:house_with_garden: A year of Working from Home

:house_with_garden: A year of Working from Home

2021, Mar 05    

On March, 4th 2020 it was the last time I travelled by business and I visited an airport :airplane:, a customer office :office: and I met on site with other colleagues. So, on March, 5th 2021 I am celebrating my first working-from-home anniversary. Here is my story on this period of time :calendar:.

DISCLAIMER: This blog is not any kind of reference or best practices about how to work remotely, it is only my personal experience about it. I don’t want to promise you other things.

When I joined to Red Hat Consulting around eight years ago, one of the key points for me was to have the opportunity to work remotely for customers and other teams. It was something that I was looking for many times and Red Hat was the first company that allowed me completely.

It is true that working in Consulting, travelling is a hot topic … here :bird: you have a point of view of that (of course, it is not updated, the list is now longer).

However, it is also true that for many customers and teams we could deliver our services remotely using many tools in that space: VPN, collaborative tools (Google Workspace, BlueJeans, Miro, GitHub.com, GitLab.com), mailing and chats (GMail, Telegram, Slack, IRC (yes, it is also valid today!!), …). So that balance between working on-site and working remotely was perfect to me. I could have the best things of both approaches :grinning:.

However, on March 2020 everything exploded :boom: when COVID-19 pandemic and the Government’s decisions created a new model: a hard lock-down forced us to stay at home :house_with_garden: for three months.

In my case, the lock-down started at the same time with the kick-off of a huge project with a big customer. It was a huge challenge for us (we as Red Hat Consulting team, and the customer’s teams). We worked hard to resolve many different challenges:

  • All members working remotely, many of them without previous experience on it.
  • Build a new team with people from different areas or departments that we had never met before.
  • Start to use new collaborative and virtual tools.
  • Define a new framework from scratch.
  • Improve our Way or Working … here we followed many of the practices described in the Open Practice Library.
  • Balance between personal and professional activity from our home in those complicated moments.
  • Be positive and productive under such complex circumstances.

But after three hard-working months we created a great space and a team where we could achieve the main goals of the project. We confirmed that everything is possible if you have the aptitude to do it. We learned a lot of lessons that helped us to be ready and productive in this new era. This real experience demonstrates that we could provide high qualified consulting and services remotely … this is a breaking point for many customers where they think and expect that this kind of service only must be delivered on-site. I suffered many times in the past to travel to have meetings or to deliver some activities that I could do with a VPN and a simple terminal.

For sure the way Professional Service Teams deliver services are changing and moving to new strategies, approaches and solutions. At least in Red Hat Consulting, yes.

In summer :sunny: I moved to a small town in the north of the province of Zamora (my grandparent’s town) and I continued doing my job as usual without any break or interruption … well, from time to time my mobile (data and voice) coverture was not so fine. I hope, Spanish’s government will invest to improve the network communications in the rural areas … but it is my desire because it will allow people to decide where to work. Maybe we are not far away to get it, but it is an area where we should invest. I don’t need a big city to work and live.

I enjoyed a lot with that new model of working, but I had to come back because my kids started their classes. To be honest, if they did not need to do it, I would have been in there longer.

The next months did not introduce significant changes in my daily basics … I could say that we created a daily routine (school :school:, working :construction_worker:, homework :notebook:, sports :running:). Every time the government changed or declared new restrictions we were not affected in general, basically we did not move to anywhere and our daily was not affected at all. The main concern to us was and is no meeting with our friends or family as we usually did it before this new reality started. It is something we are missing a lot, but we know that sooner or later we could do it again.

During that time, not everything was related about working, studying with my kids or enjoy more time with my wife, I also was focus in other different topics that help me to isolate from COVID-19 news.

One of the areas was to improve my own professional desk. After working from home many days and hours I realized that it is very important to have a conformable, isolated, clean and open space to work productivity.

My space was going from

to

and now I am very happy with my new space, and my daughter too because now she has a new room. :smile:

Other the areas where I focused my efforts was creating my personal blog, where you are now :smile: (thank you!). This blog helped me to write articles with some kind of cadence, analyze which contents publish and review old articles. Now I have a small space on the Internet :globe_with_meridians:.

In 2020 I joined to run the Half Marathon of Madrid, but the race was converted into a Virtual Race. That was not inconvenient to prepare a workout plan, define a goal and run it. During some months I followed it as another daily routine until the race day. As Virtual Race we could run the race for a month as many times as you wanted. After three times I achieved my best personal time :muscle:

Now it is time to define new goals in 2021.

As we could not meet to celebrate anything, we had to do it virtually. Of course, it is not the same when we are celebrating in a bar, restaurant or venue; however Red Hat created special virtual events sending us boxes with many gifts and details to celebrate as “usual”:

On the other hand, I celebrated other events with great beers from my friends of Beer Bang of Madrid. These resources help me to feel close to my friends and co-workers.

Of course, not everything was fine and I found some topics that make my life not so easy. If I have to choose one, for sure, the new model that I called CC/CM (Continuous Call and Continuous Meeting). Many times my agenda was a complete mesh with continuous meetings … my webcam, speakers and mic burned several times after many hours working on. Before pandemic I usually attend many meetings but the global balance was easy between my daily basics, travels, customers and projects. However when all people move to work remotely, then a new wave of meetings and calls hit my face. :facepalm:

I tried different strategies to reduce them or at least optimize my agenda. The next ones are my favorite:

  • Schedule meetings within 25 minutes or 50 minutes. It gives me a small slot to prepare the next one or to do other things.
  • Say NO to attend meetings where I am not really needed. It sounds easy, but I have to learn how to do it.
  • Block my agenda with slots to focus my attention in my tasks and reject other invites.

Maybe there are other approaches or strategies in that area, but these ones work perfectly to me. I am involved in many different activities, customers and teams and it is not easy to manage everything.

So after this first year working from home living new experiences, stories, achieving goals, improving and learning new skills, I could say that the balance was positive (I tend to have a positive aptitude). Of course I am desiring to meet on site with many friends and family, travel to different places, don’t use a face mask, come back to normal life, meanwhile I am only looking for something to enjoy everyday.

To be honest, Red Hat gave us a safe space to work in many different ways: setting a global work-from-home strategy to stay safe, a Recharge Day per quarter to relax from work, programs to buy office resources for our own desk, … Those resources facilitated a lot of my daily life. I am glad to be a member of this community.

I know that everyone lived it in different ways (better or worse), however I want to think that in general people learned about it and adapted to live in the best way under the current circumstances.

At least this is my new life and I try to maximize everyday.

What about you? How was your story? :sunglasses: