Home working: friend or foe?
Many people across the world now work from home as part of their normal working life, yet still for the vast majority, Covid-19 meant many of us were forced to, perhaps for the very first time.
Working from home, particularly if you are used to an office environment, is a big culture shock – good and bad. It’s not just about the comradery you experience with your colleagues when you’re there, but what about that commute? Whether you’re stuck under someone’s sweaty armpit on the train or sat in a traffic jam in your car, one thing’s for sure it’s not to be missed. Or is it?
To work at home doesn’t simply involve doing what you did in the office but instead at home – that would be too simple. Working from home requires a new attitude to your work/home life altogether.
The commute for one can be an integral, if not always enjoyable, part of the day. It can be your time, away from a busy family, the only time that you get to catch up on your favourite tv show or podcast, or the time in which you zone out and mindlessly scroll through social media because it’s the only time you can without feeling guilty as there’s not much else you can do squashed up against the rest of the commuters. Or maybe it’s the time that you catch up on international emails received overnight and use this part of your day to plan the day ahead.
Depending on the size of your home your daily commute may now be merely seconds! This in itself can present many advantages – extra time in bed, more time to exercise, chance to catch up on housework, a leisurely breakfast, extended planning time. But it can have its disadvantages – the temptation to just roll out of bed a minute before work ‘starts’ and switch on the laptop, still half asleep and not mentally or physically prepared for the day ahead after yet another late binge watching your latest box set fix, or perhaps as soon as you’re awake because you’re at home and because you’re currently working from home you feel the need to start work super early to prove you are indeed ‘working’.
So, let’s start from the beginning, first things first you need to establish a routine that works for you. If you’re the owner of the company whose door at which all responsibility lays, then this may be different from the one who is employed by someone else to do the 9-5, but you both need one. If you’re the employee, one of the first things you should address is your employers expectations i.e. are they happy that as long as the usual amount of work is achieved it doesn’t matter when you do it or do they think that whatever your normal working hours are they still apply whilst you’re at home? This will help you manage any internal battle that you may experience with yourself regarding when you should have a break or finish for the day – it’s amazing how guilty you can feel just popping to the bathroom whilst working from home.
Then think about how you operate best, for example do you find you can rattle through emails and reports in the morning but post lunch you can barely hold a conversation? This may take some trial and error before you find your best working from home flow and may largely depend on the type of role you do.
As comfortable as it may sound the bed or sofa as a place of work should be avoided wherever possible! Ideally your work area should be a place that is rarely used for leisure time – a study is the ideal but a spare room, table in the kitchen/dining area will all help differentiate between work time and down time. Try and keep the area as clean and as uncluttered as possible with essentials easily at hand.
One of the pitfalls of working from home can be the assumption on either yours or others part that you’re always available. This could be colleagues or clients, but this needs to be nipped in the bud as soon as possible. Agree what forms of communication are acceptable. For pretty much all of us this will include email and telephone, while some of us may have an internal comms system such as Slack or Microsoft Teams. If the telephone is a company one there should be no issue that you keep it on during working hours and off when not, but if you use your own mobile for example you many want to stipulate that calls regarding work are fine but WhatsApp is not as that is how you usually socialise.
If you are usually working with others, particularly on anything creative it’s a good idea to schedule a time in which you can catch up and continue sharing ideas. Likewise, if you are a manager remember to set aside to continue with 121’s and personal development.
1 – Get out of bed and get dressed! This helps mentally and physically to get you in the right place for work and to differentiate between workdays and weekends.
2 – Where possible designate a space that doesn’t intrude too much on your home life. If you’re lacking in space try the opposite end of the dining table that you usually eat at, different side of the sofa to the one you relax on etc.
3 – Take a break and not just to go to the bathroom. Without the distractions of travel, colleagues, general interruptions the likelihood is that you’re working harder than ever so make sure it’s smarter too by taking a break every now and then.
4 – Eat properly! The fridge and biscuit tin may look more appealing than ever but sugar in particular only gives a temporary surge of energy followed by an even bigger slump. Use some of your extra time to prepare healthy and nutritious snacks and meals.
5 – Switch off – just because you can be contactable 24/7 that doesn’t mean you should be – working from home is working from home not working continuously.