Hey there and welcome to the BigAppleSchool podcast – the weekly English show where we speak about everything under the sun. The major goal of this show is to help you improve your English and of course learn something new. My name’s Katya, I’m your host, and today with me…
Ken from the Philippines.
Natalie from Novosibirsk.
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So what do you want us to talk about? You know, we’re always looking for new ideas, we want to, you know, make content that is interesting for you. So and now… Ken, Natalie, I haven’t seen you for such a long time it seems. So what’s up? What’s new? What’s shaking?
Well I’m just happy that it’s spring now. I’m sure that it’s much more interesting to go out and, you know, to go for a walk and just enjoy nature.
Yeah finally it’s not like when you wake up at 10 or like 9 and it’s dark.
I know! Finally! Finally the sun is here!
Amen! So Natalie, what’s up? What’s new?
Not much actually. Lots of work, lots of work actually.
Aw, what about work-life balance?
You’re like work-life what? Never met ‘er! Alright, okay. Well, and, I wanna share a little bit that it’s my birthday soon. Yeah!
Happy Birthday in advance! Although you don’t’ have this culture of greeting somebody in advance, right?
Yeah, I think it’s like bad luck to do that. So yeah. So on the 16th, even though it’s not the day when our podcast will come out, feel free to leave a comment under the podcast and wish me happy birthday.
Yes, I’m very humble, I know. Too much probably, sorry, sorry. So yeah. Well and I think one of the reasons why we don’t meet that often as I wish we did is that I fortunately or unfortunately work online, so I’m only working remotely, whereas you guys, you work offline, right?
Offline and online actually.
You have like mixed work?
So why don’t we talk about it? That’s what we’re here for.
Right, speaking of which…
Funny I should mention that… So yeah. So I think there is this kind of a misconception maybe that online and remote working only appeared like, you know, last year together with the pandemic. Whereas, of course it’s not the case. So do you happen to know anything about when exactly remote working appeared? In your opinion, we don’t, I don’t think we can know the exact date.
Yeah, I could guess that as soon as, you know, some ways, some means of communication, such as, I don’t know, mail, telegram or something like that appeared, so at the same moment appeared some people who worked from home.
I mean. It was not probably the same as today, but it was kind of close to it probably. Again. Then telephone, then, like, Internet, obviously. So it was growing like that. My idea.
Yeah I’m not exactly sure when it started. Definitely this is nothing new because even before the pandemic, you know, I used to hear my students, they would say, especially those who work for the IT industry. They would say oh, I work from home, so basically I’m in charge of, you know, how to go about with my day and, you know, for a time I thought that would be a nice idea to be working from home.
I feel like too many people wished that and then we had what we had.
Exactly. At the time, without really fully understanding, you know, what is involved in the dynamics of working from home, I thought to myself – wow, I’m so jealous of you so you can get to do that. And I really thought it was some kind of fancy thing or interesting thing to do at least at the time being.
Yeah, so basically what I’m trying to say is it’s nothing new, it has been done before. As to when it actually started – well, I don’t have an answer to that, but it’s nothing new.
Well I guess since we are going to be talking about remote working as online working then. Because you know, remote working…
…as working form home, I mean it existed for centuries. I mean…
Even before the industrial revolution we had people who were carpenters or, what is it? Like, leather workers.
Artists, I mean, writers.
Yes, artists, writers. Bakers or someone like that, they worked from home and then people came and paid to them. We can say that, you know, those were the trailblazers of remote working.
Exactly. Although today I think it’s equated to the idea of working online. So I guess the first thing that comes to mind when you hear of somebody working from home.
And I think that’s just logical. And I think that’s, well, that’s what I would like to focus on. And I think that’s just logical if we do that. Cause of course there are people who work from home meaning, like, you know, they bake things maybe.
Make things. And that still would be, you know, remote working, cause they don’t go to factory maybe, or some kind of a bakery, but yeah. But yeah, so can you think of professions then that have always kinda been remote? Have always, well, most of the time maybe been online or remote?
Okay, and let’s just clarify that when you say work remotely, not necessarily working from home or we’re limiting ourselves to this definition?
I think no, think it’s just as long as you don’t go to the office itself or to some certain building where all the other workers of the company are. So it can be, well, as we sometimes like doing, let’s say working from a coworking space, a café, another country even, you know. So you can be wherever you are as long as you’re not in the office. Let’s… How does that sound?
Just to be clear. Because for a moment I thought about, you know, call center representatives from other countries by the way, not necessarily in the country that they’re serving customers to.
So. But anyway, having cleared that up, so working from home, I mean, it could be any place, but you don’t necessarily go to the office, the actual work.
Well I’ve already mentioned earlier the first thing that comes to mind is of course the work in the IT industry. To be quite honest with you, I don’t know exactly what they do, but…
I don’t think anybody does.
So according to some of my students, they are given certain tasks to be done and all they need to do is work it out and then once the project is done, they can submit it to their superiors or whoever is in charge of this project. So yeah, that’s the first thing that comes to mind.
Yeah, designers probably, web designers.
Web design, designers in general. I would, you know… I used to think of designers as people who had to work with you, you know, face to face. But maybe because, you know, I kept thinking of designers as interior designers or, you know, clothes designers.
But now I have so many people who work as designers, be that web designers or, you know, different people who work with, let’s say, logos, ads. Or what is called now UX designers, so people who work with an interface of an app, how it’s gonna look and everything. So most of them work remotely.
Or… Okay, something comes up. I thought about maybe some writers, because I don’t think you really have to be in, you know, in the office.
I don’t think there is an office.
Yeah. I mean, I don’t think…
A publishing house, for example.
But then again, if you are… It depends on what kind of articles you write. So you can simply write it at home. Even on vacation, right. And just type down whatever it is you have to make. Yeah, so you can also work remotely in that case.
So these are, I think, the professions that have most of the time been remote. And what about professions that you think will never be remote?
Well obviously construction workers, builders. It’s impossible. I mean you’re gonna build a house or, you know, a structure, you gotta be there.
I’ve been thinking about that, like… First I thought about, you know, restaurant workers, waitresses, waiters, yeah. Waiters and so on. But you know, I thought about the future – maybe everything will be automized, you know, automated I mean.
Maybe on a farm it will be, I don’t know, some milking devices, so you just press a button.
I’m pretty sure there are. I mean, look, I’ve been to Vegas and I’ve been to a bar where there were no workers. So basically your cocktails were made by a machine so it’s like, you know, you come to a bar or to a desk, so you push some buttons, you know.
It’s like an iPad or something over there or some screen, some touch screen. So you choose a cocktail and then a set of different, you know, kind of like arms, they kinda move. Put everything into your glass and mix it.
I understand. But then again, I don’t think it falls under the category of working remotely. I think what you’re saying is automizing.
Fair enough, fair enough.
But again, you can stay at home, you can go anywhere.
It would be kinda amazing I think.
In a distant future probably.
For now, then, construction workers, who else?
But again if we speak about 3D modelling, you know, it might be done online also. I think. I think.
I can see that happening from a distant future. But also, why not?
Actually, you know, there are houses that are being built like that.
Using 3D printers and so on, yeah. Like in the USA I think, in Silicon Valley or…
I was shocked when I saw it.
I think for now and in Russia also doctors, most likely not to be, you know… Although, again, it depends on what exactly these doctors do. Because for example when I was making an appointment with my doctor, I had two options – offline meeting or online meeting. But online meeting would only involve, you know, talking.
Yeah this is just for consultation.
Not surgeries or anything like that, yeah.
So, maybe some of these jobs would probably be done, you know, partly remotely, in cases, just, you know, something like a consultation. But then again – I don’t think there’ll be many surgeons working online. I don’t think so.
Well, again, who knows! Maybe they will have some kind of machines, you know, that…
I wouldn’t trust this machine, I don’t know. I wouldn’t trust this machine with my sacred body.
But, you know, it’s our generation. Maybe the next generation will be okay with that.
Well, let them do what they want, you know. So, yeah. But, yeah. Alright, and so Ken, you said that you had IT workers or students like, you know, even before the pandemic which is quite logical. So do you think that this remote working has changed much? So have your students maybe mentioned anything about it?
You know, I don’t think it has really changed much because then again, although there were times wen they would go to the office, but it was even rarely, and even… And specially nowadays, they don’t really go there because basically the job can be done still online.
And so the need to go to the office is not even… I mean it’s not even necessary at all. So I don’t think it has changed. I don’t think so. As far as their concern. But I don’t know with other jobs.
I think in general… Well, I just assume that there must’ve been newer programs maybe or some kind of software that made it easier, there must’ve been something. And I keep thinking about teaching. Well, you know, speaking from personal experience.
If I think about 5 years ago for example, I sometimes has lessons per Skype, so via Skype. And I always hated, you know, how non-functional that was and, you know, the constant lagging of the sound, of the video, of everything. And that was just so inconvenient to use.
And at that time I’m not sure Zoom existed at the time, and if it did, we didn’t know about that. But then now I look at the way we teach now and I see how much the technology has developed. So.
There are so many websites, platforms, Zoom, all that. So now you are able to do almost the same amount of things that you usually do in your offline lessons. Will, during your offline lessons.
Although of course, perhaps, I guess we’re gonna discuss how we truly feel about this. Because I have a lot to say about this. I’ll serve it later on.
I am already intrigues to be honest. You’re like I have a lot to say about this. So I can just guess. So actually okay, why don’t we move to more recent thing, which is Covid-19 and 2020 which screwed everything up for us.
So first of all, how did people and how did you personally react to switching online? Cause we didn’t have much choice back then. And people didn’t have much choice but to switch. So, what do you think? What do you know?
Well I had been working online for a while before that happened actually. So it wasn’t like a really huge change to me. So I was already used to, you know, using different platforms like Skype and so on. But I think yeah it was a bit confusing to only teach online. Cause I’ve always been combining it, you know. Like, online and offline.
Maybe 70 to 30. Like, 30% online, 70 – offline. But now I think it’s… I think now actually it’s come back to its place.
Well, lucky… Well now that we finally have an option of switching to offline. So you didn’t feel, you know, like angry or sad or confused, you know, to an extreme?
Yeah, just a little bit probably because you still miss the human communication, face to face communication. And it’s kind of… It’s a huge minus of Zoom or Skype teaching. So, yeah. And also sometimes, maybe at the beginning I didn’t know all the, you know, sources that I could use to give proper lessons online.
Also you know, I missed moving, because when you sit on the spot for a long time, maybe you have for example 3-4 classes one after another, and you’re just… You’re so tired of sitting, you’re sitting, you want to move, you want to go somewhere. Yeah, it’s like…
Oh god, awful experience.
So how did you feel when you had to switch online Ken?
Okay well I just like Natalie and yourself, by the way I also had some online classes even from way way way back when, I believe when skype was still relatively new at the time. So that was the late 2000s.
And I thought wow this is so cool, I didn’t even realize that you can do teaching online because at the time my students were Korean. So firstly they came to the Philippines to study and then they wanted to continue, you know, learning with me, so I would teach them through Skype.
I thought it was fun. Yeah, I didn’t have any problems with it. Now, when the pandemic happened, to be honest with you, I was kind of like pissed off. Pissed off because I thought oh my god, I’m gonna lock myself up the entire time here, in my flat. And I need some movement. You know, I’m the kind of teacher who likes writing on the board. I know that it’s possible to do that on Zoom…
because you have this, you know, kind of like e-board, right. No, the experience with the marker and the actual whiteboard is far better. It’s more realistic to me than doing it, say for example, on an e-board or online.
The other thing was – I was concerned about my students because, you know, when there was a shift from offline to online lessons, suddenly they raised their concerns because according to them the reason why they, well, come to our school, you know, BigAppleSchool was to do offline lessons and classes.
Because they prefer that. And some of them didn’t even have any prior experience of doing online lessons, so I was kind of concerned also. Not only for myself, but of course for the school because I thought oh my god, we’re gonna lose students. Because some of them, you know, are not used to this platform.
Yeah, and this misconception that online learning, you know…
Yeah, is not real. You’re not getting, you know, the material.
Lower quality. But it’s a misconception. I mean, yes, because it’s new and people were kinda scared that there would be no point in these classes.
Right. And so I had to convince them that no no no, you’re gonna enjoy it. Which…
Well, okay, modesty aside, I’m glad to say that they really enjoyed it. Although of course they still miss the real inter… like face to face interaction. And the fact that you can really group them, say for example if you have group activity, so they can form a semicircle, you know.
I mean you can still do it on Zoom, but it’s not the same. You can supervise it.
Yeah. I mean, I would say it’s more challenging to do it, you know, online. What else do I have to say about it? Yeah, my eyes got tired from looking at the screen from, you know, for the whole day. I had to close my eyes, I’m tired.
And your students like Mr Amante, are you sleeping?
You’re like no no, I’m just resting my eyes. Just… But yeah, I understand the struggle because, you know, the constant looking at the screen just makes you tired easier and faster.
And I remember my struggle because the thing is that when the pandemic hit, it as the middle of the semester at Wellesley college in the US. The pandemic hit, so we had to leave campus. Everybody was given a notification like you have two weeks to leave the premises of campus and go back to your state, to your house and everything.
Luckily that happened during the spring break, so we had two weeks, you know, of a break, so no classes. And at that time I was still trying to figure out whether I would stay in the country or whether I would go back and I was really stressed before the, you know, before the semester continued.
And I took one of the last, as I thought at the time, one of the last flights back to Mother Russia. So and then I came back and the reality hit me, because, you know, I was in Russia teaching my American students with an 11 hour difference in time.
So usually luckily, we had classes at like 8:30, 11, 12. So I was teaching, you know, at midnight, then one of the lessons was until 3am.
So you can imagine what it was like. Like, I had to do that and, you know, it was the struggle of teaching online, getting around Zoom, trying to understand how everything works. Then it was the middle of the night, so I had to plan my day in such a way that I would wake up later, you know.
So I was slowly turning into a night owl. But then at the same time I was also working, well, I started to get classes here in Russia with my Russian students who learn English. So I had lessons in the morning sometimes, lessons in the afternoon, and then lessons until 2-3 am.
Luckily it was not 5 days a week, it was 4 days a week. And then some of my classes… Yeah, the professors with whom I was co-teaching, he allowed me not to be present during the classes, just because it coinci…. I had a time conflict and I told him look, I will try to, but I can’t promise you anything.
And he said I understand. And then I also had Zoom and I had a group of 6 students. So now, you know, when you have 6 students who, well, are pre-intermediate students, well, what do you do during your lessons? I mean, offline?
You mostly, you know, pair them up, put them in groups, so they speak. Or I love mingling. So, you know, when you put… You know, the whole group stands up and you say find a person who… Love that! But then I had 6 students sitting in their houses, being really depressed because everything, you know, went down the hill in the world.
And the thing is that there is this thing that I hate about online classes. Is that, especially at college students… The thing is that they turned off their mics.
Oh yeah, oh my god, not just the microphone, yeah.
And you can’t see them sometimes. It’s annoying.
Yeah, and you just look at yourself, like, it’s like you’re a crazy person talking to yourself.
Right? Right? So and then, you know… The way it usually goes in a classroom is you ask a question, so it’s like what do you think happened next? Somebody answers, then somebody else joins. In there they were just keeping quiet, so you had to actually point out.
Like, Claire, what do you think? The person would turn on their mic, answer, switch off the mic. And then I had to have a conversation like guys, you know, usually when we are in a classroom, we don’t, you know, turn around with our back to the teacher once we answer. So let’s not do that in our online environment as well. Please, keep your mics on.
But that makes sense because there is so much noise, you know. Some of them doesn’t turn off their mic, so there maybe some, you know, scratching, or, you know, some noises, you know. So.
I was about to say that. Because you know, sometimes students are unaware that the small noises that they make can actually disrupt a class even.
For example, if they’re using their mobile phones, I mean their smartphones to do the online lesson, so they pick up the phone, they try to press something there. You know, there’s a phone call. So it’s really distracting. But they’re not even aware of that.
Yeah, or the sound of the keyboard as well. But then, well, once you tell them and explain to them, you can work this out still.
But at the beginning – god. I was thinking like, okay, how can I, you know, organize my lesson in such a way that everyone gets to say something. They don’t mute their mics. God, it was such a struggle. And that was the first time in my entire life that I taught a group online. Cause with one to one classes it’s easier, right. You just talk to a person.
The struggles of online teaching.
So but what do you think, even we not talk only about teaching, but about different areas, different spheres and different companies. So it’s now been more than a year since we had this 2-week quarantine.
Happy anniversary! So do you think we will get back to where we started, where we set off with only offline? Or is remote working here with us to stay forever?
Maybe we will come back, but not entirely probably. Maybe we still will go to the office, you know, but maybe we’ll also work online. Especially, maybe, not us, but people who can, like, I don’t know. Like, again, IT workers, people who can, you know, not go to the office.
You know, I think that we will try to go back to the way life… that we knew before the pandemic. But I think there are also some businesses that have flourished during the time of the pandemic, such that they will continue doing the business the way that they have done since the beginning of the pandemic.
In the same way that if, for example, if teaching is concerned, I guess there will still b some students… For example right now it’s happening right now, because I do have some students, who, you know, now they seem to like the idea of online teaching or online learning.
And so they do that. Even though they have the option to come here to actually, you know, to actually have it face to face, but no, they prefer doing it online. And I thought oh, okay, so, whatever makes you happy.
Yeah, I am one of those people.
Because if I think, you know, about, let’s say, having a lesson offline. One to one, one hour long. So a student has to, especially if they have a car, drive here, try, desperately try to find a parking spot, fail at it, get mad, pissed off.
Come to the lesson, have just one hour, then rive back, probably in a traffic jam, you know. Get home, tired, make lunch, rest. Whereas you can just be in your home, waiting for your food delivery to be delivered right after the lesson to have dinner or something. Wearing comfy clothes.
So I kinda see why people prefer to stay. And I used to have Spanish classes offline and I always thought like, okay, I usually had my Spanish classes during the breaks, so I was thinking okay, I have a 2-hour break here at BigAppleSchool , so it takes me half an hour to go the lesson, half an hour to get back.
One hour lesson, will I make it to my next class on time? I was always, you know, anxious about being late to school. But yeah, so and now I think if I get back to Spanish oh I’m definitely doing that online.
You see, so what I’m trying to say is that as much as we want to go back to life that we used to know, I think we won’t be able to fully, you know, replicate that so to speak.
You know it’s funny how… If you remember the time when the pandemic just started, many of the office workers had to go through these five stages, you know, like, denial, anger, bargain. Like, may I just come to the office once a week? And then acceptance.
And I have first, an example of person I know well, second, the example of some companies. So I have a friend and at first she was like oh no, I miss office, I don’t wanna be at home, it’s so uncomfortable. Then she set her working space at home and about a month ago the remote working way just ended, so they were made to move back to the office and she says oh I hate it.
I hate it so much, so many people, the noise, the water cooler chat, you know, the constant banter. Oh god, may I just come back to my home? So of course, you know, people are different, the preferences are different. But it’s funny to…
Not funny, but it’s interesting to see what companies do. Cause I have an example of two companies. One of them being mail.ru. Cause they now are thinking between three regimes let’s say, so three ways of working, and then they can change according to the wishes of the workers.
Cause one of them is just full remote working, you know, but the company will bring you everything. Well, as they did at the beginning of the pandemic, so ergonomic chairs, some desks. And then the workers can visit the office whenever they want.
If they don’t want to, they can just stay at home all the time working remotely. The second one is like classic office work when the workers have to come to the office very single day, 5 days per week. So, no remote working.
The second one is a hybrid, so which means that part of the week, some days you work remotely, you work from home, and then some days you have to be in the office. Like. So, and they give this, you know, choice.
So and think this is like the smart way.
I know they are also going, well, until the pandemic is over, they are going to separate working space into different zones so that people still have, you know, social distancing, so that they don’t have to sit, you know, 10cm away from each other.
And I think this is so smart a smart move to do. Whereas I know that, well, my friend works at Intel and she says that so far they are going to keep the remote working way until the end of the summer.
And then they are thinking about switching to remote working completely. And it’s kinda logical if we think about that because it helps companies save so much money.
Although… Just a bit of criticism by the way. I also remember some of my students, who, you know, would complain about, for example, if there is like a project, so collaborative work. Before, when they use to just work in the office, it would be easy to communicate with each other, because it’s like real time, I have something to discuss with you, I’m gonna discuss it now.
So I can go to you directly. But with online sometimes, you know, they choose to wake up a little later, because, you now. I guess somehow the communication suffers a bit. Unless they find the way to regulate, you know, the dynamics such that if there is something urgent and I want to speak to this person, then I will be able to get my message through.
Without having to wait for his reply in the messenger whatever.
You know, yeah. There are its pros and cons, we’re just gonna get to that a little bit later. But in general yeah, it depends on so many criteria, so on the one hand, it’s easier to talk in person. On the other hand, when you deal with a person through messengers and emails, you have proof of what you have talked about.
And they’re like I never told you that or, you know, you forgot. And you’re like here’s the message, the screenshot folder. You know, like the proof. Yeah. So and what can you say about your experience since the pandemic? So have you noticed any kind of changes in you? Or the way you teach, the way you prefer doing something? So, let’s do a little bit of a reflection of the last year.
I don’t know actually. Maybe there were some changes, but it’s hard, you know.
Well, if… The first thing that comes to mind is if we talk about… Somehow… I don’t know if it’s the right time to discuss the pros and cons about, you know. Should I say it now or…?
You know, why don’t we actually then talk about pros and cons and then include our experience in that?
Because on the one hand I kind of appreciate it, especially if I have morning classes. Before, when I use to go to NGS or other offices.
Oh god I remember that. I mean, lovely group, I love them but at the same time waking up…
Waking up early and then the fact that you have to travel in order to get to their office… God..
I had to run like a horse. But now, it’s like oh okay, I have time in the world. All the time in the world because now I’m gonna do it online.
So we can then say that one of the biggest pros and advantages of remote working is no excessive commuting.
And no commuting at all, so we can save time.
Yeah, no wasting time actually.
And I thin k we can connect this, you know, no commuting, which means no putting on layers and layers of clothes and then getting the hell out when it’s -40.
You know, this winter, this winter, which happened to be extremely cold, so we had so many days when it was -35-40 I woke up and started working with the phrases like thank you god that this year I don’t have to step outside into this misery of a weather.
I think this is one of the greatest pros of remote working, yeah.
That’s why even though I said a couple of negative things, teaching online. You know, that’s one of the things that I can appreciate about it, because this time my time is not wasted. Having to travel just to the office of the class that I should be teaching.
So that’s one. Now, what else do I appreciate about online teaching, although it’s nothing new to me. Also because, well, I, you know, I’ve done that before.
It’s just the ratio has changed, how much you teach online.
Yeah, exactly. Then the other thing is that whenever I want to share something, for example, at this very moment, I suddenly think of wait-wait-wait, I wanna show you something and then I can just jump to one website, show the video immediately, yeah.
So it’s easier to share very often.
True. What else? Okay, some of the good things.
Well we don’t have to stick to only good things, we can just, you know, jump from one to the other and then just kinda summarize it.
And I know it’s a bit embarrassing to say this, because at first, you know, I told myself.
Natalie are you intrigues what he’s going to say? I’m intrigued.
I told myself that okay, you have to be professional, you have to dress up like a real teacher, you know, the way you always do when you go to school.
Just admit it, you were wearing pajama pants.
So in the early days of, like, online teaching as in full time online teaching I would really still wear my pants.
Yeah, really. Because I’m a professional teacher and I will dress the way I always do.
And then it struck me like why do I have to do this? Anyway they don’t, you know, they’re not gonna see the lower half of my body. And that’s when I thought well, it won’t hurt if I wear shorts. It’s not, like, you know.
They’re not gonna know it anyway. And yeah, there are some days, not all days, just to be clear, when I just, you know, I mean it doesn’t matter what you wear on the bottom half of your body. So it’s just the upper half that’s important. But I still make myself presentable.
Of course. Have you seen the like Zoom-call suits as they’re called? So you know it’s like yoga pants or pajama pants and then, you know, a white shirt.
A white jacket or a white shirt on top?
Yeah. We’ve all been guilty of that, let’s be fair. Let’s be fair. So Natalie, what about you? Have you noticed any kind of changes in the way you’re teaching, yourself maybe?
Yeah. Well again, we’re speaking about pros and cons of teaching online. I think, again, I love movement, because you can always stand up, you can always draw something on the whiteboard, you can always, you know, like, use your gestures. Of course you can, like, use your hands on zoom, but it’s gonna be weird.
Have you noticed? I’m very emotional, so I gesticulate a lot, I in general move a lot. But I also remember that the camera is kinda up, so I have to do that way up.
For everyone to see. Well I can’t, you know, make them miss all my movements.
It feels so weird, really, you’re like a dinosaur, you know.
T-Rex! Yes, that’s true, that’s true.
Exactly. Also, yeah, you know, commuting obviously is not really convenient all the time, but I also missed it somehow. Because it’s kind of, you go, if you take a taxi, so you still, you see the city. You see the people around you.
But when you sit at the same spot in the house, you just see the same windows, the same wall, I don’t know, desk, the same bed. And it’s like it’s so boring, seriously. It killed me sometimes, just ugh.
For me this is the biggest con to be honest, which is not moving. Even though okay, look, I’m lazy. I don’t like moving that much, I admit it. But all this pandemic and me not moving, cause when I was at Wellesley for example, it took me 15-20 minutes walking on beautiful campus to get to work.
Then later when I was here in Novosibirsk, when I was still working at school offline, I had to also spend 15-20 minute walking, which is amazing. So and I love working from home, but also one year of pandemic left me gaining around 10 kilos of extra weight. Like, 9-10.
Cause I realized that I don’t move much. You know, it’s like from the bedroom to the living room to the kitchen, and, you know, circulating. Sometimes, you know, it’s like okay, I have a couple of hours of a break, maybe I should go for a walk.
Oh, I’m so sorry, I just wanna add, because, you know, it popped in my mind. Regarding, again, online teaching, working remotely. I just suddenly remember, because I used to have very noisy neighbors, upstairs neighbors by the way. And I remember, oh my god, I had to mute my microphone whenever I can, because I didn’t want my students to hear the noise. And it really pissed me off.
And not just that. The drilling of my neighbor to the right. Like oh my god I wanna go to school just to avoid all these things. So, you see, that is another disadvantage. But fortunately, at least for now, everything’s quiet. But I don’t know how long this is gonna last.
Well maybe they have finished renovation.
Yeah, well. You never know, because people will always have something to repair on, so.
I think one more cons that we can mention about online working in general is that very often when we work in an office or at school, we have nice chairs, whereas how many of us do actually have ergonomic nice chairs at home?
I got one actually, I had to.
Exactly, so you had to. So I didn’t have one until, let’s say, three or four months into remote working when my fiancé got me a nice chair. And before that I had terrible backache. Honestly, just sometimes during my breaks I would just lie on the floor cause it was so painful.
And I think this is something that a lot of people who work remotely face. Cause a lot of them work out of bed, they’re on the sofa, on a chair, you know. Which are not for working and sitting on like, you know, sitting in for like 10 hours.
I mean, even if it’s like an ergonomic chair, it’s still, it’s not good to stay, to be sitting for a long time.
You have to do some exercises, but honestly, who does that?
I mean, I’ve seen some people who actually… You now, it was a funny video but still I found out that a lot of people still do that, not teachers but people who just worked from a laptop. So they kinda like, the video goes, a person is sleeping, the alarm clock is ringing, they switch off the alarm clock.
Immediately open the laptop and tart working. And I was joking, you know, with some of my students. They’re like yeah, I’ve done that several times. I’m like are you serious? They’re like yeah, the laptop was next to my bed, like, on a bedside table, so I just picked it up and started working.
So and then you can imagine, you are lying, so you kinda working while lying, so yeah, it’s so bad for your neck and for you back.
And one more thing by the way. Well, not for me because I don’t have pets at home, but every once in a while some of my students, you know, their pets would interrupt the class. One example in particular is, I don’t think I need to mention his name, but anyway. You know, individual lesson. So he has this cat and every time he turns on the computer or, you know…
Oh yeah it happens all the time.
Does your cat want to join us? I mean, she can learn English if she wants.
I’ve seen a picture, like, and my students has kinda done the same thing. So the cat jumps on the table and she’s like you haven’t paid for your English lessons, you’re not going to learn English. But you know, I mean, to me it’s not much of a bad side as…
I have a student, she has pugs. She’s like yeah, I have, do you wanna see them? I’m like yes, please.
Like, if you have a dog, please, show me your dog. It goes, you know, without saying. A part of the syllabus.
I actually really enjoy that. Sometimes I talk to the cat like mimi, what do you want to learn for today?
Yeah, every time I see a cat or a dog, I’m like hello. I know, it’s fun, it’s fun. Although one of my student’s cat, you know, she kinda goes behind the laptop and tries to close the lid. She’s a real attention-seeker, a real attention-seeker.
But now I have a new group at Wellesley and when we were, when we had the first lesson, you know, it’s like getting to know each other and stuff. And I’m like do you have a dog or do you have any pets and some of my students were like yeah I have a dog. I’m like can you show? They’re like oh you love dogs, don’t you. I’m like yeah, oh yeah.
As a huge animal lover, so I do appreciate, you know, pets.
But yeah, it might be not as great for the students who do have pets, when they’re in the middle of a very serious call, you know.
Especially work calls probably.
Can you imagine like talking to the CEO of the company. Oh my god have you seen this video which has been viral where there was some kind of a… It was way before the pandemic, so there was a video with some kind of a minister from Britain, and he was giving an interview in a room.
And then suddenly, you know, his two toddlers came in. And his wife was terrified, runs in to pick them up. And he just tried to keep a straight face, you know, but he can’t. Oh my god that was so funny, yeah. So okay, so good sides – no excessive commuting. Bad sides we can have backache, so we need a good chair; less walking. So what, well, gaining some weight for example.
Yeah. So what else can be good and bad sides?
Are we limiting to online teaching or just…?
Working, not teaching, but working in general.
Some other good points. Well, your kitchen is right next to you.
Have you just not heard me saying gaining weight? Are you sure it’s a good side?
I can name one that I have experienced. I think this is the first time in my life that that has happened. So the thing is that when we were all only working offline, so a 100% of my students were from Novosibirsk, obviously. Cause the school is in Novosibirsk, I teach in Novosibirsk, where else could they be from? But now I have students from all over the country and the world.
I have students who live in Cyprus.
Yeah, I know. In the US, in Spain. And that’s just fantastic. So you are no longer limited to just your city or your country. And I think that’s what a lot of people love now, cause a lot of people try to find a job with a foreign country so they can get paid in like euros or dollars, but they still live in Russia, which is, you know.
True. That is another advantage. Yeah, I mean, it broadens your, what, your opportunities.
Exactly. So you have way more job opportunities, learning opportunities, whatever, you name it. And I love it, I love the fact that this is what, well, the pandemic basically has given us.
And not just from the perspective of the teacher, or whoever it is who’s working, but if we talk about students as well, they can choose teachers from all over the world now, because…
I mean, online teaching is, you know, possible.
Oh yeah, there are so many different options. And I’ve been… So for example not so long ago I was looking for a teacher, for an English teacher for myself. I know. So and I had, well, I knew that it would be impossible to find a teacher like that in Novosibirsk, cause I needed someone not to teach me the words or the grammar, cause this is not something I need help with.
But I needed someone who could teach me how to write articles, so science. So I needed someone who was not an English teacher as such, but who was a literary teacher or an Academic writing teacher.
There’s nobody in Novosibirsk I could find. And I, trust me, I have gone through like a hundred profiles of teachers from all over the world until I found the one whom I can no longer afford, but you know, that’s another thing.
And then, sorry. I just wanna add that I’m happy that we have such a thing as webinars, because before my idea of wanting to, what, to update my knowledge is to attend literary seminars to actually go on site. Right.
But for example with British Council, they have free webinars, and I’m just fortunate to be able to find some of the topics that I was interested in. And so I was able to, you know, attend the webinar, without being in the UK per se.
So that’s another advantage.
And with, you know, all these websites like Coursera and EdX and whatnot, so you’re able not just to watch one webinar but take a whole course.
Exactly. And usually it’s free, unless you want a certificate.
But even if it’s not, it still would be cheaper than going to a county.
Yes, obviously, I mean. I’ve been taking like Yale, you know, course, finance course. And I mean…
Just so you understand, you know, if you were a student at Yale, it would cost you like 5 thousand dollars per semester.
Exactly. And it was free, so.
So yeah. But I have realized that there are so many bad sides as well to online working, not only teaching but working as such. So for example very often, I don’t know about you guys, but the work-life balance suffers.
Cause you might think like oh, I’m gonna be working from home, so I kinda can spend more time doing my things, but then you realize that if usually your workday ends at 6pm, you leave at 6pm, max at like 6:30pm. But when you’re at home, you kinda check an email here, do something there.
You’re like oh my dinner will be ready in an hour, so I can still do some work. And I decided to track the amount of work that I do, you know. Just literally, every single time I started doing anything for work, I would turn on the timer, so to see.
And I’ve realized that on average I spend like at least 7 hours more than I used to, with the same workload. So yeah, it’s very difficult to keep this work-life balance. Very often for a lot of people.
And then in terms of I would say the variety of the things that you get to see. Cause if you just work at home, I mean, remotely.
That’s what I mentioned, kinda.
Yeah, it’s like, it’s hard to appreciate your environment. Even the simple, you know, journey, moving from one place to another and seeing different faces. I don’t know, you seem to lose that opportunity. I know it’s too simple, but some people can appreciate seeing the blue sky.
I would even say that not only seeing people on the street, but in general remote working takes that chance of meeting new people, cause let’s say when we are here in school… Again, if we apply, you know, this to our experience, when we are here at school we see other teachers, maybe new teachers, who, sometimes get there. Somebody else’s students. We talk to people.
So we need new people. Or if we usually work, if somebody works in an office, they still can get to meet other colleagues or somebody else. Now if your company gets a new colleague, you might not even know they exist.
So, yeah. But on the other hand, something that can be a good side of remote working is that very often it helps you to allocate time to side projects. You know, if this is something you cannot usually do when you work in an office, then, when you’re at home, if you’re able to, you know, manage your time well, why not?
You can allocate your time to some side projects as well. So but is remote working easier than offline working? And we’re not only talking about teaching, remember?
I don’t know really. It depends.
Well it depends on the job and it depends on how you have adjusted to the idea of, you know, working remotely. Cause if you’re the type who’s more like a home buddy, yeah, and you prefer to be at home even though you have the, you know, for example, the opportunity to go out but you’d rather be at home.
Then I guess it will work for you. But for people who, let’s say, who are sociable, who prefer face to face interaction, I don’t think they will enjoy the idea for a long time.
Have you ever noticed that you, or have you ever become more tired from working over zoom than from working offline?
Surprisingly yes. I thought that it would be better rested, because basically I’m just sitting in front of a computer and just speaking. But I just realized lately, it makes me tired.
Do you know that there is a name to this phenomena? So it’s called Zoom Fatigue.
So this makes sense actually, yeah.
And the psychologists say that of course, you know at first we would expect to become or to be less tired than from working offline, but no. So because of the zoom fatigue first of all you have to think more, when you speak and when you do something because you have to keep in mind not only what you are saying but also that you are heard well, that you are seen well.
So then this thing of not seeing real people but seeing you know these little squares on a screen, so that does not make you feel connection. So you spend more emotions, more mental strength maybe on it.
And then it also said that that has led to people thinking more about how they look. Because you see yourself. When you have like a videocall, you don’t only see, you know, another person, but you see yourself. So some people say that they have started to think more about how they look.
And become more self-conscious.
Especially in their appearance.
Because you keep seeing yourself. That’s why…
It might be true actually, yeah, because you always, you keep looking at yourself.
Yeah even if you’re trying not to.
You still peek at this little square with your image. That’s why I have some students and when they have some Internet connection failure, they’re like what if we switch off the video, I’m like yeah, sure. They’re like aw, but then I won’t see you. I’m like you’re not losing anything, trust me. That’s fine. But speaking… So yean, now you can be sure that it’s not you strangely getting more tired, no, it’s Zoom fatigue.
I thought for a minute you’d say it’s not you, it’s me.
So and what about… We’ve mentioned one of the problems as being unable to balance your work and your life. So do you think… So what tips can we think of to keep this work-life balance when you’re working online, when you’re working remotely?
Maybe set the time when you don’t work anymore. For example 6pm, don’t do any work after that.
It doesn’t work actually usually.
So you’re like it’s a good tip for your guys, dear listeners, but it doesn’t work. So don’t bother trying it.
You could try it. But for me it doesn’t work usually, but I still want to look for some articles for my students, for some videos, I don’t know. To make a plan of a lesson, you know.
Quickly answer to an email here, quickly do something there. But yeah, that would be a good think if you at least try to stick to some kind of a schedule, so control the time you work. What else might help?
For work-life balance, because I don’t know, for me whether the work is online or not, it’s still the matter of discipline, because if you know how to control yourself, not just how to manage time well you will still achieve to a certain degree the so called work life balance because I don’t think it’s about the platform.
Because what we’re talking about this is just the change of the platform, this time you’re doing online. But basically the whole idea I guess is still the same. If you know how to manage your time well, that you are disciplined enough to, you know, strictly follow your schedule and so give yourself time off to go out, see your friends and do something interesting about your life. I think that is still, you know, achievable, even though you have shifted online.
I would also say that, you know, since a lot of people. you know, work out of bed, in the kitchen, you know, while making dinner and whatnot, I would say that what might help is having a certain assigned workspace.
So for example here’s your desk, this is your working territory, and there you work. If you wanna work, it’s only, you know, at this place. I used to have at my previous apartment that I was renting, I had a very cool desk.
And I had a rule – if I’m working , I’m working at the desk. Not in the kitchen, not on the sofa, right at that place. So I still, you know, dream of setting my online workspace, you know, better. So you know, maybe have something, I don’t know, just so I don’t have the temptation to work on the sofa or to the chair or to the bed.
This is, actually, a very practical idea. If I could have it my way, if I could design my flat or my house, I would have like a working place, an office. Whenever I come here it’s strictly for work, but once I’m done with work, I get out of this room, then I get to do my personal life. And do other things.
In my case it’s like one square meter corner, but okay.
I would love to have something like that.
Of course ideally, if you could do that. Why not.
So, now, after one year of working remotely, of switching, you know, back to offline, what can you say? So what do you in general prefer? Solely offline, strictly online, a little combination of both? And if so, what’s the ratio that you would like to have?
I guess for me personally it’s the combination, yeah, 30-70, yeah.
So the one you’re currently having is perfect.
Amazing, amazing. Ken, what about you?
Well, I also like the idea of hybrid work, although the ratio would be maybe 40% online, 60%, you know like, face to face, because I move a lot and I like moving. And it’s impossible to show every movement on the screen for the students to appreciate.
I would say… Well, if we are talking about the perfect situation, I would like to have most, like 90% of my lessons online because, again, I enjoy working with people from other countries. But at the same time to have group lessons offline.
So one to one online, totally fine with me, but group lessons, cause I miss… I now don’t have groups, well, I have one group which is at Wellesley, thus we have online classes. But also I miss teaching groups offline just because I have so many games, cards, you know.
Like, all these things you can, the handouts, I love that and I miss that. And now I think so… Well, my college is very optimistic about things, well, the way things are going to be. So and they say tat most likely everyone will be back on campus in September.
But with the social distancing, we’ll keep the social distancing most likely. So and now I think like, okay, I’m going to be back offline hopefully. Let’s all hope about that and pray to all the gods about that. But at the same time I think okay, how can I change my games and all the handouts so that we can still use them in the classroom, you know, have some fun with the social distancing.
So yeah. But yeah, at the same time I think it would be really perfect if for example I had some place, you know, to teach offline. At the same time I had a mini office to teach online with, you know, I imagine it…
Well, because I browse pinterest a lot, so I saw some pictures of white interiors, but everything is so practical and functional. You know, everything is within reach, but with the, you know, nice background, so the students do not get distracted. That’s what I have now and that’s what I’m really grateful for, but still.
Alright. And what about… So do you know about such people as downshifters?
Yeah, as far as I know they are people who quit their jobs, like real jobs let’s call them and just go to warm places, nice places to work there.
Do you think you’ll be able to do that? Well I mean move to another country for the winter, you know, somewhere warm, and work on a beach.
That’s actually my dream, especially, you know, we’re in Siberia. And sometimes going to work if I have to do the work on-site, I sometimes I wish I could be in some warmer place. Yeah, I mean, who wouldn’t want such? I mean, I do. I mean, that would be great.
You know, like a little deck maybe or something like a little house on the beach. So that you don’t have sand everywhere in your keyboard when you work, cause you know.
Sounds perfect. House somewhere in a remote area, yeah, nobody around you. Sounds like a paradise for an introvert.
Yeah, for an introvert. Yeah, I would never love to do that. No-no-no-no.
I would go there, you know, for a month or 2 months, then go back.
Maybe just not the kind of person who loves beaches and remote areas or something like that. So, no.
Well, that’s what, if I’m not mistaken, that’s what they do. You now, they go to spend the winter somewhere warm and then they get back. So. Yeah. I have some questions to our listeners now. So, oh, I have a lot of them. So first of all would you do something like that?
To go to another country for the winter? And if so, what would be your country of choice? And the second question is a little bit bigger, which is so can you tell us about your experience? So do you work offline or online? And I so, what do you prefer? Do you like working offline/online?
So, leave comments in any platform where you listen to our podcast, preferably on vk, cause that’s where we all answer I think and love to communicate sometimes. So yeah, we’ll be really looking forward to your stories.
I love talking, so please join me for a conversation. I don’t have enough conversation, please. So alright. So, Ken, Natalie, so what would be your main takeaway from this episode? What are you going to remember this episode by?
Lots of complaining about remote working.
Damn it, so you’re gonna have negative memories of this?
No no no, I mean, it’s good to vent, you know.
Probably to find ways, to work things out, cause as I said this might be the new normal. I’m not sure until when the situation will be, because I don’t think the virus is going away anytime soon since vaccines have not been distributed yet all over the world.
So we’re gonna expect to have the same situation, you know, not even in months but even probably in years. In a few years, so the only thing that I can talk about regarding our podcast today is yes, online work may not be perfect.
but perhaps we can find a way to work things out such that we don’t live miserable lives and still get to enjoy the work that we do even though it is remotely. Regardless of what kind of work it is.
There have to be some positive things of course.
Actually, I think that would be my takeaway from this. So try to find positive things in any kind of working environment you have, any kind of situation. So, alright. Well, that was the BigAppleSchool podcast and today we discussed working remotely.
Thank you for listening and remember if you struggle to understand our conversation, you are always welcome to our website which is BigAppleSchool.com/podcast. You can find full scripts of each episode there.
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