Remote Work

In my early days at Boeing, we got moved around from Renton, WA to Kent, WA and other places.

While in Kent, a DoD site, we were placed at one end of a building and a door was installed in the middle of the hallway, just the other side of the kitchen area. The door was Cypher-locked so we couldn’t go through the door.

The other side of the door required a security clearance due to the DoD work being done.

One day, we came to work, and someone installed a cypher-locked door on our side of the kitchen as well, keeping us from the microwave, fridge, etc. This was the beginning of the end for our workplace. A few weeks later at a team staff meeting, our manager told us to grab anything we wanted from the area and go home. I was a remote worker for the next 7 years. It wasn’t so bad, Boeing paid for business grade Comcast internet to my house.

As the years went on, my wife started in with the “you never do anything around the house during the day” nonsense. She didn’t care that I was working my 8 hours. She even got her mother involved. They hit me with that same load of crap, I gave the, “I work during the day” line and good ol mom piped up with, “You get a lunch hour, don’t you?”. So, I spoke to my manager, and blamed the Exchange team for making me come back into the office 5 days a week and I never looked back at remote work until the pandemic hit and Boeing shut down the cafeteria and demanded I go home.

Now, I work for a national retailer in their Cybersecurity organization and during the pandemic, they sold their brand new $500 million HQ campus to Facebook and sent everyone home. Fortunately, by this time my wife and I were divorced, and I had remarried a woman with a decent job in a law office and she actually loved me enough to understand the whole, “I work from home” thing. She and I spent a couple hours each weekend keeping the place clean together.

What I’ve learned from this is simple. Remote work is not for everyone. You cannot effectively train the new people as easily, but you can train them. We have a number of new people on the team, myself included and they are all thriving. If I have questions, I simply ask in Teams and I get a response. I’ve learned that email goes largely unanswered, but everyone answers in a group Teams chat.

At Boeing, I was the guy who was headed towards a management position and my director loved my view on teaching the team how to do my job. This allowed me to take a vacation from time to time and move on to other work if I so desired.

What I’ve learned is this, remote work works for some, others not so much. I can have my own department with a decent number of employees, and I would not be able to make all of them happy. Even now at my current job, there is a guy on our team who goes into the satellite office in Issaquah WA 2 days a week because he prefers that.

From an employer’s perspective, there’s the argument that nobody will work if left at home with no supervision. This is a problem that is two-fold. First, the job. If you hire people who are unwilling to do the work, it won’t matter if they mess around at home or at the office, they are going to mess around. A good manager knows when their employees are getting the work done and when they aren’t regardless of work location. My manager now is in Texas, most of our team is in the Seattle area (the Puget Sound area). If he were in an office in Texas, we were in an office in the Puget Sound area, would it really be any different than a full-time work from home situation? Probably not. If you cannot trust your employees to do their job regardless of where they work from, you need to find new employees you can trust.

The other problem with management is a lack of work to be done. Oh sure, I can look busy if I have to, I can open SSMS and run a query my manager won’t understand against a SQL database, open an instance of the CyberArk web interface, Visual Studio with a software project I finished last year open and just look like I’m so busy but the truth is, when the boss isn’t looking, I’m talking to my coworkers about video games, the Seahawks or Kraken game last weekend, reading the news on MSN, etc. At Boeing, we went so far as to go to the gym on campus for 3 hours a day. So, what’s the difference between doing that and starting a load of laundry, fixing lunch for the kiddies, etc? As long as you are available when someone sends you a chat message in Teams, Slack, etc. your manager shouldn’t really care.

If your manager does care to the point where they want to have you sitting just outside their office door, then they need to make sure you have work to do. You can only check the health of your application and the servers it runs on for so long before it becomes busy work. You shouldn’t get paid to work a solid 8 hours a day, you should get paid to work when everything goes to hell and production is at a standstill. Your skillset really shines when that happens.

I think that a lot of managers resent work from home because a company policy states that managers must be in the office full time. Well, if I have to be here every day, you damned well better be here too!

There are many reasons why you should or should not be in the office all the time, or even most of the time. If you don’t like the company’s policy, you may want to update that resume and start looking for something you do like.