Last night was the second year in a row that my friends and I did a Zoom New Years Eve party. It felt very different this year. I’m writing this blog post to reflect on why.
I’m not burned out on zoom
Last year, I had very little in person interaction for the over 9 months leading up until New Years. (In a “good” month, I saw two friends.) Having everything happen on Zoom just made me miss real humans even more. It was like a constant reminder of what I was missing. Now, Zoom is more because it is appropriate. Not everything needs to be in person.
I saw some of them more recently
I saw one of the people at the zoom party in person in early December and four others in August or September. (The remaining person I rarely see outside this annual party in the first place)
I don’t mind spending New Years at home
Granted it’s been a long time, but I have spent New Years Eve alone watching TV. And I’m fine with that. So it’s not a day where I feel sad if I can’t see people. (I do enjoy seeing my friends; it just doesn’t have to be then). Which means last year was more about “ugh, another Zoom thing”
I spend way less time in my apartment
There was definitely a cumulative effect of feeling trapped at home. Now that I’ve been working in the office, I get significant breaks from my apartment. Also, my work problems stay at work and aren’t in my home. This separation has helped me a lot.
Today was the JCP (Java Community Process) party online for the second year in a row due to the pandemic. I found it interesting comparing how I felt about it between the two years. The format was roughly the same – a welcome, a game, chatting.
I felt way more engaged this year. Most of that was due to me. Big group things aren’t that easy to participate in. And last year, I got frustrated more easily. So I got talked over the first few times I tried and gave up. This year, there were either less people or quieter people or I was thinking faster. But it didn’t become a negative feedback loop. And last year because of that negative feedback loop, I felt like I was watching others the whole time.
Way better this year. Working from home all day (and every day) sapped my energy. I didn’t have enough to get through an 8 hour work day let alone enough focus for an after work activity.
Last year wins on convenience. I was home all day last year so I just had to walk a few steps and turn on my personal computer. This year, I had to leave work at 3pm. (Which worked out well because I got a new computer and setting i up at home does work well. Start downloads/installs and walk away. I don’t need to watch Maven “download the internet.”
And yes, I could have worked from home today. I didn’t want to. I’ve worked from home enough for a long time.
A year ago, my interactions were limited to four families and one neighbor. This meant there were some weeks where I’d see one or human beings. That wasn’t enough. So interacting with people online was a constant reminder of how frustrated I was of the fact. This year, I’m going to the office every day and getting out of my apartment. I’m going places and seeing people again. So while I wish I could have seen some of the party attendees in person, it wasn’t a big deal. Also, I’ve seen a few of them in the past few months in person. (I went to KCDC and the NYJavaSig leaders did a get together.)
The difference a year makes. This proves that environmental surroundings matter.
I’ve been on a hybrid/distributed team for a long time. Immediately before the pandemic our team worked in the following arrangement (everyone worked 5 days a week regardless of location). Since this team was originally all in NY, I was very conscious of the language I used so NY wasn’t “the center of the universe.”
3 people full time in the NY office
2 people in another office in a different city
1 person in yet a third office in a different city
1 person in the NY office three days a week
1 person in the NY office two days every three weeks
1 person full time in her home office
During the pandemic we all worked from somewhere in our home. Some people had nice home offices. Some people worked from a creative arrangement in the middle of their apartment. I used language about myself like “I’m leaving work now” even though I was moving two feet away.
Right now, the NY office is doing a “back to the office” pilot and my team consists of
me physically in the NY office
one of my teammates physically in the NY office three days a week on a different floor (we weren’t on the same team when the pandemic started so our seats aren’t currently near each other.) It’s a pain to move so waiting until the department shuffles everyone’s seats for that.
everyone else at their home offices (I think everyone except the two of us choosing to be in the pilot has an actual home office)
Last week, I was using a bunch of different conference rooms in the NY office to test the new webcams and such. When I wrote up the experience, I used the phrase “in person.” One of my teammates immediately called me out on that. Which I appreciate. I certainly wasn’t thinking of the NY office as being the center of the universe when it was only myself and one other person from our team there. (at one of the meetings; the others I was the only one in the NY office for.) I was thinking “in-person” with reference to myself.
This got us talking and me thinking about various terms that can be used and various sensitivities that can exist around them. I’m using WFH in the comments column for brevity. If you don’t like that term, substitute another in your head to get to the gist. It’s hard to fully qualify every time. Especially in a discussion about terms and subtleties.
Everyone works in person regardless of location.
This doesn’t usually bother people. However, it isn’t always home. I worked for a week from a hotel. In some companies, a person could be working at Starbucks. It varies. I do like that this term is part of the WFH abbreviation. One of my remote teammates said she prefers home office or remote over home.
I like this term when talking about people who actually have a home office. However, it is a term that has sensitivities to me because it includes an assumption that one has a space for a home office. (My WFH area is smaller than a cubical and not anywhere near as conducive to work.
This is a location. If there is only one onsite location and everyone is WFH, it could work. However, in my case, there are three “onsite” locations involved so it doesn’t clarify much.
Depending on the context, this could be a good term. In some ways, it has the same problem as “onsite.” However, it could also mean simply that people aren’t all together if not viewed from the lens of a common location.
I like this term because it shows that there are varying locations. And it doesn’t make assumptions about a primary site.
teleworking or telecommuting
I like that this is location agnostic. But it also implies that you aren’t at an office. Whereas distributed could mean any location.
This term assumes that it is replacing an in person thing. It also treats the activity as an alias.If I’m having a meeting, I’m having a meeting. It doesn’t matter if we are in the same room or on Zoom or whatever.