The year is 2020, a year that would forever be remembered as the year of social distancing and National Lock downs. Due to the growing pandemic, a lot of countries have sought drastic measures such as restricting movement and encouraging hand washing. This was absolutely necessary to curb the spread of the coronavirus. And as a result, a lot of people were tossed into remote working for the first time.
Remote working basically involves working out of non-traditional offices. Some people resort to working from home, a co-working space, a cafe, a Park bench, basically whatever suits you. It offers people the flexibility to “carry their work with them”. There are so many companies that have made tools that help people work remotely. Plus, almost all the VCs in Silicon valley swear that it is the future. And for a moment, I was one of the advocates. But now, as I sit in my home office (mandatorily) typing this I have had a change of heart, but not for remote working, but for working from home.
I have been forced to work from home for the last few days because of the lockdown. I’m an introvert, so working by myself ought to be a dream. The first few days were good, but somewhere in day three I realised I couldn’t do this for weeks.
Working from home and being a remote worker are not the same thing. Working remotely gives you the flexibility to choose where you work and co-working spaces are great for remote working. Working from home on the other hand is restricting. It’s important you know the difference.
In working from home in the city of Abuja I have come to discover 10 reasons why it sucks:
- It’s easy for your life to lose structure: This is especially true if you are not disciplined. I am a very disciplined person. Despite having to work from home I tried to maintain a routine, routines are important to be productive. But I could see how easy it could be for my life to lose structure. I could wake up later, go to bed later, do errands between work. That’s just chaos, and in this case it would not be a ladder (That’s a Game of Thrones reference by the way).
- Say good bye to work life balance: Your work and your life blend into some horrible mutant. You can no longer differentiate when work starts and when it ends. This isn’t a good thing. If you had to leave to work in the morning, the arrival at your office would signal the commencement of work. Then coming back home would signal mummy time. But now, it’s a blur. I argue that this is not a good thing. You are unable to dive deeply into these activities or responsibilities of your life, and deep work or deep focus is important to be productive at work and to be effective at home. You see when you’re working from home, you may still need to tend to your kid. And when you’re spending family time you may still need to dash off to reply some work emails. Chaos.
- There are more distractions: This is truer if you have a family. Between the kids, and taking long strolls to the kitchen to prepare lunch you lose work time that you’ll have to pay for later. Plus, what happens when your friends decides to visit? Most people do not understand how to respect a person working from home. I could explain to my mother a million times that the fact that I am home does not mean I am not working, but she’ll still not get it. There’s little respect for the “home worker” in Nigeria, because people don’t get it.
- PHCN would frustrate you: This is true if you live in Nigeria. I have spent four out of the seven days I have been working from home without national supplied electricity. I have had to use my generator and inverter to power my house. How is a person to stay on top of their game if they can’t guarantee electricity. But remember I am one of the privileged few to even have the means to generate my own power. So, many other people would have to subject their work to the availability of electricity. Imagine how frustrating this could be for a team lead, discovering that your team cannot deliver because they have no electricity.
- Your internet service provider hates you: Most of our virtual meetings have been people saying, “I’m sorry I lost the last 2 mins of what you just said”. You need internet to work, at this point it is a work tool. Having connectivity that is unpredictable is frustrating. I currently have three internet service providers so I can switch when one begins to disappoint.
- You eventually go stir crazy: Maybe this is the lockdown speaking, but for an introvert to complain that they are going stir crazy, it’s almost abnormal. But being cooped up has not been great for my mental state. Working from home can be so one dimensional. You need a level of human interaction to stay sane, not matter how low your need for it is.
- You’ll burn out more: Because work and life is blurred, it’s easy to just keep working once you have the means. It’s the deception that you are at home so it’s not strenuous . A lot of people end up logging more work hours when they are at home. Now, as to if this correlates to productivity is a different story.
- Not everyone can work from home: If there are tools that allow you work remotely, congratulations, you are envied by a lot of people. There are so many businesses that can only be delivered in person. How do you work from home as a photographer? There are some services and tasks that cannot be delivered from your home. But, with technology advancing I’m sure most of these things would be figured out.
To put it simply:
Working from home is a bit like alcohol. It’s all good and fun every once in a while, but make it an everyday thing and your life goes to shit… Samson Shaibu
Now, I believe that remote working is going to rise. People are going to find new ways to work. More companies are discovering that national and state boundaries are just a mental construct and you could have a global team and keep them connected. I predict that more companies would use traditional offices less and resort to co-working spaces and other remote styles to offer them the flexibility and community that their team needs. I just don’t think working from home is a viable long term option for productive work and we need to accept that truth.
Thank you for reading :)