Believe it or not, there were some lucky people from around the globe who were already working from home when COVID-19 hit. It is likely however, that their routines were disrupted just as much as the rest of us. Extra people, changes to practices and likely, the ongoing terror and anxiety that a global pandemic rained down on us all.
For many, the results of the pandemic, especially for office workers meant finding new ways. Work from home was rolled out for many, and a new life of Zoom calls, no pants, your favourite mug and home comforts began.
Whilst this sounds dreamy, there are some obstructions that lay between you and a productive day if you don’t crack your own whip. There are also benefits of not being in the office though, so capitalising on the benefits, and avoiding the calamities is key.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both office and home as a workspace.
Starting with the familiar, the office. Offices can be full of distractions, your colleagues for a start. Taking time out of their busy days for a natter with you, stopping you from filling out that paperwork that needs to be done for 6pm.
The background noise of everyone else, particularly in a busy office can be overwhelming to the point of insanity. When you are at the beck and call of everybody else, a ‘can you just’ and ‘do you have a minute’ can easily take over your best intentions and derail your day.
Breaktimes are often scheduled with an allocation of both time and length. If you are at your optimum as your lunch comes round, you might disrupt your flow.
Travelling to and from the office is not often too much fun. One of the biggest stress factors for many employees is travel. Driving can really take its toll, especially at peak times. If you are burdened with a long commute, this can add hours to your working day leaving you fatigued and stressed from the minute you arrive in work.
Uncomfortable shoes, awkward meetings where people arrive late, the office can be a nightmare.
To be fair to the office, the home can also be full of distraction. People, pets and postal workers are all moving about your environment intent on spoiling your day.
If it is not the family, the dog or the postman. It’s a neighbour carrying out essential structural work on the other side of the wall from your desk. A washing machine, the traffic outside, your home is a minefield of distractions, and then there’s the fridge. Just a little snack, that punnet of raspberries has your name on it, and you’re the boss.
Another issue of WFH is the lack of access to other people. Whereas this can be a hinderance in the office, it can be the undoing of success at home. A helping hand is nowhere near as easy to find when it is an email exchange to arrange a Zoom call away.
The backwards and forwards before a solution is found may take an hour of your day. In the office, Frank would’ve sorted that in five.
You do get to roll about in your slippers with no pants, sat in your favourite armchair though, so, Ying Yang.
THE KEY TO WFH SUCCESS
The first step to successfully working from home is to set out some parameters, planning and peace of mind.
These include: –
- A designated place that you will work from. This will help put you in the mindset for work
- Rules for the family and pets that may be around during work hours
- Taking breaks, have them on your time, but make sure they happen
- Eat and drink, again, like breaks, make sure they happen
- Virtual coffee breaks
- Virtual team exercises
- Communicate with your team. You might be home alone, but this is still a team effort
- Keeping strict work/home life boundaries
- Use calendar blockers so you can get work done, this will keep you from further distractions
- Exercise when possible
- Brighten up your workspace
- Create a work time playlist
A Home Office with Boundaries
First and foremost, finding a place that you can call your desk or office space at home will help you settle into work mode. You might find that more than one place is a necessity. If you find distraction in one, move to another.
Any family or pets that are going to be around you whilst you are working should be aware of your needs. A constant in and out of the room you are working, talking, cats on the keyboard; none of these scenarios are productive. Shutting doors and setting rules may feel authoritarian, but you’re the boss now.
Have a Break, Have a Kit Kat
As great as your productivity may be free of the distractions of the office, you can still burn out. Take regular breaks but take them to your own schedule. Make a fifteen-minute break five three-minute breaks and stroll about in your underpants. What matters, is that you are rested and comfortable.
Schedule your lunch in. When you take your lunch, be sure to let your team know so you aren’t disturbed. Switch to OOO on apps, add it to your calendar. Not having your lunch disrupted is as important as not having your working day disrupted.
Eat and drink. Do not eat and drink too much. The fridge, however close to your desk should be used sparingly. Setting yourself boundaries with food is really important. Eating to much can make you lethargic, eating to little will see you burn out quicker.
A great tip for food is meal prepping. If you prepare your meal(s) the night before, you are more likely to stick to your allowance. Snacking out of the fridge is a bad habit.
A great man once said “See, it’s a crazy world we’re living in”. Virtual coffee breaks have become a thing for many. Rather than taking your break on your own, why not coordinate them with colleagues, have a get together on Zoom and catch up.
As social creatures, interaction with others is often a great way to take your mind off the job. If you’re working from home, with nobody around, it’s easy to boil the kettle, make a coffee and never really take your mind off the task at hand. A virtual coffee break can combat that conundrum.
Feel free to give your virtual coffee breaks a theme. Holiday stories, would you rather, favourite local myth. There’s plenty you can do, keeping them interesting, engaging and inclusive is the key.
Equally, just a virtual get together in the evening or after work can prove beneficial. Feel free to implement a strict no work talk rule if you have to or designate the first twenty minutes for catching up on all thing’s office.
This does not need to be as mundane or time consuming as it may initially sound. There are loads of great things you can do to bond as a team over a call. Host your own pub quiz. Try a virtual workout. It’s all about fun, again, like the virtual coffee break, make sure it is both engaging and inclusive.
Human interaction is an essential part of the human condition. Talking your postman’s ear off is not what we mean, he has work to do as well. Interacting with other people will stop you from feeling isolated. Group chats with work colleagues, phone calls or video calls to make sure you are all up to speed will help keep you on track.
The last thing you want is your work life over spilling into your home life. Remember, when working from home, your home becomes your office. You are not walking through the door, kicking off your shoes and embracing the space in the same way. It is important therefore, to keep certain boundaries in place.
Don’t fall into the habit of checking Slack messages or emails as soon as you wake up. Your bed is for sleeping and relaxing, keep it that way. If your work schedule dictates 9-5pm. Stick to it.
One thing you may not have considered. How much exercise did your commute to work entail? Did you have three flights of stairs to combat, was there a walk to and from the bus or train? Working from home means much less travel, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
If your commute took 30 minutes each way, why not take a 45-minute stroll each day. Fresh air and a stretch of the legs is a great way to clear the mind, but also gets a good balance of dopamine and serotonin in the brain for a work focussed start. If you can squeeze some sunshine in as well and hit those vitamin D levels, you’re on to a winner.
A dull corner of a room is in no way inspirational. Your workspace should be bright, if you can catch some sunlight, more power to you. Plants, pictures and post-it notes will all help keep a vibrant atmosphere which will lift your mood and put you in the best position for productivity.
Keep it You
There are not many desks in the office that don’t have a touch of the occupant’s homelife or personality about them. Why should your WFH space be any different?
How about that work radio, eh? What time is it? Must be 3 o’clock as REM’s Losing my Religion is on. At home, you’re the DJ. Pick a playlist that motivates you. Pick several, you might have one for the morning, one for the afternoon, one for Monday, one for Friday.
It doesn’t all have to be mundane, sprinkle a little bit of magic into your week. If you’re struggling, reach out to the office clown and see if he has any jokes for you. If that doesn’t help, reach out to your direct line of management, these changes we’ve seen over the last two years have affected everyone differently.
The most important thing remains to be, your happiness.