Two weeks into lock down and I feel like I have been in some crazy global research experiment testing the hypothesis that working from home is more productive than working from our HQ and regional offices. Early days, but what an incredibly productive two weeks. Here’s my experience.
Fortunately we had already broken the back of a global Microsoft 365 rollout when the Coronavirus started to impact how and where we work, but in the first few days of remote working the team had to accelerate and complete the rollout. What should have been a few more months of rollout was completed in one very busy week.
Incredibly, we also kicked off a global cloud based replacement for our HR systems, which had already been planned and contractors primed and ready. The completion of our global Oracle ERP and this new HR project is likely to be completed 100% remotely with extremely tight timescales. Having attended the first kick off sessions, I believe the team and partners will pull this off. If we do, there will be some non-virtual party at the end.
Remote working has also given me an intimate look into my team’s homes around the world, family lives and environment, and as a result I feel even more connected with everyone. The video and audio quality has been great almost all the time. Some of my team work in the harshest and remotest places on the planet yet the quality of connections has been extremely high thanks to our network engineers. This would have been either impossible or prohibitively expensive just five years ago.
I have tried to keep to my same routine and timings. Up at 6am, commute 15 steps downstairs and across the kitchen. Oh, I am missing Dubai Eye Business Breakfast which I usually listen to on my usual daily 30 minute commute to work, put the kettle on whilst missing the banter of the Kentech Office Kitchen, and head into my small home office, to start the day of video calls, instant message chats, and emails. Now I’ve found a new habit that I MUST break. I am literally glued to my chair almost all day. I do go outside but I am quickly back in a few minutes later, feeling guilty that I am away from my desk and must be productive every minute. During “normal times”, around midday I usually take a 20 minutes walk around the lakes at JLT to clear my head and consider the afternoon’s activities. I am missing this and need to find a surrogate.
Almost every day, I have redesigned and rearranged my desk seeking a perfect layout and the optimum way of working. I don’t yet have the luxury of a large screen or laptop desk holder, and anything I know about ergonomics was not working. I have now improvised with some IKEA kitchen cupboard shelves to rest my laptop on. My wife hasn’t noticed yet. Adversity does foster innovative ways of working.
Actually, I think I have finally cracked my office space and happy and very proud with my new set up. I think I was getting desk envy having seen all the pictures of some fabulous set ups and backdrops from my colleagues, and on linkedin.
I have switched all my corporate working from my Kentech Windows laptop to my personal Apple MAC and devices. We are almost fully cloud now at Kentech so this is working for me. Now this has got me seriously thinking about the future of our Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy and of course related enhanced security.
Right from the outset the UAE’s two major telcos, Etisalat and DU, made some incredible positive changes that have massively supported businesses shift to remote working. The restrictions on using Video Calling has been relaxed on various platforms, and bandwidth has been increased for businesses and home users. When things happen in the UAE, they happen quickly. Just another reason why I love living here.
I have always believed that remote and flexible working is a flyer for some teams, particularly corporate teams such as IT, Finance, and HR.
Having said that, I am missing my colleagues, virtual interaction is somehow not quite the same as physical. I think I have exhausted my use emoticons, memes and gifs. It’s not a replacement for physical observations of expressions, and it’s difficult to share cakes on “Cake Wednesdays”.
My experience to date has been that remote working not only works, it can potentially be a more productive way of working. I don’t think it is the panacea but after this crisis is over I’m sure we will be doing a lot more.
I am writing this from our roof terrace. I did finally break free from the desk.