A Short Rant About Remote Productivty

This would ordinarily be a three-day weekend and I would be taking a decent break, but in practice I worked a few hours yesterday (May 1st) and am going to do the same this Sunday.

Work-Life Balance

And, to be quite honest, it is something I would ordinarily do without a qualm, except that it’s become the norm–I’ve worked most weekends and holidays for a few weeks now, and regardless of the time involved (around 4 hours a day), it’s been getting to me since I just can’t find the time to rest, physically or mentally.

Even keeping track of the news (and believe me, I’m not referring to mainstream news, I’ve tuned off those for a month now) has become a chore, so this morning I turned off most of my gear and picked up my favorite Linux netbook to draft this post.

Somehow work has turned into an over-abundance of meetings that inevitably fall on top of food prep or family time. Even though we’re all at home, I am seldom having lunch with the rest of the family, and every other day I end up having to stretch my schedule at either end, so 12-hour days have been fairly common.

Eternal September, Candid Camera Edition

One of the things that I’ve noticed during the past couple of months is that after decades of audio conferencing and screen sharing, we’re now doing so much more video – apparently work from home newbies believe the meeting experience they’re used to needs to translate across fully, so having everyone up on screen has to be the new normal, because that’s the idealized notion they have from TV shows.

Up until the pandemic most of us were happy with doing audio, going through prepared slides and taking turns talking orderly. Now meetings are a tiresome jumble of talking heads and pawing at virtual whiteboards, and I expect them to remain so until the novelty wears off and the more experienced remote workers start taking charge again.

I’ve had the core stuff nailed down for ages: plenty of monitors, a decent headset, a mind map tool to take notes during meetings, etc. And since I’ve been investing in my (now stalled) music hobby, I have extra audio gear, including a great Samson Meteor mic I’ve been using for podcasts for the past few years.

One of the things I did during my office revamp last year was upgrading my full HD webcam to a 4K one (which are now ridiculously overpriced, by the way). It was meant for the occasional “important” meeting, but it’s now almost permanently on and I have to worry about things like lighting, backgrounds, the works. I feel like a YouTuber.

The Gist of Things

Even given the added stress, and regardless of how things pan out, I’m never going back to a normal office if I can help it.

I spent the past few years either hot-desking or partially remote, and those were much better than traditional office commutes, so I was really happy to move to a home office role last January.

Right now, the reason I’m deeply unhappy about the way I work is not about time management, or setting priorities, or being methodical about things – it’s about losing control of my schedule due to timezone or cultural differences and consequently lacking the time to focus, learn new things that matter to me and, of course, dealing with all the other crap the pandemic forces upon us.

Getting food, disinfecting everything on each outing (even if it’s only next door), helping the kids with the various consequences of amateurish remote schooling (I understand that teachers are struggling, but some of the approaches taken have caused a lot of hassle and frustration), and doing house chores–cooking, laundry, cleaning, etc., all of those need to be done, somewhere in the gaps of the mess that my agenda has turned into.

So even through I’ve been working remotely on and off for years, the context in which I’m doing it right now definitely isn’t helping.

Remote has always been much more productive for me, but it’s only more productive when you have full control of your time, and being unable to use my time productively due to various inefficiencies (even if circumstantial) is really getting to me.

A Nose For Trouble

On top of the above (and at least partially related to us house chores and the accumulation of dust over the past few weeks) my seasonal allergies are in full bloom, with my sinuses clogged to the point where I have to decide between not being able to breathe through my nose (and sneezing uncontrollably some mornings) or zone out with anti-histamines.

Either option has the added spice of enjoying an underlying low-grade migraine that is at least partly attributable to my being unable to sleep properly for a long while now–I keep waking up with my nose clogged, or working late, or waking up early to attend a meeting.

I’d take a break if I could, but there’s not much chance of that happening–and things are not going to improve.

A Short Update on the Portuguese Pandemic

Next Monday Portugal is going to start re-opening businesses, with various mitigation measures in place (like mandatory use of masks in public transportation and some businesses, etc.).

Given that case reporting has been an outright shambles (with the official figures dipping noticeable on weekends and holidays and currently being revised retroactively), I am skeptical of both the decision-making process and the outcome of that decision.

But for now, I’m going to enjoy what remains of my weekend. Maybe even read a couple of hours on the balcony before the sun shifts.