Previously, I have mentioned a recent post by Alexander Zinser regarding the evolution of the employee that motivated me to launch this article series. He shared a graphic by Jacob Morgan from the futureorganization.com that reflects how employees change the way they work now and how work is mainly going to be remote in the future. Now it is the case.
We’re continuing talking to our remote working loopers! I’ve asked them questions about what challenges they face, what they love about remote work and what they dislike about it.
This week, I had the opportunity to interview Gerard Albrecht. Gerard lives in the Netherlands. He’s a senior product manager here at dualoop and has worked for Cluepoints since January. He describes himself as someone who launches successful products that people enjoy each day. Gerard has gone fully remote since the pandemic hit. He used to work in the office most of the time in the past and did only one day of remote work. One issue Gerard faced was the fact that he was always used to working with remote teams but he didn’t work remotely himself. He always came to the office which didn’t make much sense. But that finally changed!
Remote working comes at a price (sometimes)
Working remotely can affect our physical activities in different ways. Some people feel extra motivated to become more active and go for a run around their neighbourhood or join a gym with the time they have saved from commuting to work. Some love the comfort of their home and become less active. How did it actually go with Gerard?
“I gained like 8 kilos working remotely (laugh)”, he says. “Outside, you can go out for a walk at 11 and stretch your legs. But the downside is also you can’t do it and work from home. It just keeps going and going.”
“In the beginning, it was tough, working remotely, with the combination of not seeing anyone. The Netherlands shut down, you had to stay at home. Being at home always and working from here, not being able to do other stuff was tough,” he says.
The impact of remote working is not just physical, it’s also emotional. “Working from home didn’t affect me mentally, just not seeing people affected me,” he says. “When it’s raining and dark and you don’t feel like hanging out, especially in the Netherlands, it is a bit exhausting. Every day; sitting in the same room, same screen. With little perspective. I don’t know if being at the office would’ve made the experience any better,” he adds.
It’s not always hard to disconnect when you work remotely
One of the main things that many employees struggle whilst working remotely is disconnecting once the work is done. How do you switch off? Is it even possible to switch off?
For Gerard, the upside of working remotely is also the downside. His personal life and work really blended. Especially during the first lockdown where he had to take care of his kids. “It’s been really stressful at first. I had to work with my daughter around because she was at an age where she needed constant attention. She just turned two. It affected me because the time I couldn’t spend working, I had to make it up in the evening. So I just had to work very long days. I never managed to get anything achieved. Always having the feeling you did things but didn’t do anything,” he says.
However, things have gotten so much better now. “The positive side now is I do much more work during the day because I don’t waste that much time at the coffee machine and so on. Most of the time that I give back, I can put it in my kids,” Gerard says. Now, with the time that he gets back from not being distracted at work, he gets to spend some time with his girls. He picks them from school, has lunch with them, has longer chats with them.
“You can create your own time and schedule. More valuable time. I do more at work and see my family more. You win on two sides,” he adds.
The only struggle he has is separating his work life and personal life. As he says, when you finish your work at the office, you get 30 minutes to clear your head whilst going back home. Now, with remote working, you just go on with your personal life. He considers this as one of the downsides.
Although, the biggest plus side is “the flexibility to approach your day, as you wish,” he says. “I can have lunch with my kids on Wednesday and go back to work after lunch. You are more efficient throughout the day, socially and professionally, and very efficient at work,” he adds.
Follow these few tips if you’re having trouble disconnecting whilst remote working.
Focus isn’t always the problem
Focus isn’t Gerard’s main weakness. “I don’t have trouble focusing because I’m changing the places where I work, and I don’t have a hard time. My biggest struggle is however not taking time for myself. Like taking a walk outside or have some air,” he says.
How do having kids affect working remotely?
Andrej did talk about the problems he encountered having a child whilst being a remote worker. The biggest advantage of me not having a kid is basically being able to travel whenever I want and wherever I want. With my colleagues with kids… it doesn’t seem to be that easy.
Gerard seems to have struggled with his kids as well. Especially when the lockdown hit the first time. “First two weeks I thought I hoped this would end soon because I had a hard time mainly because they shut down the daycare. It wasn’t only that I was at home but also that I had to take care of them. My wife’s job also closed down. There were a lot of things happening”, he says. “The start was challenging but then when daycare went back open, life got much easier and I enjoyed working remotely much more”, he adds.
How do you get to know your colleagues?
Gerard lives in the Netherlands. So it’s not always the easiest to go to the office. “I chose to go to the office to Cluepoint or dualoop once a month just to be in touch with people, it’s a nice thing”, he adds. He works with people from the US or from France, for example. He says to have known his colleagues through calls as well and got used to the digital remote life.
One thing working remotely doesn’t always allow is getting to know the people outside of your team. “People I’m directly in contact with are easy to communicate with. However, it’s not the case with people you don't work with directly. You don't really know they exist. These people from HR, cafeteria, other departments, you had a chat with, spoke to in the parking lot, cafeteria or coffee machine... All this interaction is gone. When you join a small company, like dualoop, you have the “all-hands” call. But a big company like cluepoints, there are so many stakeholders, etc a lot, of people I’ve been in contact with but I don't know some members of other teams, I’ve never met them. About 60 or so, I have no clue of their existence. Communicating is fine but as long as you focus on your own team – work-related topics and the rest is a mystery.”
Here at dualoop, the all-hands we host every Friday, does allow many of our remote workers to link up, get to know each other and connect.
Future of work is remote… or hybrid at least
Our Gerard chose to be remote. As he said, he used to go to the office and still lock himself in a room and have meetings since his team worked from other countries. “I do like a hybrid version. So I more or less chose”, he says.
He also hopes working remotely becomes the norm in the industries where it’s possible.
“Working remotely will be the norm, at least negotiable and part of your secondary benefit,” he says. “Now, instead of everybody wanting a car, they’d rather have the freedom to work from wherever they want. That’s how it will evolve,” he adds. He hopes the future is about the hybrid way of working.