Like so many other companies, majority of the Quanser staff transitioned to working remotely last March. At the beginning of the pandemic we were designated as an essential R&D company. therefore a small group of our production staff were allowed to work from the office to keep our production line functioning. But for many of us, the abrupt shift to working from home naturally brought on a number of challenges: from scrambling to set up an appropriate home office to figuring out a healthy work-life balance, and for those of us with kids getting a hang of juggling work and virtual schooling.

Most of the colleagues that I’ve talked to say they miss the office interactions, chats around the water cooler, or just walking down the road to grab lunch at our favorite pho place. But until it’s safe to return to the office meetings, brainstorming sessions, and even customer trainings are all going to be done virtually.

Recently I asked a few colleagues to share their experience with working from home. Below is what they had to say.

Simon, R&D Engineer

Simon Work From Home
Simon’s son always mesmerized with dad’s work toys

In the first three months of 2020 I visited 6 foreign countries, which sounds absolutely insane looking back a year later. I was actually in France when they had their first major outbreak, and I will forever be grateful that I didn’t bring COVID-19 back with me. Of course, I didn’t know that for sure when I got home, so I got to be one of the first to experience that most wonderful of isolation practices: the 14-day quarantine. I was lucky that we have an in-law suite in our basement, and I was able to live a relatively normal life, but those were probably the longest 2 weeks of my life.

I got out of quarantine just about when the schools closed, and the rest of the spring was a blur of trying to get work done while also keeping our kids safe and healthy. At times it seemed impossible and that this challenge would never end. However, now that we are approaching a full year in social isolation, I have come to love several aspects of our new normal.

The first, and most obvious plus was not having to commute, which used to cost me 180 minutes and $30 in tolls a day. These days the detour downstairs to make coffee is the longest trip of my day. Beyond that, the quality and availability of work snacks was significantly improved since my pantry was well stocked as we buckled down for the long haul.

However, the most interesting improvement of working from home was something I did not foresee; the opportunity to share my work with my son on a daily basis. He would often come in to “hang out” with me while I worked and was always fascinated by the QBot driving around my office, or the AERO whirring loudly on the desk. It took me back to weekends when I would go with my father (an electrical engineer at the provincial power utility company) to his lab and play with signal generators and oscilloscopes while he worked.

There is something inspiring about seeing someone else be awestruck by a tool or task that has become mundane in your daily work. Hearing my son demand “Dad, can you work on the robot today?” and then shriek with glee when I made it chase him around the office stoked my love for the work I was doing. We, as engineers so rarely get to share our work with a young audience, and I now see what a shame that is.

So, there are two things I am will probably take away from this experience. The first is that even once we all go off to some new-new normal I will seek out opportunities to share my work with those who still have the capacity for unfettered awe (the young, and young at heart). And second, I am not going to worry nearly as much about bringing work home with me.

Warren, Production Manager

Warren Work From Home
Warren enjoying a sunny lunch break playing hockey with his daughter

Working from home has been a whirlwind to say the least. From a home life perspective, it has been amazing and a challenge all at the same time. I have 2 girls under the age of 5, one in school and one in part-time daycare. It has been incredible to spend so much time with my family and see the kids more. Having the option to play with the kids during breaks has been a lot of fun. Going for walks and playing in the backyard in the summer and building a rink and teaching my daughters to skate and play hockey in the winter. Balancing work and dad duties was a real struggle at the beginning with both kids home all the time, but we have since settled into a routine that seems to work for everyone.

Before the pandemic hit, everyone wanted to work from home. Don’t get me wrong, I think it has its advantages, but there are also a lot of unseen challenges that have come up. I personally had to figure out how to effectively communicate and manage a team that is full-time in the office, while being remote myself. We were a team that used very little digital communication before COVID hit, we were even still using paper to distribute tasks. The change has been huge for us but in a good way and has improved our efficiency. Although, I really do miss the small talk and comradery that I used to have with the team, it is just not the same over Slack. There was also the office culture that most of us just do not get any more from our home office. That being said, when we are able to return to the office in some sort of capacity, I think everyone will really appreciate the culture that much more.

I struggle to see what will happen after the pandemic but having the option available to work from the office or from home seems to be the consensus. I look forward to the day when we can return to the office and have that small talk in the lunchroom, have our group lunch chats and go for a coffee break like the “good old days”.

Gemma, Marketing Coordinator

Gemma Work From Home
Gemma and her office buddy Donut

I started working from home after I joined Quanser 4 months prior. My first day of working from home was also the first day I moved to a new place. I was overwhelmed with unpacking and settling down, but the silver lining was that I could set my home office properly without moving the cosmetic products and random things in and out of my desk.

I would say I adapted to remote working quite easily, although I miss seeing everyone’s face on our regular Monday meeting and the small talk with people in the lunchroom. Also, working from home saves me so much time commuting and getting ready in the morning. It has also given me more flexibility in terms of getting my daily exercises. As mid-April rolled around, and weather got a bit warmer, I was able to get jogging sessions in after work and end the evening with a light reading. I have created a routine of reading daily thanks to the 30-day challenge we had a Quanser a couple of months ago.

However, there are days where I wished we could have had meetings in person to go through certain aspects of work, and to allow a better efficient workflow. As a marketing coordinator, I was looking forward to getting more involved in our corporate events, such as our summer BBQ, BigBike, Halloween party, etc., to bond with people I don’t usually get the chance to interact with. Let’s hope things get better and we can get together at these special occasions towards this year end or next year.

As much as I can’t believe we have already been working from home for almost a year, the opportunity of having a relatively flexible schedule allowed me to finally get a puppy. In a short span of time he’s already my best buddy at work since I got him in December! I will admit, if it weren’t for remote working, I wouldn’t have had the courage to raise a puppy on my own, because of the attention he requires for his exercises and training. Working from home allows me to take him out in the morning, during lunch time and in the afternoon. I greatly appreciate that this period of time has provided enough space and time for me to bond with him.

Having Donut (my puppy) sleeping next to me while I work has become my routine nowadays, jogging after work in those not-so-cold days has become my favorite part of the day, as it allows me to calm and clear my mind after a long day. As much as we have gone through so much unprecedented events last year, I am grateful for the opportunity of working from home.

Thuvishan, Territory Manager, Sales

Thuvishan Work From Home
Thuvishan enjoying his morning coffee in his garden

This past year has been filled with many changes. I have had the privilege of not having to travel to work allowing me to be more productive, get in home workouts, learn new skills such as cooking and cutting hair, conduct conference calls from the comfort of my own home and best of all not have to drive through the snow! Working from home has been both a pleasurable and exhausting experience, but worth it.

Having the luxury to work from home was once idealized, however the advantages of working from home sometimes presents obstacles that are not planned for. The biggest challenge for myself personally would be developing the ability to draw crystal clear lines between work and home. Having family members casually walk into my “office” at any point during the day to check in or have a quick conversation, disrupted my workflow creating a sense of pressure, especially early in the pandemic. To make the best of the situation, I had to learn to set some guidelines and prioritize tasks to make the best use of my time, both in my professional and personal life.

Working from home gave me the freedom to work wherever I wanted to, but I quickly learned that it was important to have a designated place to work from. A room with a door that separated me from the rest of the business of the house and enough desk space to allow me to stay focused, concentrated and honestly happy while working.

The toughest part of working from home this past year has had to be the disconnect from my friends and colleagues. Especially seeing all the Quanser staff with friendly and smiling faces behind a screen. Sharing stories and laughs in the office were always the highlights of my day. After a while, I started missing having people around me, who were doing similar tasks or shared the same mindset. Just people with whom I was able to joke around with, relieve the pressure of the day-to-day grind. Being present has not been the same as using different telecommuting platforms with teammates. I am genuinely thankful for the team at Quanser, being able to jump into random calls in the middle of the day or following along some of the amusing Slack channels for a variety of random topics such as music, coffee and random articles have allowed me to feel connected and apart of the full team.

Overall working from home has been an eye-opening experience, I have had to learn how to adapt and change various aspects of my life. I have had to learn to deal with loss during COVID-19, being disciplined with my at-home workouts, and learning to take time to relax and focus on self-care routines. I am going to miss some aspects of working from home that allowed me to save time commuting especially during the winters. However, I am looking forward to returning to a world with a balance of both in person and work from home experiences.

What’s Your Experience Been Like?

So there you have it, a wide range of work from home experiences from just a handful of my colleagues. We’d love to hear about yours, especially if you can share tips that helped you better transition to and maintain a productive and healthy work from home routine. Please let us know in the comments below.