In the current environment, remote work is something totally natural (and more and more employees choose companies with that option). Two years ago, when the pandemic started, it was something occasional for people and it was nice to work one or two days from home, spending the rest of the time in the company’s building.
It’s already 24 months since I was in the office for the last time. In today’s post, I’d like to share my thoughts and lessons learned in terms of homeworking. Also, I’m sharing my proposition of this what you can do to upgrade your home office experience.
How it was before
In a “normal time” the morning ritual was the same: wake up at 5-5:30, shower, dress up, pack (or prepare) breakfast and lunch, take the bus and be at work around 7 am (in that time I used to start work at this early time..)
Days at work looked very structured: checking emails in the morning then first coffee and breakfast then some work and meetings then lunch break and finally some more work (and more meetings and coffee breaks). I was back usually home around 4-5 pm so I still had some time for other activities.
Challenge #1 Changed daily schedule
When my workplace moved to my house (due to the pandemic of course) the first challenge was how to re-organize my day
The opportunity of working from home changed two things. The first one – I can wake up 10 minutes before my work starts and still it will be enough to be “on time”. I said to myself: Fantastic – I can sleep longer so I will have more energy!
My experience: For the first few weeks I implemented this idea and I woke up a few minutes before my day starts. However, I wasn’t fully present for the first 1-2 hours. Also, I didn’t have time to eat breakfast, drink coffee and start a day in a way that I called “perfect” ( by the way you can check my post regarding my morning routine). In fact, for some time, I completely abandoned my morning schedule.
What can you do? First of all – don’t change your evening and morning routine. If you go to bed usually at 11 pm and wake up at 6 am, stick to it also if you are working from home. The extra time that you will have, due to the fact that you don’t have to go to the office, use for something that will tune you positively for the entire day.
The second thing was that I was always…at home with, theoretically, more time. I thought that I can do some housework between my work-related task (raise a hand person who had never done the laundry during homeworking..) and also I don’t have to prepare meals in advance because I can do this also during the day.
My experience: Doing, without planning, non-related work during working hours is not a really good idea. In my case, that really broke my schedule and I wasn’t really focused throughout the day. It is a kind of a situation that many of us are familiar with – you try to work on something but at the same time another thing came to your mind – so you switch to that, and then you try to direct your focus again on the primary task, which cost time and energy and that situation happens over and over again. As result, you get done less and with worse effect
What can you do? If you have some housework to do and you know that you will have time for that during your work – plan it. The same is applicable to meals – prepare them in advance.
Challenge #2 Setting up boundaries
Working from the office has one primary advantage – it builds a habit of starting and finishing at a certain time (with some exceptions). Also, you leave your laptop, or PC in the building so you are not able to check emails at home. If your home is your office, the situation is completely different. This is why setting up personal boundaries is really important.
My experience: At the beginning of my home office experience, when I closed my laptop at the end of the working day, I had this feeling that I wasn’t sure if I did everything or If I didn’t miss any important email. What did I do at that time? I just opened the laptop again. In 100% of that situation, I realized that there was no serious reason for doing that. In general: I was working more than before.
What can you do? Setting up boundaries means that you clear the contract with yourself how many hours you are working at home. It is strongly connected with the schedule of your day. Also, you need to keep to that, so if you promise to close the laptop at 4 pm, do it, no matter what is going around (of course with some exceptions). What is more important is to stop thinking about the work outside of working hours – I think that it was easier when homeworking wasn’t the case for the majority of us.
Challenge #3 Meetings, meetings and more… meetings
The biggest change in people’s working day was the increased number of meetings. I’m not denying the purpose of the online fact-to-face conversation – sometimes it’s faster to call someone directly and talk about the problem instead of exchanging emails. However, I think, that some people overused meetings in the era of homeworking.
My experience: During the pandemic, I changed my job and moved to the project management area where meetings are very important. I thought that the solution for every problem is to organize meetings, talk to the respective group of people, establish some solution/actions and everything will be fine. But I realized two things: the first one is that people need time for work – if I and others organize many meetings there will be no time for the actual work. Secondly, I attend many meetings that weren’t productive and the discussion around those meetings topics could be done via emails.
What can you do? If you have a feeling that not all meetings are really necessary – in my opinion, you have the right to question them. Also, you can block your calendar for the work that you need to complete – with that you will avoid the situation that all day you need to be at the meetings.
Challenge #4 Staying connected with people while social distancing
Coffees and chats, in the majority of the cases about non-related work topics, with colleagues from the team and from other parts of the company, were integral parts of working from the office. This is really important from our mental well-being point of view but networking is also a great tool to know more, interesting people. When our home became the new office that possibility was no longer available.
My experience: I think that the number of informal chats with team members and other people from the company dramatically decreased – because of many reasons (primarily because people have more work to do). What I noticed also, that I totally forgot many people with whom I spoke quite often in the office before.
What can you do? It’s really important to keep in relation with the people and have time during the workday to have a virtual coffee with people from work. When you work from home it’s all about asking your friend from work for the conversation. You can also encourage your company to organize networking events – I have already participated in that and it was great to meet new people.
Challenge #5 Organize space
I think that majority of us have been not been prepared for working from home in terms of tools (laptops, screen, desk, chair), space (separate room or even corner in the living room), and so on. In my opinion, how the workplace, especially at home, is organized has a significant impact on how the work is productive and effective.
My experience: During the last two years my home office setup evolved. I have this luck that I have currently a separate room for that purpose but it wasn’t a case for a long time. The main game changer was a comfortable chair, because if you sit for many hours on something which is just a “dinner chair” your back will call out for help.
What can you do? If you have a limited budget, invest first of all in an ergonomic chair. Many companies currently offer the reimbursement of home office setup. If you do not have room for working, reserve a corner in any other place in your flat or house – keep it clean (I have this feeling that if the desk is without mess the work is much easier). I do not recommend working from bed but… it depends on personal preferences. Another question is what to keep on the desk apart from a laptop, screen, keyboard, and so on. My answer is… a bottle of water – hydration is crucial.
Why working from home is not for everyone and what is the future?
On the other hand, I think that working from home is not for everyone and it may cause some issues.
First of all, many people feel better in the normal office, with all people around, with the possibility to chat with them, meet for the launch or coffee and so on (it’s good for their mental well-being). Secondly, Not everyone has enough space and condition to work at home without a chance to change it in a short time perspective. And the last one is about the balance between work and life – for some of us, it might be easier to keep it in a good shape when working from the office.
Speaking about the future, I think that more and more companies will decide to allow their employees to work full time remotely. It is also a great opportunity for everyone because we can look for a job not only in the city where we are living but also in another part of the country, or, the world.
What do you think?
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