Remote, hybrid or in person?

This blog post was published earlier in my (now defunct) weekly newsletter on April 5, 2023.

In this blog post, instead of talking about testing or automation, I wanted to share some thoughts with you about different ways of working, and more specifically about remote working, working in the office or a hybrid between these two.

Since COVID hit us, remote working has suddenly become ‘a thing’. While I did work remotely sometimes before that, especially when running training sessions for clients abroad, most of the time I, like most of us, was expected to come into an office pretty much every day. As we all know, that changed pretty dramatically in early 2020.

For me, this change to working remotely full time has definitely been a blessing, mainly because suddenly I had an extra 8-10 hours a week I could spend on work, my family, working out and other things. Pretty quickly, it made me think ‘Why did I ever spend so much time on commuting?’, and I realized I definitely never want to go back to commuting to and from an office every day ever again.

One thing that has definitely helped in this regard is renting my own little office, which means there’s still a clear separation between ‘work’ and ‘home’. Working from home without a dedicated room to work in, with young kids running around, made this a no-brainer. The only thing I wish I’d done differently is moving to that office sooner. My commute is now either a 10-minute bike ride or a 30-minute walk, which is perfect.

What baffles me, though, is that it seems like the rest of the country and the world seems to have moved back to going into the office every day. Recently, I heard on the news that traffic intensity in the Netherlands is now higher than it ever has been before COVID. I really don’t understand this. Sure, I recognize that there are plenty of jobs that require commuting, that there are people who just work better from the office, and that there are managers who don’t trust people to work when they’re not in the office.

Still, taking into account all of those groups, and thinking a little about the time savings and the decrease in carbon footprint, I just don’t understand this. But let me stop thinking about how other people think and just consider myself lucky to be in the privileged position of being able to choose to work from where I want.

It’s something I’m now actively considering when looking for new consulting gigs, too. I just started a new project last month, and one of the most important criteria for me to say ‘yes’ was the fact that the team pretty much exclusively works remotely, even though they’re all in the Netherlands. Sure, at some point I’ll go into the office, if only to meet some of my fellow team members in real life, but I’m very happy working remotely otherwise. The fact that the entire team does so, and that it’s embedded in our way of working (‘remote first’) has made this a lot easier. Everybody is simply just a Teams message or call away.

Things are different when it comes to delivering training courses and facilitating workshops, though.

Before COVID hit us, delivering training was already a regular part of my job, and pretty much with every client, they expected me to come into their office. And that’s the way I liked it best. Also, it gave me the opportunity to travel on a regular basis, to a client abroad that wanted to book me for a couple of days of training. Call it one of the perks of being an independent consultant and trainer ;)

Training, too, moved to online early 2020. It definitely took me a while to get used to it, because running training courses online is very, very different from running them in person. I had to learn to ask participants to share their thoughts, their questions and their screens much more explicitly than I needed to do when training in person. I’d like to think I’m a good bit better at doing that now, but in the early days of remote training, sessions sometimes felt like talking to wallpaper.

I’m happy to say, therefore, that most of the training sessions I run these days are in-person again. Being able to get a quick idea about how engaged people are, looking over their shoulder and pointing at a missing semicolon or a capitalization error when they’re working on a programming exercise, it’s all just so much easier, better and more fun than when you’re running or participating in training online.

And of course, I do hope that opportunities to do some traveling again to deliver training sessions abroad will come around again some time soon, too, although I definitely notice that clients abroad are a little more aware of cost and (hopefully) also carbon footprint, and that’s something I can only applaud and respect.

What about you? Do you still work remotely? Have you moved back to working into the office? And what’s your preferred way of working?