I think there’s little doubt that working from home is more difficult than in the office and, arguably, makes you busier also.
My experience is that I have to do more of everything. About 60% of my work is project-based. In a normal project with a team around you, you might do about 50% of the stuff as project lead. I reckon that’s up around 80% since we started working from home, and a lot of that is extra ‘running around’.
The main reason for this are issues around communication and being face to face. Outside of scheduled meetings, you’ll need to correspond and contact others, and occasionally you’ll need a prompt response. In the office, if someone doesn’t respond to a message or phone call then I can walk across the floor to speak with them directly. That’s not an option now.
It really depends on the individual, but I’ve found a lot of people are either slow to respond or non-responsive in general. I don’t have the option to tap them on the shoulder, so in the absence of anyone to help I’ll often spend time figuring it out myself. When there’s no-one to delegate to, you can’t delegate.
It’s the same when trying to explain concepts or discuss an issue. In the office, you can look at a screen together or draw something up on a whiteboard. It’s easier by phone when you connect, but imperfect. When you’re doing it by Teams and there’s a gap of hours between replies, then it’s torturous.
I’ve always been big on visual aids because that’s how I think. I’m a wiz at Visio and creating flowcharts and diagrams is second nature to me. They become ever so more important in times like these because, in a sense, they replace the whiteboard. What it means is that I must put more effort into creating these and putting together documentation so that we, in our disparate locations, have a common understanding of what we’re working on.
I guess the other thing is that in the office you’re basically dealing with two different locations – the office and the office of the vendor partner. Now that we’re all working from home there are multiple locations to deal with. I can’t see what’s going on and, as a control freak, that eats away at me.
There’s an interesting psychology here I haven’t touched upon: why aren’t people more responsive?
There are different reasons for this. I think for some working from home allows for some personalities to revert to type. That means they’re either oblivious of the messages sent to them because they never check, or they’re happy to put off a response. Some people may be sitting on the couch. Others, I suspect, are struggling with lockdown generally, which is blunting their effectiveness.
Me, I’m much the same as I am in the office. I sit here alert and hard-driving. I’ve actually thought I should take it easier. Relax, you’re at home. Occasionally I’ll take time out to catch part of a playoff game or read a book, but the itch is always to get back to my desk. I send messages on Teams and by email, I’ll make calls, via Teams, or on my phone to the vendor, and I’ll even send SMS or WhatsApp messages when I’m not getting anywhere.
It may be that I have to accept that it’s not going to be as efficient when working in the office. I know that. I just can’t seem to accept it. It eats at me and I get grumpy. It feels sometimes as if it’s an excuse for some – particularly the vendor – to ease back. By my reckoning, projects are about 40% less effective than before – and maybe that’s a fact of life.