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What It’s Like Working From Home (as a Software Engineer)

We’re approaching the end of lockdown (fingers crossed) where in one more month, everything will be back to normal.

But up until this point, for over a year now, many offices had dispersed into the homes of each and every single one of their employees. It was a working from home era.

This of course presented numerous benefits, but plenty of challenges as well. In this post, I want to talk about the biggest of both of these, at least in my personal case.

As for introductions though, if you’re new to the website, I’m Eric Decanini, a 20 year old Android Engineer. I currently work for Candyspace, developing new features and updates to the ITV Hub Android app.

I joined this job in September 2020, which means we were already working remotely from the day I joined. I have colleagues who I get along with so well that I’ve not yet even met in person, which is weird to think about because you know these guys so well and you haven’t even met them.

But that’s enough for introductions, let’s get on with the meat and schmeat of this, the benefits and challenges of a working-from-home lifestyle.

 

Benefit: You have time for personal hobbies and development

When you don’t have to spend 2-4 hours everyday in commute to your office, it opens so much more time for you before or after work to:

  • Work on personal projects
  • Learn a new instrument
  • Meet up with friends
  • Go to the gym
  • Write a blog post

Among many other things.

Time is a golden resource, and there’s never enough of it. I’m surprised people can be willing to wait 3 hours in a queue outside Primark just to get a shirt that’s £2 cheaper than a better one found in H&M.

I’m going to be making the most out of every extra hour I get in a day. My personal commute to the office is 1.5 hours, leading to 3 hours spent on the trains everyday. Gaining an extra 3 hours everyday is HUGE, and this time spent developing your skills can take you so much farther in both your craft and your hobbies.

One day I’ll have a smile like Steve the Bartender

What have I done? I made a new app which I’m about to release, I took my guitar playing skills to the next level, I built up my physique, and I learned how to make cocktails.

For this reason, even when I do commute every now and then to the office now, I sit on the train with my laptop and work the things I did with the extra time I had at home… well as much as I could do silently on a train at least.

I gained a newfound motivation to make the most out of the limited time I have.

And not only can you save time from not needing to commute, but you save some good money as well!

 

Challenge: You have to motivate yourself and manage your energy

While time is an asset made more abundant by the lack of commute in a WFH situation, energy is much more debatable.

This can vary widely from person to person, but I often found myself in the situation where I’m struggling to keep my energy levels up and trying not to burn out in the middle of the day. This is something that I had to worry about much less in the office, because having people to work with and talk to does wonders to prevent yourself from burning out. Slack calls just aren’t the same.

In the office, my mind might start to struggle as lunch approaches, but after enjoying a nice meal with my colleagues, I’d come back feeling refreshed to tackle the rest of the day.

At home, I’d have lunch while watching some of my favourite shows and anime (I’m currently watching Attack on Titan), maybe go for a quick walk too, but my mind would often still be fuzzy from the work in the morning.

And I’ve tried different techniques and supplements to keep up. I’ve tried different variations of the pomodoro technique, controlling my caffeine levels, and even resorting to nootropics from time to time.

But none of those help as much as simply being with your colleagues and sharing a good time in the office while you work. Each day just had a sort of rhythm to it where you’d go on rotations of doing work, meetings, coffee breaks with colleagues, lunch with colleagues, and just the little bits of chitchat here and there that kept the day feeling fresh.

For this reason, now that the restrictions allow it, I make a commute into the office every now and then, about once a week or so. Despite the 1.5 hour trip, I find helpful for preventing week-long burnouts and things getting mundane.

 

Benefit: Your office can be whatever or wherever you like it

When you don’t have to settle in a specific desk or office for work, your workstation can be whatever you want it to be.

This is my setup. Coffee cups and empty pots of jelly on a £10 secondhand desk

You can have a setup in an office with a greenscreen as a fun backdrop for your work calls and standups, have the most beautiful plants filling the room with oxygen, little Android figurines and posters, and that heavy metal music playing in the background that YOU like that doesn’t have to conform to social standards for music.

There’s a certain high to vibing to your own music while doing your work without having to worry about seeing your colleagues’ faces knowing they think you’re an absolute weirdo.

Not only can you set up your home office to be whatever you want it to be, but you don’t even to work in your home space. You can be at Starbucks with the creamiest mocha, just taking in that coffee shop vibe while you’re working. I do this a latte, I’ve got to espresso much love for this kind of thing, it’s just grande.

I’ve even taken the opportunity to see my family on the other side of the country, stay with them for the week and work from there. The sheer flexibility that allows me to do things like that is one of the biggest reasons why I love this WFH era.

You could even go international if you wanted to, but if you plan to do this, make sure your workplace is ok with it.

Challenge: Your mental health may struggle

When you go to the office, you’re going out, taking some fresh air, seeing lots of different people, and getting a change of scenery away from home.

None of this applies when you’re working from home unless you make the conscious effort to do so. You could very easily get locked into the trap of seeing the same few people (or possible nobody) and not even step out of the house for days on end, simply because you don’t have a reason to compel you to do it.

And the recent lockdowns surely would have played a part in this, because by law, we literally couldn’t see many of the people we wanted to, but even with restrictions lifted, effectively being on your own can very sneakily attack you in the mental and leave you feeling like 💩

There are things that you do in the office such as those little coffee chat mingles and those nights hitting the pub with your colleagues at the end of the week that stops you from falling into that rabbit-hole.

Conclusion

There are very practical benefits to working from home while the biggest challenges it presents live inside your head, be it your energy levels or your mental health.

If your workplace allows it, I would go for a mix of working from home some days and commuting into the office maybe once or a few times a week, depending on how practical it is for you to make the journey.

Different workplaces have different rules regarding this sort of thing, whether they provide this flexibility that allows their employees to make the right choice that best suits them, or whether they choose to bring in employees into the office 5 days a week, or even go for a full remote working setup and completely get rid of the idea of an office.

Personally, I think it’s best when the company gives you that flexibility to choose for yourself, because each person’s situation is different, and this will allow them to make the best choice that suits their one.

Let me know which you prefer down in the comments, whether it’s being at home or being in the office. Happy coding ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ

 

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