Dubai: We in the Gulf News office are split on the decision of whether to start crawling back to the office after weeks of working from home due to coronavirus restrictions. Some have prefered the experience, while others are desperate to be part of the 30 per cent called back. Here we eek out the arguments both for and against.
When life throws you a curveball look for simple pleasures
Bindu Rai, Entertainment Editor
It’s been 60 days since I’ve been working from home. That’s two months of self-isolation that could break the spirit of many, including this writer’s, but many of us collectively (and bravely) continue to hold on in these troubling times.
It was clear in the first few days of this journey that the work-life balance would soon be a thing of the past. The barrage of after-hour calls, the 14-hour work cycle, the lack of boundaries and the constant monotony embedded deep into the proverbial sword of Damocles that set up a permanent home over my head. Yet, I am perhaps one of those rare few who still enjoys the idea of working from home.
When life throws you a curveball, you look for the simple pleasures and that’s how I have tackled every day head-on, especially when a DHA-mandated 14-day quarantine (on account of personal travel), followed by the city-wide movement restrictions curbed all hope of setting foot outside that door.
My work station – a little corner of my living room – soon became my haven and my connection to the world outside. A routine was imperative, even if the hours extended beyond the norm. As days blurred into weeks and months, the comfort of perching at my terminal in my comfy pajamas became one of those silver linings that continued to shine through the dark clouds that comprised the daily news headlines that were brought in through work.
The fact that my office canteen was now my humble kitchen also gave me scope to switch over to a healthier (and tastier) meal plan that always serves as a comfort break when you have a rough day to tackle at work.
I would be lying if I say I don’t miss the human interaction, the daily banter with my work colleagues, the easy laughs and the weekly samosa (or banana pudding) treats that bring a smile to our faces even when deadlines are constantly looming. But human beings are a resilient race and we adapt when circumstances demand and this pandemic is no exception.
Maybe not tomorrow, but the clouds will part soon and we will return to regular programming. Until then, I embrace the little victories and revel in the new normal, with a little help from the online community on Twitter who are a constant sounding board when the going gets tough. And when the work day comes to and end and my mind is drained of all thoughts, the one thing that remains rooted and brings forth a smile is the simple fact that I don’t have to worry about battling the Sheikh Zayed Road rush hour. At least not today.
Working from home has made Ramadan a breeze
Yousra Zaki, Senior Features Editor
When we were first confined to our homes, I was really nervous about working from my house. I love the process of getting ready in the morning. The skin care, the hair, the clothes, little bit of make up too and now I have to be in sweats all day? Ew.
But as time went on I discovered that on a good day in the newsroom, I could write around two features. There was always something going on. Meetings running long, people coming over to talk, computer issues that slowed you down.
At home, a good day meant writing four to five stories and maybe contributing to a video and also seeing your parents more than usual. I noticed my productivity increased. I wasn’t getting any outside stimulation from driving, or chatting, or meetings, so all that energy and creativity went into my stories.
The best part is, all of the extra sleep I am getting. Muslims, who fast, severely lack sleep during Ramadan. I am up in the middle of the night having suhoor, so if you think I wake up way before my shift starts at 10am, to freshen up and set my intentions for the day, then you’ve got it all wrong. I sleep until the last possible minute before I need to log on. Then I get to work in comfortable clothes with my feet up. I’ve even mastered the ‘working while horizontal’ thing. And I can adjust the thermostat on my AC to 24.5 without anyone complaining that it’s too warm. Working with many men means temperatures are lower in the office. Not fun when your cold fingertips keep distracting you.
When it is time to go back to the office, I will embrace it, but I will always look back fondly at my time working from home. What I do need to invest in now are clothes that look like work clothes but feel like pajamas, so I can at least maintain a little bit of that comfort at my desk.
I like wearing bunny slippers. All day, every day
Karishma Nandkeolyar, Senior News Editor
Most of the time, my hair looks like I’ve combed it through with an egg beater – it’s messy and nest-like. The rest of the time it’s slathered in oil – an odd look for office, but thanks to the no-smell-over-Zoom experience that’s not a problem. It’s getting some much needed RnR.
I like eating hot meals served on a plate – a luxury when you are at work, carrying a box and rushing from deadline to deadline. At home, it’s a well negotiated win; during my office hours, my husband serves the meals, once I’m through, I do. Having him around also means an alarm-less system that works wonders on hydration; there’s always a bottle of water and someone telling you to have a sip.
A few times a day, when it’s time to take a break – my bones crackle often with all the grace of a rusted door – I get down on my hands and knees and stretch – not worried about how frog-like I look. Once in a while I get a nuzzle from my furry friend, my dog, my stress-buster.
Every day since the WFH routine began I’ve been keeping count of how much time I’m saving – and what I’m doing with it. Here’s a report: 1.5 hours travel a day (plus time to get ready, drink coffee, etc. to get into the working headspace. During Ramadan, shorter working hours, sometimes by as much as 2 hours, or 120 mins. I’ve often felt that to fully appreciate the value of time, you must wake up 10 mins before you have to leave for work, see how long you can stretch a second and how productive it can make you. Translate this lesson into a nearly 4-hour reprieve and what do you get? More time for research and reading, resting and relaxing, family and friends. The result isn’t a half-brained struggle through the rest of the workday – it is productivity magnified. It is the implementation of ideas at moments that would otherwise be spent on travel, or worry about a project that I can just crank out.
As the line blurs between home life and work life a beautiful symbiotic relationship begins to emerge – it’s a lesson I hope to carry with me even once the trundle back to work begins. With peace of mind, productivity follows.
Somebody please help me!
By Ashley Hammond, UAE Editor
Two sets of e-learning going off at the same time, my wife working on one computer, kids on another and only enough USB cables for the three of them and not me. It’s a fight to the death for those cables each morning as the wifi dips in and out. And the noise, did I mention the noise and distraction? That’s why I don’t like working from home. Every pin drop is like an earthquake boring its way through my skull, and I’m annoyed by everything.
Benefits include a steady supply of food, tea, and the lack of a commute, but these are far, far outweighed by the fact that I get as much peace and quiet at home as I do wifi – which is not a lot!
All this leads to stress that doesn’t need to be there. I could be at work, things could be easy, but instead I’m in a madhouse surrounded by the same four walls with the same three people grinning back at me.
Aside from that, I actually enjoy waking up with a purpose to get to the office and work. The drive in gives me space to transition from home to work mood, thanks to some extremely loud music of my own choosing. And again, the return journey gives me that space to unwind and disconnect from where I’ve just been.
Home, upon arrival, is the place to relax and unwind, and the mental demarcation of this is important for my psyche and basic wellbeing.
I sort of don’t mind taking calls or answering WhatsApps before or after work in usual scenarios when we’re all working in the office – it’s part and parcel of the job, but thanks to coronavirus and working from home, that “shall I call him now?” filter that should be there in everyone’s head has been well and truly switched off.
Usually, once you are seen leaving the office it means ‘my day is done’, ‘I’m done here’, but now that no-one physically sees anyone, we’re all fair game ‘he must still be working!’. The ‘must be at lunch’ or ‘perhaps he’s gone to the loo’ cover is blown and we are all sitting ducks ready to be picked off with calls and messages deep into the night. The battery on my phone is dying constantly and the heat on my ear is burning with constant calls that would have been simple face-to-face nods or shrugs had we been at work. My general demeanour would have deflected most of the advances but now people can’t even see that.
You end up working longer than usual because people presume you have nothing better to be doing and have nowhere else to go. So no, working from home is not my bag.
Working from home is just not my thing
By Omar Shariff, International Editor
Do you like working from home or from office? That was the straightforward question hurled at us during the editorial meeting yesterday. My reflexive answer was NO.
For the past 40 days or so (can’t remember from when exactly as I am losing track of time), I’ve been working from home. Something I’m unaccustomed to doing. In the initial few days, there was the novelty factor. No need to wake up an hour and a half before actually starting work. No rushed breakfast. No traffic to get stuck in. Had I been asked this question in the first 10 days, the answer would have been YES.
So, what changed? A monotonous routine, mainly. Wake up, log in, (10 hours later) log out, limitless YouTube, sleep. Repeat. I now seem to have a good idea of exactly what I will be doing at any given time the next day.
Lack of human interaction outside the immediate family is another aspect. Never thought I’d miss colleagues and the office so much. Moments of excitement at breaking news, the inane banter. Besides, the fact that I am not leaving home at all – no restaurants, no meeting friends, no family outings – is getting suffocating.
And then, the family. My wife and our kids, all boys, aged 13, 10, and one. I love spending time with them, especially with the baby, who has emerged as the in-house stress-buster in these surreal times. But, with e-learning, the children are up before me, logged into Microsoft Teams. The three of us sit in different locations in the main hall where the internet reception is the best. I tell them not to put on headphones as you never know what they might get up to during class hours. (Once caught the younger one playing Bomber Friends during Social Studies class). But no headphones also means the irritating soundtrack of pupils and their teachers constantly trying to talk over each other.
So yes, WFH is not my thing. But it is the safest thing do during this pandemic. And I’ll be wary about going back to office until it is safe to do so.
Working from home: The chase is killing me
Anupa Kurian-Murshed, Senior Digital Content Planning Editor
I like having my work space. Things in its place, tools to access and easy communication. Working from home has been a struggle for these very reasons.
I miss my desk (never thought there would come a day I would say that aloud). I miss my files, and the urgency of getting tasks completed. These days I seem to be spending more time reminding people of tasks, with an occasional desperate plea thrown in. Truth be told, the chase is stressful and exhausting. Working from home is great if your interaction to get work done or achieve collective buy-in is minimal. But, if work involves frequent communication, office is the best option.
So – home versus office? My vote – office.
Not saying that I am not grateful for the privilege of working from home, and the safety that social isolation offers. And as the global economy falters, remote work will become more the norm rather than an option.
But, the sentiment toward it is subjective to workload and the nature of work. I even heard an argument that many women prefer working from office because the demands and expectations on them are way higher in a home environment, especially if they have children. I could see how that would be true, not because people are trying to exploit, but, usually mothers tend to be the axis of a family.
In my case, there is no new demand on my time or efforts on the home front, so the need to get back to office is entirely based on getting work done more easily.