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Opinion: “I’ve been working from home for years — and here is what I’ve learnt”


COVID-19 has been a boon for the growing work-from-home trend, turning millions of people into remote workers overnight as companies transition to continue operations amid the global pandemic. For Charles-Louis Machuron the journey of working from home started 6 years ago as he set out to build Silicon Luxembourg.
by: Vaishnavi Ramakrishnan
photo: Anna Katina
featured: Charles-Louis Machuron

Listen to article (Part I)


Working from home requires you to know yourself well and have a solid entourage to put you back on the right track when you deviate, I learn as he gives me a lowdown of how it works. I recently spoke — on Zoom, of course — with Charles-Louis, to understand what it takes to build a career from home. Here’s what he has learnt in these six years.

Figure out your priorities

When asked how he copes with not being surrounded by colleagues or a physical office, here’s what has helped:

“The most difficult part about working from home for me was the lack of social interaction on a daily basis. I quickly compensated for this by organizing events and multiplying appointments to ensure I have a busy calendar. As a result, I never feel alone. I’ve been able to meet many more people than I would have if I had stayed in a small company, for instance! To avoid being alone, it also helps to contact your friends, family and a close circle of contacts in your professional network constantly.

I could also have missed out on the employee benefits of being posted abroad – as I could have been in Canada – but I seem to have landed on what works for me. I’ve realised I don’t miss commuting to work. Back when I lived in Paris, I remember spending a significant amount of time commuting. When I moved to Luxembourg, I made the conscious choice to reduce these travel times to a minimum and to set aside time for leisure.

One of the disadvantages of remote working is the lack of recognition or trust given to the self-employed. This way of working does not mean that we are less competent than others. It is quite the contrary,” he quips.

“There is an obsessive-compulsive side to this planning but it is needed to maintain personal and professional balance.”

Blurred work-life lines are a myth

I’ve often wondered how does one manage having a personal and professional life when working from home.

When I asked Charles, here’s what he had to say: “Back when I started working from home, we lived in an apartment and the office inevitably in the living room. The distinction between work and home proved to be difficult. Today, I have a dedicated room in the house that feels like my own little office. This has had a real impact on my ability to concentrate, which is required for writing articles or coordinating a team of freelancers. I have also gained a lot in efficiency by allowing myself large time slots to make concrete progress on my files, orders for clients, etc. I’ve been able to work more efficiently. I’m very happy to be able to work at home.

Discipline dictates my work from home policies. Over the years I have adapted my schedule to make it as optimal as possible, especially to be able to reconcile family life and the development of my business. It has taken me a lot of introspection to find the right balance.

For example, I have defined two half-days of appointments per week (Wednesday afternoon and Friday morning) to avoid having to run all over the place every day and above all to avoid any unnecessary stress. I don’t work evenings or weekends either, except in exceptional cases like wrapping up a magazine.

If I were to sum up a typical week, I work about 50 hours: every day from 5:30 to 7:00 a.m. and then from 8:30 to 5:30 p.m., except on Fridays until 3:30 p.m. I limit my breaks to a maximum of half an hour at lunchtime and I allow myself at least 2 hours of sports activities during the week, be it running, tennis, squash or mountain biking.

There is an obsessive-compulsive side to this planning but it is needed to maintain personal and professional balance,” he explains.


Listen to article (Part II)


Learn to be agile

The flow is tight as a freelancer. He is largely dependent on the contracts and budgets he receives but this allows him to activate his pool of freelancers (writers, translators, proof-readers, photographers, and graphic designers). This also means that he has to rapidly set priorities and deadlines. “Fortunately, we have known each other for a long time. I know the skills of each of them, the topics they are passionate about, and their artistic and technical prowess and this lets me adapt and react quickly,” he adds.

As a self-employed person you do not have job security or a fixed salary and have to rely on yourself to make ends meet. You are forced to learn how to earn money and find solutions when there are blockages. The current health crisis is one example. Charles confirms he has learnt more in these recent years as a self-employed person than he would have ever had he been in a corporate.

“Let’s face it. Everything is going to change and this is probably the wake-up call we all have been waiting for.”

Wake-up!

Given the current situation, many people will have to work from their homes in the coming few days, weeks or even months. Not everyone will enjoy this experience. For some others, it may be an eye-opening experience.

I was curious about how he thinks work will evolve after COVID-19. He sees a greater demand for co-working spaces from freelancers or small teams who want to build something together. Pop-up co-working spaces will also open up to allow people to have a place to connect and work as they travel. In Luxembourg, he sees hope for spaces like The Office, Paladium, Silversquare, Bamhaus, Urban Office, Spaces. “Perhaps there’s even potential for e-coworking platforms,” he exclaims.

Once this crisis is over, he also thinks that companies will review their internal operating methods and implement many technical and mobility fixes to facilitate remote working. We will also see an explosion in the number of technical applications to enable or improve remote work, food/retail delivery, financial transactions, human resources management, online recruitment, online education and the digitalization of all administrative services. Companies active in the “tech for good” trend will also experience a boom.

“Let’s face it. Everything is going to change and this is probably the wake-up call we all have been waiting for,” he concludes.