Living and Working in the Virtual Workplace

Living and Working in the Virtual Workplace.
For some reason, I found myself thinking about how different my “work
day” is now than it was 5 years at when I worked at Marathon Oil in
Findlay, Ohio. Then Back then my day was fairly straightforward. I got
to work at roughly the same time each day (typically a bit later than I
hoped, but I'm not a morning person). I worked at my desk until lunch
time. Then some of us would usually head to lunch, come back, and work
for another four hours or so. And there were meetings. Lots of
regularly scheduled meetings.

I could generally predict the time I'd arrive at the office and the
time I'd head home to within 30 minutes. It was rare to stay an extra
hour or two. And when I was at home, I rarely dealt with work stuff.
Yeah, we eventually got some VPN software, but I didn't want to deal
with Windows more than I had to anyway.


It's hard to describe a “typical” day in my work at Yahoo. There
really isn't one. Let's take yesterday (Monday) and today (Tuesday) for
example. Yesterday I got to work around 10:30am and left to head home
around 7:30pm. But after I got home I spent a few more hours dealing
with work stuff remotely. Yeah, we have a VPN, but I still to most
stuff with a combination of SSH and Yahoo Messenger. It's not at all
uncommon to get people pinging me on messenger at all hours of the day
or night. If I'm on-line, I'm “available.” I forced myself to go to bed
just before 3am.

Today, like most days, I got up and checked my work e-mail during
breakfast (meaning 9:30am or so). I didn't head to the office until
about 11:30am, since I knew I had a meeting at noon. I headed home at
about 7:00pm only because traffic is better if I wait until after
seven–the carpool lanes open up. Then, a few hours later, I was
answering more e-mail, posting a job listing, and talking about product
ideas with someone via messenger. I'm sure he was at home too. I know
people who regularly conduct conference calls from their cars or their
lazy boy recliner at home.

And then there are the days that I'm helping someone in England or
India at midnight. And there are the days that I spend the whole
morning dealing with the random errands and stuff that tend to pile up
as part of life. And the days that I work from home because I'm really
far behind on laundry and there are fewer distractions interruptions at home anyway.

My work day starts when I wake up and ends when I convince myself to
go to bed. Much less of my communication is face to face compared to
back then. There's the phone, e-mail, messenger, and so on. But there's
a lot of non-work stuff that gets injected in there too. Life and work
blend together far more this way. And I see nothing wrong with that
except that the burden is on me to keep things in check. But with that
burden comes the freedom of more flexible hours, locations, and so on.
Few of my meetings are repeating, regularly scheduled affairs. That, of
course, helps a bit too.

If someone actually asked me “how many hours a week do you work?” I'd have no idea how to answer.

Welcome to the virtual workplace and, in some ways, the virtual
job/life mix. It's one of the cultural differences between working a
high-tech job and a more traditional job. But equally important is that
it's much more a part of Silicon Valley culture than it is in somewhere
like Columbus, Ohio (where many of my old friends now live and work).
Many people I know at other Bay Area tech companies also live a similar
work/life blend in which the boundaries change daily.

Most of the time I really don't even notice anymore. Living and
working this way just seems natural. But when friends and family come
to visit, they're often surprised, confused, or just in disbelief.
“This is your job?” “You work this way?” “That's not work–you're just
using instant messenger.” And so on.  [Jeremy Zawodny's blog]

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