When giving advice about working from home, I must begin with a disclaimer. I’ve been a full-time remote employee for the last 18 months and have done so for other companies for long periods, sometimes years at a time. This is not my first WFH rodeo. But first pandemic WFH rodeo? For sure! It is for all of us.
Most office-based employees nationwide were sent home in March 2020 with a laptop, VPN connectivity, and the directive to continue doing their jobs in the most normal manner possible. Work from home and normal? What exactly does that mean? Many had worked remotely from time to time because of school closures, feeling a little under the weather but not poorly enough to burn a sick day, or simply because they needed a break from the office environment. Often, the occasional work from home days went well and were welcomed. But working from home every day for nearly a year has worn out its welcome with some employees and has brought on a new set of concerns to work through.
Disadvantages of working remotely
Here are a few downsides of working from home and how to overcome them:
Working from home in relative isolation is a learned skill. Humans are inherently social creatures. There have been many articles written since the pandemic started, discussing how humans isolate poorly. We form professionally personal relationships at work. There’s something to be said about greeting your co-worker friends as they walk into the office in the morning.
Working from home means you may be only greeting your significant other or children in the morning, or the cat or dog, who by now is probably thinking, “I love you and you’re great, but why are you still here?”
Working from home also makes getting quick hallway updates somewhat difficult. What might have been a 10-second question and answer in an office may linger in someone’s chat thread or email inbox for a while.
Another significant challenge for remote employees is reading someone’s mood through facial expressions or body language. We’ve all had situations both professionally and personally where the written word was interpreted incorrectly by the receiver. Non-verbal language can sometimes account for 85% of the meaning a speaker imparts. Consider a conference call where there are pregnant pauses that seem to be out of place and worrisome, when in reality the person on the other end of the phone is simply collecting their thoughts before responding.
Advantages of working remotely
There are advantages to working from home. No commute, cost savings on fuel and car maintenance, the potential for uninterrupted productivity, reduced clothing expenses and higher job satisfaction, to name a few.
Over time, it’s likely that the workforce will exist in a hybrid model with some work from the office days and some work from home days. So, the burning question is, “How do I, a career-long office-based employee, who soon may work in a hybrid manner, maintain productivity and sanity?”
Tips for managing your work-from-home environment
Here’s some advice to help you manage your new work environment:
- Maintain your space at home: Having a dedicated office space in your home is ideal. If you don’t and your workspace is your kitchen table, that’s ok; setting up your laptop in the same place every day will help you stay on task.
- Set office hours: Setting “office hours” at home and sticking to them is how you re-create the emotional boundary between work and off time.
- Keep the same schedule: It’s important to make a schedule that you can keep. If your schedule reads: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. = work, you’re doing it wrong. You’re not a robot. Your schedule should include breaks! Walk away from your workspace for just five minutes and you’ll be surprised at your renewed energy and focus.
- Craft a routine: Even if your work doesn’t require you to be available at a specific time, set an alarm and wake up at the same time every day. Get dressed. Make coffee. Do whatever it takes to feel like you’re getting ready to have a good day.
- Embrace video chat: If you’re new to this, it may be awkward at first, but letting yourself be seen on camera, and seeing your colleagues on camera (and not just hearing their voices) can make all the difference toward maintaining a feeling of connectivity with both your colleagues and members.
- Give yourself a break: We’re in an extraordinary period and it’s okay if it takes some time to figure out how to be normal. Protect your health. Protect your sleep. And of course, protect each other.
Working from home may be an advantage or a struggle nearly one year into the pandemic. But with the right preparation and a consistent routine, working from home has its benefits. Trust yourself, you can do this!