It’s been over a year since I stopped working a full-time job. After 10 years of working in various workplaces, in March 2019 I took the plunge and set up ATRIUM Consultancy, my own consulting practice that focuses on the Hospitality sector. I have expanded my reach by creating a fashion design house and a web design agency, more on that in another article.
I operate my businesses out of my bedroom. Built by my parents when I was nine years old, I have a corner of it that was dedicated to education and later work. To work from home all one needs is a good internet connection (I have two), a comfortable chair (which I have), and basic necessities such as coffee and tea which are readily available. The rest of it is your discipline and drive. I have spruced up my workstation by adding a few more things such as a new large monitor to connect my Macbook Pro and a new keyboard and mouse. Material things I know but it makes me feel better about working from home.
The remote work lifestyle tends to be cost-effective unless there is a power cut which is why I signed up as a virtual member at Likuid Spaces or stop by my favourite cafes such as Black Cat Cafe or Cafe Kumbuk. This allows me to work in the centre of the city when the random power cut occurs or to find refuge between meetings in the city.
Working for ten years at various workplaces across numerous timezones one tends to create a daily routine. For the past four years when I was Head of Business Development for the Ceilao Group, I had set myself up a very standard routine.
The night before I plan what I want to wear and keep it out so I can iron it fresh in the morning. Upon waking up in the morning I have my tea and light breakfast before heading out to work in the intense traffic of Colombo. Post work I would head to the gym since it was on the way home OR set up to meet a friend for a coffee to avoid the traffic home. On the days I didn’t drive I would actually walk the 5kms home since it took me the same amount of time if I drove.
The demand for me to be at work at a certain time, to leave at a certain time, go to the gym at a certain time and then be home at a certain time created my daily routine.
Since working from home maintaining a routine is so much more difficult. I still wake up early, but after preparing my coffee and checking my emails and catching up on world news my mind tends to wander till my first meal. There is no requirement for me to get dressed and be somewhere at a certain time unless I have meetings (more on that later). So I need to push myself hard to go to the gym and even harder to stop myself from napping when I should be working. It’s the curse of having your bed 3 meters from your workstation.
My current commute is around three seconds from my bed to my desk. Maybe a bit longer if I need to drop by the bathroom. Whilst I am grateful for this as I can jump out to attend to things immediately it has its drawbacks.
Commuting is quite therapeutic for me IF I am not driving. Sitting in the back of a trishaw and watching people make their way to work in the rat race we call life intrigued me. I look at the people in their vehicles, the couples making small talk, the businessmen catching up on the news whilst their drivers do their duty, young men in Maruti’s and old executives in BMW’s. It shaped my morning thought process and in many occasions inspired me.
Despite all the food delivery apps I still find solace in walking to my lunch spot. Whether it be a Paan Paan Chapathi wrap or a Plus Nine Four meal I made sure I walked one of the trips. This was so that I could add a few steps to my FitBit and to work up an appetite and/or digest the food I just ate. I’ve done this mini commute to lunch since the beginning of my career and I’ll probably do it until the end. Like my morning commute to work, this allows me to see people and now interact with them.
Now, being cooped up inside my house for days at a time tends to tire me out. So I aim to push all my meetings to one or two days of the week. Some clients expect me to show my face at their workplaces once a week, this plus my other meetings with suppliers, partners and errands are all rolled up into one. This saves me fuel, makes me more efficient and results in a generally less stressful week since all the stress of traffic and the heat of Colombo is stacked in one to two days.
I’ve always been grateful for the companies I’ve worked at and the people I have worked with. Whether I was just a cog in the massive conglomerate John Keells Holdings or being the first and only employee at Loops I have always been around people that have inspired and coached me to be the better person I am today.
Working at Dialog Telecom taught me to be more humble as we were all the same grunt despite the many different backgrounds and ages. When I was working by myself during the beginning of Loops, it’s CEO taught me skills that I use today. Over the years I have met many people, some who are friends to this day from my various workplaces. Being around other people tends to give you a better perception of yourself and at times gives you a reality check. Co-workers have put me in my place if I’ve been too brash, or thanked me when I’ve done something extra that I thought was normal. It exposes you to the different types of people that are around in the world if you stop and listen it gives you more clarity on society as a whole.
Now my community is pretty much me, myself and I and the occasional cat and dog. I hop on a call with my business partner, who also works from his home in the south of Sri Lanka. I try to have lunch with my sister who works in the studio and dining table downstairs but these aren’t examples of a community. I do however try to do for as many networking events as much as possible such as Spike Lanka and events at Hatch or Colombo Co-operative. It’s not that I’m lonely and bored, but it’s always good to have people to bounce ideas off and it’s always refreshing to meet like-minded people.
With the Covid 19 pandemic now in full swing and most countries are now in lockdown and almost all workplaces are now looking at a work from home option. There are tons of software such as Slack or Asana that have been created, initially for freelancers and remote workers but now looks like it will be the core of a fully functional business. To move your work remotely and even full departments to catch on the first thing you need to establish is trust, with your employees, employers and above all, with yourself.
The tools for remote working have been there for ages. We needed a global pandemic to show that, yes that job could have been done at home, and yes that meeting could have been an email. Now the only thing left is to make the leap. Are you ready?