Home Alone

… until retirement

In recent years, we at Harlequin have dedicated a few articles to the topic of “home office in Covid times”. At the time, this was “the new normal” and admittedly – it didn’t just have downsides. However, most of the working population for whom home office was an option had the prospect in the background of being allowed / able / obliged to return to the office at some point.

Personally I am in a different situation, so to speak, because as a result of the very low number of employees “my” company still had in our region, our office was closed down. When we were informed of the decision, I immediately urged myself to be reasonable and objective. “Of course” I understood that it was not worthwhile maintaining an office. Each member of our group totalling 5 belongs to a different team anyway, and that means my manager and my teammates have been based in the US for years, so working from home makes no difference for team integration.

But we were sad on the “deadline” nevertheless. On my last visit to the office, I knew beforehand I would shed a few tears at the sight of the almost empty office space. The next day I was back in my home office and, to be honest, I felt quite lonely and lost at first. Knowing that it was “forever” and not simply for the Covid period made everything even more depressing. I really missed my colleagues‘ presence. But because we appreciate many things about “our company,” “home office forever” was not a reason for the younger ones among us to immediately desert to another employer.

In order to better come to terms with the facts that I couldn’t change anyway, I made a list of the advantages work at home brought:

– I save about 2 hours of travel time per day.

– I save 400 car miles per week, improving my environmental footprint.

– I don’t have to “kill” an hour at lunch in the middle of an industrial estate where nothing is going on.

– Representative clothing is only necessary above the navel.

– I don’t have to decide in advance what I’m going to eat between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. the next day.

Particularly the first three are clear plus points, indisputedly. But I still miss the little jokes in the office, the banter with my colleagues, and the quick and unbureaucratic summoning of the troops in a crisis. And – which must be mentioned – my colleagues played a big part in my Dutch language education. I learned many idioms and “bons mots” from them. On the other hand, especially in the early years, I caused a lot of merriment in the workplace by using wrong sentence structures and peculiar expressions!

The “look” of the office at home

While some colleagues had an improvised desk on the bedroom dresser during the Covid period (“It’s not for long after all…”), we now redesigned and reorganized within the bounds of possibility. In our house, the guest room has become the study, where occasional overnight guests unfortunately have less comfort than before. One colleague has converted their attic, another has converted the garden shed – and we have been supplied with professional equipment and office furniture by the company. Whether we like the home office or not – at least we’re all sitting comfortably and ergonomically!

After the Covid period with the lock-down phases, we 5 colleagues from the region can now meet privately at least once in a while. And we do that on a regular basis. We arrange to meet for dinner somewhere and are happy that we can finally see each other again in the flesh. In terms of work processes, we don’t have that much to do with each other, but it’s still interesting to hear what’s going on in other departments and what’s on our minds. For us, it is fortunate that in the meantime the contact restrictions have been lifted and restaurants and cafes are open again!

“Cabin Fever“

In spring, summer and autumn, I’ve got into the habit of going for a bike ride in the evenings after work. Now I’m lucky enough to live in a region with a lot of nature (and many beautiful bike paths) – which I really appreciate. The feeling of being able to leave my own apartment once a day and still in daylight is very pleasant and prevents “cabin fever”. In winter I still had difficulty finding an equivalent alternative. Since it is still dark for months when I start working and already dark again when I stop, I rarely go beyond a stroll round the garden at lunch time. You can imagine that I am really looking forward to spring. But I have also resolved to prepare myself a bit better for the next winter and to plan small activities in the early evening. After all, I now have 2 hours more free time! (Ok, admittedly – the extra hour in the morning is usually devoted to lying in. Also nice!)

The best home office moments I have are when the news app reports in the morning “Due to snowfall and freezing conditions, we have the longest traffic jam of the year this morning.” I read that as I leisurely stroll from the kitchen to the study, quoting the great Dutch soccer coach Johan Cruijff, who is claimed to have once said “Every disadvantage has its advantage.”

I realize that by now I’ve got used to the situation. I enjoy the fact that as a local team in the Netherlands (in addition to our dinners together) we “chat” with each other on a regular basis and that there is also a lot of communication with the team in the USA. I may be “sitting” alone, but I don’t feel alone.

P.S.: IT Issues

For me, by far the biggest challenge in working from home is when I turn on my computer in the morning and the technology doesn’t work as it should. In the office, I usually started the problem-solving process by calling out the first name of one of the IT experts, but at home, you can shout as loud as you like. Your partner falls out of bed in shock, but that doesn’t help solve the problem.

So you move between IT tickets, screenshots that you send, and endless team chats with the IT help desk. It is very helpful if the employees of the IT helpdesk have no illusions about what you are able (and not able!) to do in terms of “trouble shooting”. But that is another story!

Original text: BBR
English translation: BCO


Author: bbr

Hello, I am Beate Brinkman, the bbr.harlekin. I am editor and author for Harlekin.Blog e.V. and my “main job” is support coordinator in an international IT company. So far I have worked in German, Dutch, American and Indian companies and have acquired a great deal of experience of multicultural cooperation. I have been living in the Netherlands as a German for many years and have discovered that the cultural differences between Germans and Dutch alone could fill entire books. For professional and private reasons, I am particularly interested in multicultural (mis)understanding. Whether it’s about food, language, official conference calls or the organisation of funerals – when the cultures of several countries collide, things get lively. And that leads to sometimes unpleasant, often very funny, but always instructive situations.

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