Posted by Michelle Casey on 13 Jan 2021

Working from home (WFH) has been a part of many people’s lives for a long time- either a part-time or full-time option. But the crucial point here: it was an option. A choice. With many people now having this enforced, benefits and drawbacks of this situation have emerged.

It is tempting to return to the day’s work to ‘tie up loose ends’ or finish something off running into the night. It can be much harder to ‘switch off’. I recently heard someone say, ‘I feel like I’m living at work rather than working from home’.
That time on the journey home from work no longer exists for many-a blessing for some, a curse for others. It can be a struggle to go from ‘work mode’ to ‘home mode’ in the thirty seconds it takes to go from the home ‘office’ to the living area, where the family are waiting with requests to, ‘Fix this daddy’, ‘Can you put those clothes in the dryer?’, ‘Where’s the claw from my Lego dinosaur mummy?’ and all the other demands that accompany family life.

One friend told me she finds it harder to switch off in this permanent working from home state. She said she is more likely to check emails in the evening as there is not a clear ‘work is done’ mentality.

Another friend told me that she was doing 70-hour weeks during the first lockdown. She worked late to tick more off her to-do list, but she eventually had to ask herself if it was really worth staying online until 11 pm or could it wait until tomorrow?

Someone else said, ‘The cycle of endless collaborative online meetings results in no time to focus on actual tasks. I end up trying to close out many of these tasks outside of office hours which impacts family life and personal wellbeing. What could have been a conversation at the watercooler, so to speak, ends up being an hour- long online meeting.’
Other negatives of working from home cited were

  • Feeling disconnected from colleagues/ unable to build relationships if you are new to a workplace (goodbye to after work drinks with your workmates and putting the world of work to rights)
  • Every day can be the same. Every. Single. Day.

“What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same and nothing that you did mattered?” Phil Connors, Groundhog Day

  • Feelings of social isolation- in the office it is commonplace to pop by a workmate’s desk- but it can seem more invasive to call when WFH.
  • Fewer lunch options can add to the monotony of life right now- this could be the option of where to eat, what to eat or who to eat with.
  • Working in spaces not designed for an office- poor lighting has led to one friend needing to get glasses for using the computer.

Conversely, some of those I spoke to are enjoying this newfound situation. Some positives mentioned were:

  •  The washing machine is always on (nearly empty laundry baskets for the win!)
  • Someone is always at home so you never have to stand in the post office queue for missed deliveries
  • No commute
  • Get other little jobs done during ‘breaks’ (this one could contradict the purpose of a break- but many of us are probably guilty of it)
  • More flexibility for appointments/ childcare

Top tips for Working from Home

1. Start and end times.
Be firm with these. One friend said, ’In the first lockdown I did yoga every day for 100 days at 6pm to finish the workday.’

Keep to a healthy routine. Don’t let yourself get dragged into doing work into the wee small hours if it could be finished off tomorrow. But equally don’t roll out of bed 5 minutes before the first meeting of the day…

3. Protective
Be protective of your time-try to avoid needless meetings (it could have been an email!!)
I was told, “I block out chunks of time so I can work, instead of 8 hours of video calls then trying to do my work after that.”

Set yourself up as comfortably as you possibly can. If possible, get a desk and a proper work chair, and set up near a window (also helps to separate work and home life). These are often paid for by the employer in light of these new circumstances many find themselves in.

5. Stay connected
Try to co-ordinate some online tea breaks with your work friends so there is still a social element to your day.

6. Go easy on yourself
If you want a no makeup day. DO IT.
If you want a no video day. DO IT.

The folks at We Built Your Website have put together lots of helpful tips and ideas to make WFH more manageable. Check them out here.

Remember: communication, self -awareness, boundaries and kindness all the way!
*All of the above is coming from the perspective of working from home only, not adding distance learning with children into the mix.

Stay safe and good luck!

Michelle xx

Michelle Casey
Michelle is a newcomer to the borough (since summer 2019) and lives in West Ewell with her husband and two children. She is a part-time primary school teacher and works in various schools in the area. When not teaching, writing, walking or attempting yoga, she is likely to be found at a playground or soft play with her littlies-preferably one that serves good coffee…

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