Last time, we discussed the skill necessary to work remotely with Jesús Magaña, one of our Project Managers here at Scio. But, as you might think, setting up a home office is another story entirely. How to manage it? We hope this second part of our chat sheds some light on it.

by Jesús Magaña

Working from home is a challenge.

I spend most of my time on calls and video conferences. When the pandemic started and we had to go home, it was somewhat uncomfortable. “Oh, they are going to see my house”, or my wife or children would pass behind me inadvertently, or you would probably hear someone ringing the door or yelling, and other considerations you never had before, but you learn to deal with them day by day.

But after almost two years of that, I like the way we are working now. I feel the team is more productive and accomplishes a lot more, and although I miss the old office dynamic of arriving and greeting everybody by hand, remote work opened a ton of connections and made a lot of changes to my personal life. 

I can have lunch with my kids every day.

For example, do you want to know something cool about working from home? I can have lunch with my kids every day. Just like everyone else, I used to eat out of a Tupperware container at the office, but now that hour also works as a break where I can spend more time with them.

Also, it’s an interesting feeling to be aware of how your kids see you while you work, and how you express yourself with the people you work with, even if you have your door closed. I think that for a Project Manager, it helps to be working in an environment like that. If you were not a very good PM, screaming at people and whose attitude is less than ideal to collaborate, would you behave the same way in front of your family?

People learn a lot by imitation, and promoting a good culture of working, is easier if they directly see you. It can also help you to detect some vices you may have when you realize you are about to do things you don’t want them to see you doing.

You see, one of my main responsibilities is transmitting the culture of Scio to our apprentices and every new person that joins the team. Culture can have an effect at home too because it is a similar process to teaching your kids the kind of attitudes you want to see in them.

So, if your kids see you dealing with people in a professional, empathic, and understanding way, they are probably learning something valuable about collaboration and relationships.

The home office can humanize a collaborator.

They can take a peek into your inner life, the things you have at home, the people there with you, and you can learn more about their hobbies that you may never know otherwise. 

All these kinds of things give you more context about others, and you can generate more personal connections because, when you turn your camera on, you let them enter your home, and that shows the human side of your coworkers. 

As you can see right now [during the Zoom interview], I have a blurred background, because I moved out recently and I don’t want all those boxes to show up and that, but that’s a normal part of a home office.

Still, the challenges go beyond that. In the beginning, when I started to work full time from my home, the balance between my personal and professional life was non-existent, “I’m already here, I don’t have anywhere else to go”, and without a clear line during the day at which to stop working. 

Of course, I noticed that wasn’t right, but I still reached a limit. There was a certain feeling of tiredness when you don’t have a clear dividing line between both sides of my life; it was easy for me to stay an extra hour to finish late stuff, but I got to the point where I was just going through the motions the day.

And that affects your work. I started to become more easily distracted, and without that urgency I had in the office to finish stuff and go back home, getting burned out was easy. After all, I was already in my house and any concern about returning late had disappeared.

So I started changing my attitude about it, first by trying to schedule things to do in the afternoon and to always have something to do, be it just riding my bike, going for a run in the park, or things like that. 

I try to be consistent with it, and disconnecting completely at the end of the day makes it easier, even if I have to play up the change of context by walking around the block or something when I finish? or start my day. It works for me and lets me know when my day has finished and if I should stop. 

If someone asks me these days for advice about being a Project Manager, first I would like them to consider why they want to do this kind of work, to see if their idea of a PM is realistic. You are in a very critical position of responsibility, and I recommend they develop some great social skills and know the entire development cycle well.

These days, my routine is very well defined, and that’s important for someone who wants to follow this career path from now on. I spend all my morning on calls, updates, and client meetings, probably around 40% of my time goes into that, leaving the afternoon to deal with the specific needs of my team, from getting a new mac for them, to define parameters and functions of everyone involved. And after doing it all from the comfort of my own home, I cannot imagine doing it any other way again.