2020 has been an eventful year from the wildfires to the Covid-19. One effect of Covid-19 has been the rise of remote work. This has been more feasible in 2020 because of the rise of technologies like Zoom and Google Hangouts. As a Software Engineer who has been forced to work from home for 3 months already, I'm starting to see the benefits and the downsides to WFH. Let's talk about both sides and where I think things will go after the pandemic is over.
To get a better understanding of the change, let's see what my daily routine used to be like.
The biggest change in my work schedule has been the commute and my lunch break. This has shaved off 3 hours from my schedule to do other things. This schedule doesn't paint the whole picture of the work environment so lets talk about the pros and cons of remote work.
Research has shown a longer commutes are linked to unhappiness. Just look at this article how "adding 20 minutes to your commute makes you as miserable as getting a 19% pay cut." I agree with this article 100%. I spend 2 hours of my day in Bay Area traffic. It's honestly infuriating how long it takes to drive 16 miles. Working from home has cut that stressful part of my life.
I have much more time to dedicate to myself since I didn't need to commute 2 hours everyday. I've been picking up old hobbies that I dropped like guitar, making music, exercising, and finishing personal projects.
One of the benefits of being a Software Engineer is that we only need a laptop and internet to get work done. As a result, Software Engineers have the option to work anywhere they like. Some of my coworkers have even thought about traveling in an RV! Another big benefit of working wherever is the option to live in a cheaper area. Rent in the bay is really expensive. Like really really expensive. Homes cost at least one million and an apartment costs around $3000 a month.
This is mainly a benefit for your employer. Real estate is expensive and those savings can be put towards other initiatives like bigger bonuses.
Most companies have a cafe or restaurants nearby. This saves a bunch of time since you don't need to cook and clean the dishes afterwards. This can get pretty tiring if you do this three times a day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I honestly feel like it's more tiring to talk to people over video chat especially when there's 10 other people in the chat. Only one person can talk at a time, you're never sure if someone is obsessively looking at your video feed, a shady internet can make the experience a total mess. Video chats also lack physical language. We're required to focus more in order to grasp non-verbal cues like facial expressions and the tone of a voice.
There's an interesting psychology how the brain associates the location to a behavior. For example, we generally associate parks with fun and relaxation. Most people associate home with rest and work with ... well work. That is why there's a conflict when we mix the two together. When I first started to work from home, I worked in my bedroom where I play games, make music, and relax. Soon, I felt a sense of dread in my room because I started to associate my room with dreaded work. In order to combat this, I've set up a work space in a different room from where I usually spend my time.
The office is generally well furnished with desks, ergo chairs, and big monitors. Not everyone has the luxury or the space for an office in their homes. Not to mention, office equipment can be expensive. A Herman Miller chair costs around $1000 on average while a standing desk usually starts at $500. Let's not forget the other things in the office like that nice espresso machine.
I've spent a bit on upgrading my home office. I'll list out some items that have made a big impact on my day to day life.
Let's be honest, we all have some kind of distraction at home. Some people have kids to take care of. Some people have video games sitting there waiting to be played. Some people have noisy roommates who won't lower the volume on the tv. The work environment is generally pretty quiet and is perfect to keep you focused.
It is undebatable that remote work is here to stay. Companies like Facebook, Twitter, Shopify, and Slack all announced initiatives to transition to remote work even after the pandemic is over. I honestly believe the benefits of remote work outweighs the negatives. Not having to commute has made dramatic improvements to my stress levels and my mental health. Not having to pay an outrageous amount for rent is also great. From my experience of working from home for 3 months, there hasn't been a loss in productivity with the switch to remote. My whole team has been contributing the same amount of work even though we're not physically together. This convinces me that professions that only require a computer can go full remote. Many of us are already accustomed to messaging one another on the web and using video chats to communicate which makes this transition seamless. I believe the transition to full remote will also fix the housing crisis in hubs like Bay Area, Seattle, and New York. As people leave these cities, the value of the properties inside these cities will decrease. I also imagine we'll see a reduction in pollution since there will be less people stuck in traffic. We'll potentially see fewer people owning cars as well. All in all, I believe the transition to remote work will lead to happier and healthier lives due to less commuting, less pollution, and more affordable housing.
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