Working remotely, From the office | Pixel Actions

Working remotely, From the office

March 26, 2020

It is March 26, 2020. The COVID-19 outbreak has caused entire countries to go on lockdown, disrupting day-to-day activities of countless people in varying workplaces.

People have been advised to socially isolate to help #FlattenTheCurve which is integral in helping to stop the spread of the virus and consequently help in its eradication and the return to our day-to-day routine, with no restrictions and fears.

Working From Home (WFH) is the new status quo for the foreseeable future.

A case for working remotely, without being remote.

At Pixel Actions, being the tinkerers we are, we have experimented with our work flow on countless occasions, and we still are. Throughout our "experiments" we singled out two basic principles: Portability and Asynchronous work.

What does each mean? And how does it help us?

Portability simply means, not being dependent on your workplace as a location. You shouldn't rely on your computer, your office or your network. Let's address these individually:

  • Your computer: Less portable does not equal immovable. There is this preconceived notion that desktop computers are stationary. No computer is too big to move from one location to another. Carrying your desktop computer from one place to another takes just a few more minutes(depending on its size) than carrying a laptop from one location to another. Obviously, if you need to transition from location to location often, a laptop is more suitable as it has a smaller footprint and comes with its peripherals built in.
  • Your office: For many people, their office/workplace is also the location of paper copies of documents integral to their work. Now ask yourself, do you really need to rely on paper copies of documents? Technology has made huge strides and using paper copies makes increasingly less sense. Going paperless is less cluttered, more organized, more environmentally friendly and with right tools (e.g. Google Drive, Dropbox or any other cloud storage), you can facilitate cooperation better than paper copies ever will. As an added bonus, if you keep your documents secured in the cloud, you can have access to them from anywhere eliminating the need for your work computer all together, provided you don't rely on very specific software tools.
  • Your network: What I'm referring to here is restricted files accessible only through your work's network. If this is the case, I'm assuming you already have an IT department 🤓, in which case you can either leverage VPN technologies or protect sensitive folders with login authentication etc. If it works in your office network, it can work at your home network as well.

You should be able to carry out your work wherever, whenever the only requirement being a secure network, something most of us have at our homes.

Asynchronous work is in my opinion more difficult to achieve, but when done properly, can be liberating 🙌.

The whole premise of asynchronous work is the elimination of blocking processes. What do I mean by blocking processes?

A process/task is considered blocking if you cannot continue working on it due to factors outside your control. For example relying on a colleague for an answer before you can move on, or requiring a resource you cannot access yet. These blocking processes can be reduced significantly with proper planning.

In most workplaces, people have certain responsibilities and have certain tasks they need to do day-to-day. With minimal planning, people should know what needs to be done today, and by the end of the day what needs to be done tomorrow. This is the underlying mantra in most workplaces today anyway. With just a minor tweak in this current mantra, you can achieve better non-blocking workflows. If you need to rely on other people, documents, information etc, this needs to be accounted for and if possible, resolved during the planning stage. You're probably thinking "Easier said than done", and you would be right.

The objective here is not to be 100% independent for every task for ever. This is unrealistic. The objective is to be able to carry out tasks without being blocked by a colleague, document or any other resource. Another small, easy hack to help you be more productive, if you do happen to get blocked, is to ensure you have backup tasks planned as well. If you do happen to get blocked, you can just spend time on the other task instead until you're unblocked.

Productive time spent now, is time saved later. - Javascript Engine, 1995

Well, what about "emergencies" you can't plan for?

When unplanned "emergencies" come in, and take up time that was allocated for a task today, there is a disruption in the schedule. But is this really an issue?🤔. If the "emergency" was truly higher priority, the time used up from the planned task is time well spent.

Now you might be thinking, this sounds like way too much effort. Why should I do it?

You shouldn't be doing it alone. And I can't stress this enough. Asynchronous mentality is most beneficial when adopted on a team level. If your whole team adopts this asynchronous mentality, individual team members are now more independent and can now work at different hours with fewer distractions. You will in turn see improvements in your day-to-day productivity, you will become more self-sufficient and your rigid work hours suddenly become more flexible. If for example, you have some obligations during work hours, you can plan for them and include them in your schedule. If your team works asynchronously, you shouldn't be required to be around during rigid work hours as your absence should not be blocking anyone.

As I said above, achieving a 100% independence all the time is unrealistic. The asynchronous mentality does not forbid collaboration. As long as it is not blocking. But in the odd case it becomes blocking, collaboration can be easily accommodated during overlapping hours between colleagues and you can have the best of both worlds! 🎉🎊

Portability and Asynchronous work have their individual benefits, but when combined, the effects in your workplace quality of life and productivity can be life-changing.

The effects of COVID-19 on our day-to-day have been profound. But why not make the best of our current situation? Let's use this is an opportunity to improve ourselves and our workplace. ✊

future is now.gif

By Andreas Stamataris

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