Six months later or how people adapt to remote work

PART 1

You may love it or hate it, but it is a fact that we all have been working remotely for some period of time. We asked our colleagues about their attitude to their work during this time and here are their thoughts on the matter. So, in the first part you can read interviews of our developers, a QA engineer, and a tech lead, in the second – the head of HR department and a recruiter. The third part is dedicated to surveys of remote work in Ukraine, including the internal one.

Marharyta, Delphi developer

  • How did you take the news about compulsory work from home?
  • I accepted it with understanding.

 

  • Is it your first experience of remote work?
  • From time to time I had been working from home, for a few days. But it is the first time working remotely for such a long period.

 

  • How fast did you manage to adapt to new work processes?
  • I did not have to get used to something new. I continued working as I had done it previously – all the things can be figured out via Skype.

 

  • Could you share your own lifehacks of a fast and painless shift to remote work?
  • Well, I do not know. The question is whether you can work by yourself or you need to ask others about something all the time. You do your task by yourself and not depend on anyone. The thing is that it is not so easy to set a workplace. Also, the kids are now studying from home as well, and that is another distraction. That is why I wanted the quarantine to end or at least for the school holidays to begin.

 

  • Did you have more free time when started working from home? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
  • As soon as the opportunity to return to the office appeared – I seized that opportunity. Because when I work at home, I do not control time and stay up working quite late. And I have noticed that this influences my health. When I am in the office I have an official end of work hours – that’s all and I don’t go back to work that day. And when I work at home the end of the workday is kind of vague. So, I do not see any advantages in it as the work turns out endless. Remote work can be an advantage for those who do not communicate much with others, but not for those who like being around people.
    And I cannot say that I spend more time at home or became a better housekeeper, because I’m sitting “at work”, working from sunrise till sunset. Before I would return home and leave all my work in the office and could spent time with kids, now the amount of time spent together is much less. Maybe if I were a man, I could find more advantages. Then, I’ll be able to say, “I go to work, don’t disturb me please”. A wife does the cooking, cleaning and looks after the kids. So, and I have loads of housework to do. So, I prefer going to the office and leaving there all work at the end of the workday.

 

  • Did the workflow and performance of routine tasks change a lot?
  • No, especially for a guy, I do not think the things got worse for them. The only negative moment may be the absence of a proper work setup. As for now, I have got a good one. But the first few months I didn’t have my space – everyone was crowded together – kids with hometasks to control,my mother helping with cooking (not in a quiet way), and I was a bit confused at that time . And now I have a separate room, and school holidays have begun, so it is much better.

 

  • What is your fondest memory of the quarantine?
  • When we started doing daily chats/meetings with the team, we began to hear each other, as we hadn’t been doing that from the very beginning and it was quite pleasant to so see and hear all the teammates.

 

  • How will IT industry in Ukraine change after the quarantine?
  • Well, I think everything will remain as it was before. Ukrainian IT industry is quite strong and it is not that easy to stop it, it will keep on growing. And half of people find it convenient to work remotely. The only fear is that some economic crisis may take place in autumn, then we will see.

Ivan, .NET developer

  • How did you take the news about compulsory work from home?
  • I was neither surprised nor glad, because I had worked from home before. That is not a big problem, but I prefer keeping my household chores and work apart, first of all. Secondly, previously while remotely working I lived alone, and no one disturbed me. This time it was not so comfortable, because some domestic chores were in the way all the time, but I was ready for that.

 

  • For how long did you work remotely for the first time? What were the similarities and distinctions?
  • It lasted for 9 months. That experience was a little bit different, as I worked from home part time, while I was studying at the university. So, I worked from home, from university, sometimes from cafès. I always had my laptop with me, and as working hours were flexible, I could work whenever I wanted – during the day or at night. This time I had to work within a fixed schedule. Nonetheless, I sometimes had to work overtime to keep up with the tasks.

 

  • How fast did you manage to adapt to new work processes?
  • Well, I got used to it fast, but at the same time did not adapt completely. Remote work was a new experience and there are no problems for me changing my daily routine, but it wasn’t perfect as I had to work at night too.

 

  • Could you share your own lifehacks of a fast and painless shift to remote work?
  • First of all, you shouldn’t work in your bed, as it’s a big problem when you work, take meals and rest in your bedroom. You should have a defined space for work with your computer and all necessary stuff and use it only for work. For example, if you want to watch a movie in the evening – just take the laptop to another room. In a perfect world it would be a separate room, where no one would disturb you. A good idea is to set an alarm for the lunch break and another one for its end. Avoid thinking about cooking, going to the supermarket or preparing meals during the work hours. Do not hope that because you work from home you will catch up later, because you will always end up working at night.

 

  • Did you have more free time when started working from home? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
  • No, I even had less free time. Partly because of household chores, talking to my homies, as it is not always possible to ask them not to disturb you at all. Also, some distractions and snacking:) Also the quarantine meant some movement restrictions for people, shops were closing earlier, so you had to buy necessary stuff during work hours, thus, delaying the end of the workday.

 

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages?
  • Well, it is my focus on work. Developer’s job implies a bit different workflow. You sit and think about a task, then another task is added and then in your head you combine those tasks into one, remake something, create some kind of mental structure and dive deep into it. When some domestic of other things appear, they ruin the whole structure or the art of it and then you need more time to create it again. Even a few minutes of distraction can ruin it, thus productivity may decrease. And while you are in the process of getting into the zone and creating this mental structure, from outside it can look like you are having a rest and you can be asked about something/disturbed, the process of work is not that visible.
    Saving time on coming to the office and back, especially if it takes 30-60 minutes or more is an advantage. Getting ready for the workday: putting on fancy clothes and make up, etc. Working from home you are already at your workplace.

 

  • How did the quarantine affect routine tasks?
  • Quarantine did not have a big impact on working issues, all things stayed the same. The only thing was that clients and all companies tried to shift business to an online mode. For example, the increased demand for new sites or improvements in the existing ones among offline shops. Concerning our work, some deadlines have changed, and that is all.

 

  • What is your fondest memory of the quarantine?
  • Well, I do not even know, as the quarantine passed so quickly (Ivan’s team was the first one to return to the office). The whole period was kind of specific. I’d mention meeting the team to have some coffee together. From time to time we were going out to unwind, were talking about work and some other stuff. It was like a gulp of a fresh air, that would increase productivity.

 

  • How will IT industry in Ukraine change after the quarantine?
  • I think there will be much more work because many companies, due to the lack of resources had to cut salaries and fire employees. Everything seemed to be very bad at the beginning for some specialists, but later information about new vacancies began to appear, many companies (not IT ones) want to sell goods online. And in my opinion more organizations will shift to a remote mode of work, at least partly, to have Plan B for some possible future quarantines. E.g. some bars, cafes (started working online during the pandemic that seems unusual – online cafe) – applications or web-sites were developed for some of them.

 

  • Has your attitude towards the quarantine (since its beginning) changed?
  • In general, no, because I knew what to expect, had the sense of what new conditions were getting to. Though I couldn’t predict all of them. Remote work remained the same as it had been before the quarantine. I wasn’t ready for it from the technical point of view, didn’t have a proper working setup at home, I was mentally prepared for it. Well, my attitude has not change, I’m still not a fan of work from home, that’s why I’m in the office. Our team was the first one to return. Our team is very close-knit. We have lots of communication, including with the client. It is easier to discuss things when we are at the same location. You can ask anything in a moment without leaving the workplace. Figuring something out via Skype took longer, as you needed to make arrangements with a person at first, and time was spent on these calls, screen sharing, additional concentration, that wasn’t very productive. Now we are together and it’s easier to discuss some work moments and other topics. If the team is tight-knit and everyone knows when you can and when you absolutely should not distract your teammates, then it’s easier to work from the office and productivity is much higher.

Oleksandr, QA Engineer

  • How did you take the news about compulsory work from home?
  • Calm, without (emotions) as it was a necessary evil, with understanding.

 

  • Is it your first experience of remote work for such a long period?
  • Yes

 

  • How fast did you manage to adapt to new work processes?
  • To be honest, it happened even faster than I imagined that. It took a couple of days to set up my workplace at home.

 

  • Maybe you can share your own lifehacks of a fast and painless shift to remote work?
  • Well, I’m not sure if the unique recipe that will suit everyone exists. The most difficult thing was to set up a workplace as it took some time.

 

  • Did you have more free time when started working from home?
  • Well, yes. But as our city is not so big, I didn’t spend hours to get to work and back home, so it didn’t have a visible influence on the amount of my free time.

 

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages?
  • I am a person, who used to work with the team in the same office, thus remote work is the biggest disadvantage. It got easier when I returned to the office and most of my teammates are also in the office again. Speaking of advantages, you do not have to spend time getting to the office, even if it doesn’t take long. And I added more physical activity.

 

  • You have mentioned that the team adopted to changes quite quickly, but how did the routine tasks change?
  • All the processes of the project did not change, we only needed some time to adapt to new conditions.

 

  • What is your fondest memory of the quarantine?
  • Well, I don’t mention anything as this situation with pandemic, etc. is quite negative for me, and I won’t try to find any positive memories… don’t know whether it’s right or wrong but it is what it is.

 

  • How will IT industry in Ukraine look like after the quarantine?
  • In my opinion, companies will more eagerly agree to remote work. Big companies will trust their employees even more. If previously work from office was a must, now there is a lenient approach. But let’s see if there is the second wave of Covid-19.

 

  • Has your attitude towards the quarantine (since its beginning) changed?
  • Well, yes, I’ve noticed some good things about remote work. But I am a person who is used to live communication with my colleagues, that’s why I prefer working from the office.

Marius, Tech Lead

  • How did you take the news about compulsory work from home?
  • Extremely negatively, because I do not like working from home, prefer dividing work and leisure. That is why I haven’t worked a single day from home.

 

  • You had your working place neither in the office nor at home, right?
  • Yes

 

  • Is it your first experience of remote work for such a long period?
  • Yes, it was for the first time.

 

  • How fast did you manage to adapt to new work processes?
  • Adaptation period took about 1.5-2 weeks.

 

  • Could you share your own lifehacks of a fast and painless shift to remote work?
  • I’d advise to communicate more often and more tightly, to try to solve issues as soon as possible, before they become critical.

 

  • What was the most difficult for you during this period?
  • To catch people at their workplaces. You know, while working from home people leave workplace from time to time.

 

  • Did you have more free time when started working from home?
  • No, and as I talked with others, there was a feeling that that time became kind of relative, there were no strict boundaries. Someone worked for the whole day, someone for a half of the day and it was difficult to define when it was time for work and time for leisure. There was less free time, probably, as everything merged together.

 

  • Were there any other disadvantages of remote work?
  • Well, there were not any. Processes got settled, people rebuilt processes the other way, communication became more frequent and more qualitative. In general, remote work is not so bad. I work from the office as it is comfortable for me, but most people, for some reason, prefer working farther from the office. Maybe because in the office people get distracted easier and it’s easier to concentrate at home. But for those who have kids it is more difficult to concentrate at home and continue development process from home.

 

  • How did the quarantine affect routine tasks??
  • Maybe, at the beginning it was difficult to force yourself to do some routine, uninteresting things, that we had done in the office earlier due to the atmosphere – all teammates were working and you did the same. It was a difficulty for the first fortnight, but then you realized that it was your work and it should be done. One thing that prevented people from degrading was everyday status-calls. You’d say what you had done the day before and what were going to do that day. Thus, there was no time for sitting idle, it was an additional stimulus as well as demos at the end of the week

 

  • What is your fondest memory of the quarantine?
  • Well, there were interesting project tasks. We were writing a complicated module, which was firstly released 5 years ago. We have been making a visual and technical redesign, all the time on Skype and Teams, permanent communication among front-end, back-end, QA engineers, designers – it was interesting. We could not imagine how we could deliver it during the quarantine, as we realized how close the team should operate, so everyone could understand each other. But somehow, we rebuilt the processes, things returned to normal, and, in my opinion, maybe, it was the best module in terms of optimization and response speed.

 

  • How will IT industry in Ukraine change after the quarantine?
  • Supposedly 50% of people will work remotely, until they become parents:)
    I consider, in theory, the opportunity of going to another county or city for 2-3 weeks and working from there, combining work and leisure.

 

  • Has your attitude towards the quarantine (since its beginning) changed?
  • Yes, because before the quarantine I totally rejected and did not understand why people need remote work and freelance. After the lockdown I realized that it is not all that bad. The main thing is to pull yourself together and not to allow laziness to interfere with your work. There is a special kind of work atmosphere in the office – when everyone in the room is working, you are too. Probably, in the office people ask you more questions as you are at arm’s length, and you can discuss issues easily. And on remote, people were relying on their own knowledge and expertise to avoid distracting others.

These were the stories of our technical specialists. Wait for the second part of the article next week.