Skin's Blog

I would like to discuss coming into the office more

The following is taken from a slack message I sent to my coworkers. Personally identifiable information and company specific intellectual property has obviously been elided. Giving some background, I am the only member of a five-person DevOps team who goes into the office every single day of the week; most of my colleagues go into the office one or two days a week. I must explicitly point out that this is the norm at my office, or at least this has historically been the case. I have great respect for these coworkers, and this post in no way besmirches them. Notwithstanding this, I thought what I wrote was interesting enough and relevant enough that perhaps it should be shared with a wider audience as well.

2024-01-10T20:35:53

I would like to discuss coming into the office more.

I feel like I'm in an awkward in between situation at the office. Enough teams have people that come in everyday that I end up doing a lot of communication work. Sometimes the communication work is explicitly for other members of the team, and sometimes it isn't but it would be helpful if other people helped with it.

I recognize that coming into the office everyday is something that is obviously not feasible in some cases.

But this is a plea for help.

Today I was in a lot of communication pow wows. One of them was for [a task assigned to someone else on my team]. [Someone] wanted to talk to me about it, but I wasn't working on it anymore. But I was the only guy in the office.

In another example, I talked to [someone] a lot and shot the breeze with him and discovered he actually has a lot of DevOps needs. This isn't something that was any particular person's communication responsibility, but stuff like it could be shared around.

I also recognize that when we do all get into the office all at the same time I tend to chat way too much. I recognize this problem. I think that the problem will stop being as big of a problem if people came into the office more, since I wouldn't feel the need to 1) do a brain dump of stuff I've been talking about with e.g. [the people from the examples described above] but haven't gotten around to writing it down in tickets or slack yet and 2) want to talk to people generally because I'm a little puppy dog and I felt so alone. If most people are in most days, it will stop being a "special" thing that we're all there and I'll be able to calm down easier I think.

So I think that it'll get better and I'll stop making such a problem of it (and I'll work really hard on it too). I think I'll feel like chatting less when it's a normal thing that people are in the office more frequently.

I also fully recognize the irony of talking about this on a night where there's a massive snowstorm [a quick search engine query for the weather on the evening of January 10th, 2024 in Utah county, Utah will help the reader here] -- dare I say blizzard. I'm not implying we do anything corporate here, I'm trying to identify a problem I've been having though. I have so much communication work now that I don't feel like I can meaningfully get much project work done, and not all of the communication work needs to be mine.

I also wish to recognize that there is some communication that is simply not happening. People don't want to communicate things to us because no one's here. Twice today and I think once yesterday people came up to the DevOps station and complained because no one was available.

Perhaps we think that by staying home we can avoid the noise and people bothering us at our work. Unnecessary bother and unnecessary noise is a real problem and I intend to champion the protection of our time in the future. I am happy to take the brunt of it to some extent. I already do this implicitly, by not telling my teammates about a bunch of stuff that people bother me about. There is a lot to be said about how our colleagues need to learn the meaning of the words "asynchronous communication".

However, we should also consider the problem of people coming to ask for our help that really do need our help in order to do their jobs. These people will not go away just because no one is in the office. They either suffer in silence (and the company suffers with them) or just end up bothering me, the one guy on the team who is in the office 5 days a week, causing undue pressure on one of the team members while the others are blissfully unaware of the problem. By staying home, we deny ourselves the opportunity to decide which of these people deserve our time and which of these people don't. We are simply saying that none of them do. We should give some of them the opportunity to speak with us.

It also denies us the opportunity to figure out if our work is valuable. How can we tell if the work we are working on is valuable if no one is asking for it? When was the last time someone asked you about something you were working on? If they haven't for a while, are you sure that they still care about it? These questions are much more easily answered from the office.