The magical phrase work/life balance. It seems so easy to achieve when you only think about it, but in practice, it's pretty difficult to nail down, and it's often a moving target.
Working for a company in corporate America has its ups and downs. One down that I have particular experience with is that work/life balance can feel out of reach, even in the best of times.
Let's be honest: capitalism and empathy don't really mesh well. And empathy is needed to truly understand how important it is to have a healthy balance between professional and personal life.
Covid19 may just have a silver lining in that it has forced companies to put their employees - all of their employees - ahead of the company by allowing those who can to work from home. (Granted, not all companies have responded in what I would personally consider "the right way", but a great many have allowed remote work for the foreseeable future, including the company I work for now.)
Why is that important? Remote work...
My commute time went from 45 minutes one-way to 10 seconds. That's a significant drop!
- Increases the time employees have with their families
I get to see more of my kids, which is a huge bonus for me, personally.
- Reduces office politics and stress
I have found there to be less gossip, fewer disagreements, and better communication between coworkers with the use of asynchronous tools like Slack.
- Allows employees to control their own working environment
I can set up my laptop wherever I want - even outside on nice days. I can't tell you how refreshing it is to sit on the patio on a sunny day while coding.
However, until it became necessary, most companies didn't allow employees to work from home. There were concerns ranging from "But will they actually work, or will they slack off?" to "We don't have the resources to support it."
Then came Covid19.
Companies and stubborn managers are now getting to see and experience first-hand how much better work/life balance can be when working from home...and how it benefits the bottom line, too!
Low overhead costs - not as much office space is needed, and bills such as electricity will be much lower due to reduced usage.
Better security - with fewer people moving in and about the office, it's easier to make sure they're all supposed to be there.
Hiring becomes easier - Location is no longer an obstacle so you can hire who fits the requirement best, not just who is available.
Increased productivity - Less distractions, fewer useless meetings, communication improves.
Increased loyalty, lower turnover - Employees will be much less likely to seek work elsewhere.
Now, not every person is suited for remote work - there are people who will, indeed, slack off. However, those folks are the exception to the rule.
The vast majority of employees, especially in software engineering, will enjoy working more from home, and so will likely work more, not less. And that work will be much less stressful and may take less time and resources, overall.
So, when Covid19 finally gives it a rest and the world becomes safe once again...
Should we go back to the office?
While every situation is different, I feel that we should consider how much better our lives are when we work from home, and stay that way. Personally, I plan to request that I be allowed to stay remote instead of going back.
Is remote work better for your life, or worse?