Social distancing

I’ve read people stating that it should be called “physical distancing” because we’re keeping our physical distance but keep being social. But you’d also say that we’re distancing ourselves but in a social way…

Anyway, I’ve been working from home for more than a week now. Last week Thursday the Dutch government, in a rare moment of vision and statemanship advised people to work from home. This was late in the afternoon, but the next day our whole team was working from home. The team in Denmark had been at home for a few days before.
It’s been relatively painless. I work for an international software company, and we’re already used to remote cooperation. My boss is in Germany, a direct colleague is in Denmark, the programming team in Russia — for them, it doesn’t really matter whether I do the video-call from the office or from home. And we have a terrific home office: I have an electrically adjustable desk, so I can either stand or sit, and my deskchair at home is better than the one I have at the office.

And I love it: I love having lunch with my partner, I love being able to give the cats headscritches, and I love having all my stuff at hand. There’s not much time savings for me for not going into the office: it’s only 10 minutes by bicycle, so that doesn’t matter much. I love being able to focus on my work.

Another thing I love is how everything is moving online and the creativity that brings. People are finding new ways to work together, to teach, to learn, to be social. Meetups I would not be able to attend because of the travel involved are now becoming viable for me to attend.
And I wonder what this will mean for the future of the way we work and socialize. Now that we will learn that remote work is a viable long-term solution, how will that affect the way work is organised?
Teachers and nurses and delivery people got the short end of the stick in regards of salary and job prestige — but right now they are heroes. How will public opinion have changed when this is over? Will people realise that emergency socialism could become everyday socialism if we chose that?
Things could change for the better — the opportunity is there.

2 thoughts on “Social distancing

  1. Having three to four hours of commute time every day, I am loving working from home. I also get far more work done here than at the office, and that’s with the lovely distraction of having my cats around. It’s really reminded me of the deleterious effects of having had to spend so much time on work and how, ironically, I’m probably more healthy now during this health crisis than I’ve been in the past months.

    I’m glad to hear your company is really picking up on this. Do you have any tips for us? My uni and colleagues are still struggling to adapt.

    1. Having a chat app like Slack, Teams or Discord with a ‘general’ channel running in the background makes it easier to stay in touch and ask general questions. I also made sure we have a ‘social’ channel for the off-topic banter that usually happens at the water cooler.
      We’ve been having themed days: Thursday was ‘show your coffee cup’ day, Friday was a ‘nerd shirt battle’, etc. I’m going to ask people on Monday for their favourite house plant. It gives people a way to connect with colleagues in a fun way.
      Having a daily video call with the whole team (comparable to Scrum’s daily standup meetings) is also very important to keep connected with everybody.

      For online meetings: have a headset. Some people will be tempted to make do with laptop speakers & mic, and that’s always horrible.
      Also: the mute button is your friend. If you’re not speaking, you should be muted.
      Also: be mindful of what is happening in the background of your webcam. I have mine set to the wall next to me, so there are no ‘accidental domestic scenes’ happening behind me.
      But also: we know you have a home life and that it has been thrown in disarray. So if you’re calling with colleagues, don’t worry you have a child on your lap, or your dog next to you. (In fact, I love to see people casually interacting with their pets.) And if you’re calling with people outside of your organisation, the camera stays off anyway.

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