Why work-life balance is a top requirement for Engineers
After losing one uncle to COVID19 along with several other relations getting it and thankfully recovering from this awful disease, I can say that I along with the rest of humanity are forever changed by this pandemic. That sentiment echos through our personal lives and onto our professional lives. After all, on our deathbed, we are not going to lament not being able to spend more time in the office. COVID19 has shown us all the fragile nature of our species, our society and the fallibility of the human condition. The resulting disturbance is felt differently by all. For those who accept the reality in front of us, it's a realization that today and not tomorrow is the time to map our road to happiness in our lives.
The engineering communities in all genres of the profession are skilled practitioners in many things including investigating issues of a highly technical nature and developing solutions for them on a daily basis. To put it another way, the unabridged reality in front of us is key to doing our jobs. It's not a big stretch to see how our communities accept the risks and impact of COVID19 more readily than most, which leads most to the changes required to make the most of the rest of our lives. As Lau Tzu once said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step", which for us starts with achieving a work-life balance. This effectively allows us to focus in earnest on achieving our personal goals. Technology companies have recognised this in varying degrees of detail and direction. Google now allows 20% of its workforce to work from home, whereas Microsoft told its US Employees that they are to work from home until further notice acknowledging that post-COVID reality must take employee welfare into account. The tech company rollback from 100% remote working is effectively dissolving with many companies installing interim policies to deal with the immediate need whilst wisely researching the best fit for the post COVID era.
Some interim policies that have a great chance to form the basis of new working practices post COVID are:
1. Remote working for engineers who have no professional need to be onsite, along with collaboration fulfilled by redesigned offices tailored to collaboration. Design phases in projects, technical root cause analysis meetings and other collaborative engagements keep the office in contention for the engineering practitioner in companies of all sizes.
2. Restructuring of communication policies around the control of information circulars in corporate communications to be designed to engage the colleague in what matters to him/her and not alienate them with meaningless hyperbole around corporate culture. Also, this communications policy restructure needs to control the impulse of many for meetings about meetings. Purpose to time spent is paramount to positive company engagement.
3. Initiatives around mental health and embracing the psychological effects (not the fantasy some offer to counter them) of long term isolation. The design should support the colleague's new outlook and working style, which allows them to find balance in our new reality. To retain talent, listening to employees and where their heads are at is key, whilst supporting them in their personal journey to maintain their daily jobs. This should become a permanent feature.
4. Inclusion via collaboration in strategy development around key areas including remote/blended working arrangements by function is key as engineers have a strong need for execution and a limited need for collaboration. Spotting opportunities for inclusion in how our working lives will be shaped should be structured for the longer term. Some areas of a technology company will require and favour by employee profile a strong office presence with regular collaborations on projects and design areas, whereas we engineers have limited collaborative requirements and strong execution requirements making a remote option more favourable. Policies on working options by the company thus need to be tailored by function.
These are just some of the areas that technology companies need to focus on for the post COVID era noting that the stark realism of the engineer is not a well-kept secret. If companies ask engineers about what they need versus what they want, then they will get a very different answer, which a company can verify by simply checking their own experience and the world around them.
Stay tuned for more on Writing in this blog along with articles on other areas of interest in the Infrastructure and DevOps arenas. To not miss out on any updates on my availability, tips on related areas or anything of interest to all, sign up for one of my newsletters in the footer of any page on Maolte. I look forward to us becoming pen pals!