Thirteen months. That’s how long it has been since we moved our QA work from our client sites to our homes. And being a Quality Analyst means that a great deal of time has been pumped into QA’ing our new place of work.
We’ve set up our offices; repainted the walls to a lighter colour (unless you’re a Dev- dark mode baby!) because we now spend the majority of the time between these four walls, worked out which setting on the washing machine bothers us the least and stocked the cupboard with easy-to-eat desk-snacks that make the least noise when consumed during Teams meetings. We’ve set up the coffee machines within reach, packed our work-clothes into the back of the cupboard and even considered buying one of those uni-slippers - I mean who stays still long enough for one of those giant slippers not to get uncomfortable and inconvenient?? Well, us now. That’s who. We have well and truly settled in. But is this such a good thing?
To begin with, I think the change was good. Of course there was all the uncertainty and stress, and that was far from fun, but being home had its appeal. We slept in later because we didn’t have to travel, we noticed the things around the house that needed fixing and we fixed them (because otherwise they were irritating), we had far more family time (our fur-babies felt more loved than they had in years) and we ate good home-cooked meals…often. Maybe too often. In some cases we became more productive with work because we could start work earlier. We weren’t spending hours in the traffic, we weren’t physically going to meetings (again with the travel time, this time on foot), or getting stuck in the corridors catching up with someone we hadn’t seen in a while, or taking the long way back to our desks to avoid someone we didn’t want to see for a while. In other cases we became less productive as our children begged for our attention, or needed help with their schoolwork, or thought that your aging limbs and squeaking joints were a great replacement for the jungle gym they were used to playing on 5 days a week, or even worse…they went quiet. So much for that freshly painted wall, well at least you bought enough paint for another coat. Either way, we haven’t been top of the food chain on this planet for the length of time we have without some resilience, we eventually all adapted.
I still debate whether our adapting has been a good or a bad thing. I am now back at the office, and have been since July last year, but I am one of the minority. Ninety percent of my colleagues are still working from their home offices. Whilst I miss being able to put on a load of washing while I work, or getting a nice dinner ready whilst I am in a Teams meeting (don’t act like you don’t multitask- keeping your cameras off has become the norm. This is a topic for another time.) I don’t miss the way my work life had started to take over my home life.
The tough part of working from home is that there is no longer a clear delineation of work and home. You know when you are accepting meetings at 7pm that this has become the norm for many other people. Some of my colleagues are starting to look a little like they’ve just come out of hibernation- bleary eyed and ragged…don’t worry, you’re all still beautiful! You just look a little like you need some time off and a shave- even you Antoinette. “Time off” what’s that??
Despite the fact we’re putting in longer hours because we no longer leave our ‘places of work’- it becomes easier to finish things off in your private time- we also have the additional issue of reduced workforces. With budgets being cut and workforces being reduced there is additional pressure to get the job done with fewer hands. So it probably makes sense to stay home, where we are more productive, and where we are safe! But where does the work/life balance come in? Ah ha! A new challenge to overcome…Got to get our automation people on this. But can they automate that second coat of paint??