Working remotely

Planes make me think. I guess you’re always going some place new or some place old that can make you look forward to new things or think about old things you want to leave behind, in either case, you’re going somewhere.

I’ve been thinking a lot about working remotely, in a different geographical location and timezone from the main office, and after weeks of this filling space in my head I’m going to attempt to get some of it out – after all that’s what I started my blog for even though since we’ve been away it’s become a glorified travel diary. Time for it to return to its routes as an outlet and store of my random thoughts! However I have to be careful this doesn’t cross a line – in this age of social media and people being fired for airing their grievances online and acting in a way out of line in the eyes of the company I will likely have to watch what I say, which kind of defeats the point of a personal blog! I don’t hate my job and this isn’t a precursor to any major decisions, just supposed to be random stuff about working remotely!

So why is this topic filling my head? I don’t think it’s one thing, I think it’s a collection of little things. I think if I was to pick one thing, or have one thing to sum it all up, it’s that change thing. I thought that being out of the office would open up a new way of working for me, give me some new and different things to do, stimulate new thoughts or ideas and above all, give me some freedom to change bad work habits for ones I actually want. However, due to my own need for routine, the office not really being set up for remote workers and the new way of communication that’s required for remote working, I’ve been unable to bring about new work habits.

I now spend my entire morning and early afternoon dealing with email and trying to figure out what went on back in Wellington during the night – undoubtedly normal when one works in a different timezone but I didn’t realise just how much of my working day it would take up. When you’re in the office, a lot of this is done by overhearing things in the office, attending meetings or having a conversation with someone.

The timezone differences make it hard for us to attend meetings and our office isn’t really set up for what I’d call true online meetings – if we were we’d have decent video/audio connectivity, people in the meeting room back in the office would have a different kind of meeting etiquette (arrive on time, one person talks at once, clear start and end to discussions, follow-up points). Obviously our Wellington office houses pretty much all of our staff so understandably meetings are at times that suit them so we’re either not invited, miss meetings or have to give up time outside of work to attend a meeting. Also the expectation that everything happens in the New Zealand day is not always fair.

Out of sight out of mind has been pretty hard to accept – on the one hand the trust given that someone isn’t constantly checking up on us is humbling in that we’re trusted enough to work out of sight, but on the other hand not being involved in decision-making or opinion-giving because waiting for 12 hours for those in other countries to be involved is not possible or not being asked to do something because we weren’t in the office to be asked on the spot can be pretty demoralising. This is not me being dramatic and taking everything personally, if someone would ordinarily ask our opinion or to do something, what’s changed? Why are we needed less just because we’re not there?

It’s really good for the company to spread the load and have other people be able to do our jobs, especially mission-critical stuff that The Mister was responsible for – it’s just a shame that this has been forced to happen when we left Wellington so going from feeling really responsible for something and a useful/worthy/important part of something to what feels like just another staff member makes it feel pretty acute.

I’m just not getting anywhere doing what I wanted to do when we came here. I think I spend so much time trying to be involved with the team back home online that I’m not turning attention to my own list … and when I do it’s a hurried start at the end of the day, which coincides with when NZ-based email starts flowing. At the end of the day I wonder what an earth I did all day. A manager’s life perhaps. Even if I were to initiate daily contact with my manager or team in New Zealand on a regular basis I feel I would have nothing to report. Then maybe the whole trust thing would be called into question if it seems I’m not doing anything here.

I want a change in work habits. Even though the out of mind out of sight thing could work in my favor for making a change to work hours, work location, work methods; it hasn’t. And I wanted this change to stick before we went back to Wellington so that I’d be comfortable to keep it going. I want to be able to work at home. And not feel guilty about it. I want to be able to sit in a park and read a book (for work or pleasure) during the week. And not feel guilty about it. I want to use mobile devices to check in whatever time of day or night I feel like it, out of the office. And not feel guilty about it. But even here, with no-one watching, I rush to get to the office, I stay there all day without going out to wander around the shops or sit in a park and I get sucked in to working late. All of this is entirely likely to be my own ridiculous inability to just let go, but I’m missing that gene. I suppose wanting all this change is a bit unrealistic, and given what I’ve said above perhaps it’s change I wouldn’t cope with which is why it’s not happening – catch 22! The reality is if you work for a company and have an office job, that’s what do – the more you try to change it the more you begin to question it. I guess I had some early career delusions of where I’d be and what I’d be doing at this point in my life and I have to adjust to that not being the case.

This has made me wonder how the people in our offices in Australia and the UK get on and how ‘left out’ they might feel. However what might make it easier for them is that they have their own specific (usually sales-based) jobs and objectives and customer base, and are not trying so much to be a ‘physical’ part of a team in New Zealand. Although I’m sure they find it hard to really know exactly what point the product development is at, mind you I think that might be a typical complaint of any sales team, even when in the same office!

Over and out, from somewhere in the sky between Chicago and New York.


#1 penny on 06.06.10 at 5:32 pm

A really interesting”letter”as I’d just said the same thing this morning that I wish I could just sit down and read a mag. but always feel I could be doing someting more useful. I must also have missed a certain gene.

#2 OrangeGirl on 06.06.10 at 7:53 pm

Indeed I don’t know where the days go – and in Wellington I have things like housework and bills and proper cooking to do as well!

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