actively promoting it for work, are 9-5 environment has stagnated due to numerous factors that include open spaces and noise, users unfamiliarity with the technology (e.g. can you hear me, I have poor Wi-Fi. Cat face – to name a few common issues), the technology being regarded as secondary, peoples personal or meeting room hardware setups (some people have vanity lights some people have 3 laptops perched on encyclopaedias). With the tech evolving we can now do remote tasks which now include group work (ability to host or join online meetings), group text chat, drop-ins to chat, share a screen and work through shared documents or issues.
So the technology has evolved (braw!) however the office space hasn’t however what is the office meant to be? I have blogged that people are the campus and they! This has been clearly shown over the numerous lockdowns but as a red brick university the campus is the shop floor for the bulk of roles. IS touch numerous points of campus life (on and remote) and we have shown we can work in extreme circumstances however personally for me I prefer a hybrid work space, which is ultimately a flexible work space.
Home working is great, no trains, no flesh market close steps, no expensive sandwich or coffee shops, work in leisure clothes (bought my first pair of tracksuit bottoms 6 months ago….), no running to meetings basically a lot of good points,. I love my house however I like coming back to it (bit like when you walk in the door post-holiday after sharing a confined space with the hobbits) and I am a strong believer in work life balance. Now for me what work life balance means is ‘give and take’ aka flexibility, managing time/resource, honestly. It may sound preachy but having a young family has taught me to enjoy the time and separate work (like the LTW no comms after 6 policy). I know people who find this impossible and to be honest it freaks me out but it’s their decision.
Working in the office 2 days gives me a bit of separation and allows me to plan 2 different days however I don’t plan them any different and for the foreseeable wont. I come in and work, catch up with folks, meet online or in-person and go home. Currently 2 days is enough and not due to COVID concerns but due to the change in routine (which I am over) and the office feeling different. The space feels subdued and when I come in it’s like a Saturday. It’s quiet for a time however co-ordinating days when others (usually Karen or Nikki) are in helps prioritise tasks for those days, allows us to bounce ideas around (scheduling collaboration and spontaneity on Teams is difficult) and lets me see other people J which I miss. Some of the people I get to work with or share an office with are worth the train fare alone to cheer me up. The human side of work and the office has been something I have blogged about before and it’s one of the reasons why I enjoy my job.
So let’s be honest about the office, desk layout isn’t the best for online meetings and mics pick up other conversations pretty quickly. Meeting rooms are quiet but rely heavily on tech working and the building not being full (booking a room prior to COVID was like a playing a game in Squid Games – somebody would die!). If we are to adopt hybrid shared desk arrangements, thinning of the space would help. The creation of more social sitting and printer booth breakout spaces would help the space however my big thing is the noise. We probably need to admit that for a truly hybrid space the open spaces will need to be a bit more nosier due to online meetings held at desk, more collaboration spaces in teams local environments (again noisy) and the acceptance that the office should be a collaboration space and not just a undefined space with a desk with your stuff on it. Making it a collaboration friendly space helps hybrid workers however like we have all gone through over the past months it would require a change and physical office space changes are probably the most difficult to accept.
So hybrid for me works, the tech now allows us the flexibility, management now understand having being entrenched in it during lockdowns but (always a but) the office isn’t configured to support it…yet. My experience of coming into the office isn’t negative however it could be better which I will be feeding back.