WFH is not working remotely
14 February 2021

Before Covid, I had been working remotely for 4 years and I promise you it isn’t the same as remote working. I have friends who are finding things tough and they’ll say, you used to do this all the time, so this is probably normal for you. I’ll reply that working from home during a pandemic when you can’t travel, see your friends and family, or go to the gym or restaurants is nothing like working remotely.

Before Covid, the beautiful flexibility of remote working meant I might go to a cafe for the morning for a change of scenery, maybe spend a day working with a friend in their company office, hot desk at a coworking space or work from my own office in a shared space. If my brain wasn’t in the zone, I’d take a midday Crossfit class and make up work time in the evening. Sometimes I’d visit new countries or cities for a few weeks or months and work while I was there.

We’re now a year into this monotonous new normal and it’s starting to feel like we’re in this for the long haul. This month we discussed both converting our attic and craning an office room into the garden. But then I’d remember that this kind of remote working isn’t going to last forever. And I’d try to focus on some of the little things I can do in the meantime to help me stay sane.

One of the things I’ve been doing is scheduling coffee Zooms with other designers to share what we’ve been working on and just chat. These conversations refresh my perspective on work and almost always spark new ideas.

I also try to leave the house for a walk everyday. Our 10 month old usually naps in his buggy, so it’s been a nice excuse to get outside and away from a screen, even when it’s cold and raining.

At the end of this, we won’t see a return to 1000 people piling into the company office at 9am 5 days a week. Nor will everyone continue to work in solitude from home. I think we’ll start see a more mature approach to remote working.

For me that means taking the best things about remote work—like async by default, and a high level of flexibility, trust and autonomy—but blending it with an optional company office. Everyone has their own internal threshold for human interaction with their colleagues and 40hrs a week is more than most people need to do their work effectively.

Maybe some people will work from home a few days a week and head in to a central HQ one or two days a week to sync up on projects. Or maybe they want to live somewhere more rural and they’re happy to work in a local coworking space closer to home.

Right now, Interplay is completely remote and doesn’t have a physical office. If we set up an HQ it will be in Dublin which is 100 miles away. In that case I’ll probably join a local coworking space and head into the main HQ every couple of weeks for catchups and epic lunches.

In a very candid memo about remote working at Tito, Paul Campbell described this way of working as “we’re completely remote, office is optional”. And I think that’s just perfect.