Work


Having Control Over Your Own Day

20th March 2022

I have a few life goals written down, where I think if I would achieve them, would signify a very satisfying life for myself.

One I would like to share today, is that I would like to not need to set an alarm on a day-to-day basis. I want to be able to wake up naturally, and go about my day as I see fit.

The biggest and most obvious hinderance to me achieving this goal is my day job. And for most people attempting to achieve something similar, where they have more control over their day, this problem would probably be the same.

The essence of the goal is mostly based on having control over my own timetable, but at the same time, I don’t want this to mean that I can’t work. I’m happy working, but I want to do it on my own time. Maybe that’s expecting too much, but I have a feeling that many people would like to control their day a little more.

This actually came back into my head recently with the news that the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill to make Daylight Saving Time permanent, and also based on commentary from LD Stephens, and Mike Rockwell.

But the idea that triggered it the most was from LD Stephens, where he mentioned how it would more negatively affect the northern states, with darker mornings in the winter months. While I won’t pretend to understand the geography of the U.S. or the opinions of its citizens, it is interesting to me that even inside a time zone, not everyone experiences the same day. I haven’t quite figured out if I think this is a problem, or if it’s just a situation that we have to get on with. But intriguing to me nonetheless.

Where this ties in to my idea about controlling your day, is that because timezones are experienced differently based on where you are within that timezone. So while it may say 8 am on everyone’s clocks, maybe in one place the sun has risen, and in another it hasn’t. That’s probably not a big deal to most. But when you add the context of a normal day job starting at roughly the same time, then it has a more visible effect.

I have many questions in my head regarding why we need to start work at a certain time, and why working hours aren’t adjusted on a hyper-local basis. But I guess the answer is mostly that it’s simply easier this way.

When I think about Daylight Savings Time, it does at least attempt to counteract the varying sunset/sunrise times over the year. But I don’t think the “solution” to this is in the concept of time itself, but how we base our lives on it. For example, if you normally start work at 8 am, but now the sun doesn’t rise until 8:45 am, why can’t you just start work at 9 am instead? Why do we adjust time to compensate? I’m guessing because “it’s easier”.

I’m not sure that this would work for everyone, but I think a more flexible approach to working hours would be widely accepted.

Before the pandemic, I started coming into work earlier, starting at 7:30 instead of 8:30. However, while this may seem flexible, I’m pretty sure there would have been a bit of friction if I asked to start at 7:45 instead. It’s also not flexible, as in I have had to agree this new time, I couldn’t have just arrived one day at 7:30.

What, I think, would be a good solution for most people is if your starting time wasn’t fixed. But maybe there’s an hour window, and then your working hours start from whenever you arrived at work. Perhaps one day you woke up 15 minutes late, and therefore arrived “late” to the office. Why treat it as a problem of being late? Why is there not a general acceptance of the fact that you arrived 15 minutes later, and that you will just leave 15 minutes later as a result?

Personally, I think the best solution for people and companies (where the job allows), is if your entire working hours were flexible. For example, you could be contracted to work 8 hours a day, but you are free to fulfil those 8 hours between the hours of 7 am and 9 pm. Maybe one day you have plans later on in the day, so you choose to start at 7 am, and have a short lunch. But another day, you want to go have brunch with friends, so you could start later, or perhaps you just take a long break?

To go even further on this idea, what if the entire week was flexible? What if you could fit in 40 hours of work as you see fit throughout the week?

I think this idea of control, and having your working hours work around you, instead of everyone conforming to the same schedule, would result in a massive feeling of freedom.

While I have personally been working throughout the entire pandemic, I have now done so from home for two full years. I start going back to the office on the week starting 28th March, for 2 days a week. And I imagine a lot more people will be starting to go back to the office as well, if they haven’t done so already. It will certainly be very fascinating to see what cultural changes have happened over the period of the pandemic, specifically regarding commuting into a city to work after working from home for two years. Especially since it appears that people are at least attempting to “go back to normal”.

I guess the question is, “what is normal now?”. A while ago everyone was predicting significant changes to how people work, how they socialise, and their entire priorities and attitudes towards their lifestyles. But surely at some point we’ve got to see this take place? Or has it already happened, and we’ve already accepted it as normal?

Having a Culture of Writing at Work

18th February 2022

Brie Wolfson, wrote a great article listing their favourite things about working at companies that have a culture of writing. I’m a big fan of writing (and sharing) at work, and I tended to agree with everything in the post.

My favourites on the list would be:

Raises the quality bar: When you open up your work to a broader audience, you naturally do more polishing before you share. When everyone is doing that work for each other, the average for the company goes way up!

Good ideas bubble up: If the ideas are compelling, they will spread. And it doesn’t necessarily matter who wrote it. I’ve seen documents written in a corner of an organization make their way all the way to the CEO and meaningfully influence top-level decisions.

Ditch the “roadshows”: Publish a document to get your ideas out there and it not only democratizes it, it saves time! Docs create a single destination/artifact for anyone around the org to reference and opine on when appropriate or required. I like to call this the ‘YO, FYI” approach. Draft your doc and blast it out with the simple message of ‘YO, FYI” to those that may want to know.

I’m someone who writes a lot at work. For many of the reasons that are pointed out in the above-mentioned list. But if I would come up with the main benefits that I see myself from writing a lot at work I’d say:

Increases chance of understanding - You can spend more time explaining something when writing it out, and the reader can read it at their own pace, and take their time to understand it fully.

Gives the opportunity for more people to gain knowledge - Sometimes when you’re on a call or in a meeting, knowledge stays within small groups of people. But by having a written record, it allows more people (if shared appropriately) to also read it. For example, maybe a new employee wanting to know more about a piece of work/functionality, or someone on the same team that wishes to gain a better perspective of a bigger piece of work.

Showcases your work and knowledge - This can be taken the wrong way, but by offering more detail on discussions, decisions, or any learned knowledge, you can both help others with the shared information, and showcase your work to others. Perhaps it helps your boss to see what you’re up to, and reassures them that you’re on track. Or possibly it shows hard work, and potential for promotion.

Information has a longer lifespan - Instead of staying within the confines of a conversation, information can live longer. And at the same time, it can be used as a living document that is constantly updated.

Saves time - Both as a method of sharing information to big groups of people, and to explain complex topics that may take a while to read and fully understand.

Anecdotally, I have noticed that at my work the people that write more, tend to have a better reputation, and from my perspective, seem to be better at their jobs.

Returning to the Office

14th October 2021

It’s getting close to the time where I think companies will be asking more and more of their employees to migrated back to office life. This has made me wonder what I personally expect will happen in regard to my own situation, and also what I’m hoping for, and willing to settle for.

Back in February this year, I wrote a post entailing reasons why I didn’t want to return to the office. I’d say that my feelings haven’t changed in that regard. But at the same time, there are aspects of office life that I wouldn’t mind getting back. Although I’m not sure how realistic those actually are.

As for my current work situation, I’m still working from home full-time, having started back in March 2019. The company I work for have started talking about flexible working in the future, although these plans were pushed back recently, as it was planned to be in action around September. But, it did seem that at that point, the balance was seemingly going to be a pretty even split of working at home and in the office.

Right now, my office is open for people to go in and has been for a few months. Except, it’s not open as usual (as you might expect). Instead, only half of our floors are open in the building, and are at a maximum 50% capacity, along with no one having an assigned desk.

If you want to go into the office, you need to book a slot online, and in the morning you have to get your personal items from a locker, pick up a fresh mouse and keyboard, and take everything to your desk.

Once you’re set up at your desk, that’s it for the rest of the day. Because most likely your teammates aren’t even in the building, let alone sat anywhere near you. So you’re basically remote-working from the office. Especially as meetings will continue to require a video call.

That situation is precisely why I haven’t returned to the office at all. Because the value I see in being in an office is the fact that your team is sat together, you can have quick discussions, a meeting can happen in person around a whiteboard, and you can generally socialise with other colleagues. But right now, none of these benefits are possible. And I’m starting to think that while I am open to returning to the office unless most people are more-or-less working from the office full-time, it’s not going to be the same.

For example, my ideal balance is that I work from the office 1 or 2 days a week and the rest from home. But what happens when each member of the team does the same and chooses different days to come in?

If a majority of the team are working most of the time from home, then is it reasonable to expect a permanent desk? Because if not, then you could be spread out all over the office. This means back to everyone sat at a desk connecting to a video call. So you may as well be sat at home.

Because of those reasons, I think a more realistic balance is that most people work 3 or more days in the office if we are to expect a return to normal. Otherwise, I’m not too sure what the benefits of returning would be.

What I think will happen is that some people will choose to go back, pretty much full-time, but it will depend on their role. For example, people on the phone all day might prefer to be in the office, whereas developers like myself will probably choose to stay at home. So I’m a bit pessimistic whether office life will ever actually be normal for me again.

Instead, I think that while companies are offering either flexible or completely remote working, then others will be pressured into doing the same thing. And to be honest, if the company I work at weren’t flexible in letting me work from home enough, then I’d probably look to move somewhere else.

I guess there’s only one way to find out, and that will be to simply wait. But I’m curious to see what will happen to office working over the long-term. And if it will have any effect on house prices, office locations, and cities in general, if they aren’t receiving the same level of footfall as they were before the pandemic.