Working In Wales

Now we were established in the wonky welsh house, it was time to do some work. This is the first experimental excursion, for Aimi, where she is “working from home”, away from home.

This is something I’ve become very comfortable with, moving from house to house in Banbury, and then to Aimi’s place while also working in London, and now between Stoke and Glasgow. But this is a new prospect for Aimi and caused her quite a bit of anxiety when i first broached the idea. After some… discussion… often at the tops of our voices, she mentioned it to her boss who brushed it off like it was nothing. The American’s did this all the time, often working from BnB’s and it was no-ones business where the “home” you were working from was actually located, so long as you were getting the work done.

Now this is quite a progressive attitude to have for an established company. Also bear in mind that this has been the policy since before Covid forced the hand of the worlds office-based workforce. In contrast, the engineering company I worked for, 3ish years ago, was very old fashioned when it came to remote working. 

Before deciding to leave, I requested to be allowed to work from home so that I could travel more freely and their response was a blanket refusal. I really enjoyed working for that company and would have loved to continue working for them, but I needed to address my work-life balance because Banbury was not where I wanted to spend my life. In addition, I estimated I was getting about 30% more jobs done than the other people in my dept while also running out of jobs to do, so I figured I could keep a good productivity rate even if I dropped my hours when not in the office.

After all, offices and factories only exist because people were forced to come together in one place to use the equipment the company provided. In the engineering design sector, historically, this used to be large drawing boards, light boxes, meeting tables and filing cabinets to bring all the relevant information together and produce or modify a design. There was no other way to do this than having everyone in the same place working together. The rows and rows of drawing equipment and file storage meant large spaces were needed that people didn’t have at home. When the first computers came out, it downsized the workforce because copying drawings and modifying existing ones could be done far quicker, but the machines were still ludicrously large and far too expensive for each employee to have one at home. But now, the modern age has arrived and computers have gotten so small, our watches have more computing power than took man to the moon. My laptop is easily capable of running all the drawing packages, email and office programmes, and storing all the data needed for the job without breaking a sweat, but some companies have yet to realise this. 

There is a huge benefit waiting to be realised by some areas of the workforce that companies have just not seen. Now everyone has a decent laptop (or can cheaply be furnished with one) companies can downsize their office locations and I’m sure, in some cases, cease having one at all. After all, why on earth would a company pay to rent a building, heat it, light it, maintain it, pay business rates on it, deal with the furniture, infrastructure and put up with the inflexibility of an office, when their employees already pay for all of this at their home? Now please forgive me for this fairly capitalist way of thinking but its not all in favour of the companies, the employees benefit with more flexible working hours, lack of a tedious and time consuming commute, more time with their families, more flexibility about living location, less cost travelling for work which effectively gives them a pay rise without costing the company any more and overall, I’d suggest, a better quality of life. 

Personally, I see the day coming where it’s abnormal to work at a computer in an office apart from the very few managers or personnel who absolutely must be in a particular location for a specific reason. The majority of the workforce that can work from home, will work from home. Unfortunately my old company couldn’t see this coming and so when I asked for this refused, resulting in me quitting, and them losing an experienced design engineer. It was a lose lose situation. Ironically, not 24 months later, Covid-19 came along and literally forced the worlds hand to speed up this transition to working from home.  

This was the first time “home” was in Wales, and I think I should have taken a more active role in deciding where we rented because the house, as previously documented, is not ideal. I thought to let Aimi decide exactly what she wanted in a remote work environment, as this was her first time doing this and she was already anxious enough, but maybe I should have given more input. Afterall, the whole point of working from “home” is that once the work is over,  you have something exciting and nice to enjoy, that you wouldn’t otherwise have been able to do, if you were at home home…. You follow? 

We did, just about manage this, by leaving the house and going to see the largest natural waterfall in southern Wales. It was about 30 mins drive thru some stunning mountain scenery and down some tiny little roads till we found a small carpark. There were conflicting reviews about this place, one person saying it was a tortuous hour hike up a steep track, and another saying it was a 10 min stroll with a beautiful view… We took the risk and have subsequently concluded the first person must have walked the entire river trail (and been unfit) to give it such an unfair caption.

It was only a short walk till we found a huge torrent of water pouring off a rocky cliff into a plunge pool, maybe 20m below it. Not the largest waterfall we have ever seen, but still very pretty. Especially because we could walk along a rocky shelf and right behind it to see the water pouring down in front of us. 

Obligatory photos taken, we made the short walk back to the car and bumped into a south African lady who had just bought the adjacent 14 acres of meadows for her horses. She was running a burger van next to the carpark and I can well imagine it would be popular on the summer weekends. Unfortunately, she said that until she worked out something more permanent, she was having to work as security guard and sleep in her car to guard the generator for being stolen. As we were there in our camper van, I got the impression she was going to ask us to stay there for her. Given the state of the house we were in, I was tempted because my van is definitely more comfortable, but decided against suggesting it. She was going to leave the generator unattended for a short time until her daughter came along to guard it, which I don’t think she was happy with. She said that we could go and introduce ourselves to her horses in the field as they were very friendly. This would keep us close to the generator in case anyone tried anything. It was a bit sneaky and I saw right thru it, but I was happy to help her out. I was inspired by her bravery in taking on such a venture. Also, she had a young foal horse, which I knew Aimi would love to meet. He was very cute and friendly, coming directly over to us and nudging for scratches under his chin. It was very sweet that he followed us back to the fence when it was time to go, right up until Aimi’s phone fell out of her pocket and he stood on it, cracking the screen.