24 Jun An Office away from the Office
For many office workers, the current situation has forced us into a corner – quite literally. Since mid-March, I’ve been working out-of-office and dragging myself from my bed to my makeshift desk in the corner of my bedroom, instead of from my bed to the Royton-based OFM office. As you can imagine, there’s plenty of pros and cons to working from home, and today I’d like to explore both sides, and how I’ve personally overcome some of the negatives.
Let’s take a quick look at the pros:
• I have my kitchen and bathroom right there (no need for potentially embarrassing work toilet stinkies!)
• I save money on transport
• No commute (these can be stressful, especially using public transport)
• I save money on laundry (who’s gonna judge me for wearing the same t-shirt three days in a row?)
• I have more flexibility (I forgot to buy eggs from Tesco the other day, so I’ll go now and put 30 mins extra in when I get back – why not?)
And the bad stuff:
• No human interaction
• Too many distractions
• More difficult to manage my time and organise myself
• Less energetic environment
• Household noise
A plan of action is needed
How do I overcome these issues? Well…
With regards to human interaction, it’s something that can really get me down, especially if, like me, you live alone and barely speak to anyone face-to-face on a daily basis.
I make use of WhatsApp and Skype. A 10-minute call to my girlfriend or my dear mother, and I feel a bit better.
Distractions – oh, distractions. I’ve got those emails to send, that project to finish, but there’s also two episodes of Ozark waiting to be watched, just sitting there a button’s push away from me. I know there’s no such thing as a “quick watch” of a TV show, especially the ‘binge-worthy’ stuff. I remember that I’m still being paid to do a job, So, how do I stop myself getting sucked into bad habits and stay motivated?
I act like I’m going into the office. I keep as much of my usual morning routine as possible. Simple stuff like getting my coffee ready and having a shower – besides, there’s no excuse for being a stinker just because I’m not going to see anyone.
I play background music or sounds. No, this doesn’t mean I put Ozark on in the background. The best thing for me is “study focus” videos on YouTube, or “nature sounds”.
Managing and organising myself when working from home can be much more difficult than usual (see Distractions!).
I set myself targets with (realistic) completion times. “Finish up spreadsheet and send to client by 12pm”, or “clear email inbox by 11am”. I tend to use literal sticky notes – it’s just what works best for me. Mark Twain once said, “if it’s your job to eat a frog, do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, eat the biggest one first”. Okay, so now you’re wondering, “how does eating frogs help me stay on top of work?!”. Well, I think of my ‘frog’ as my biggest task, the one I’m most likely to procrastinate over. The quote from Twain is basically saying, “this is probably the worst thing that’s gonna happen to you all day, so you may as well get it out of the way”. Once I’ve got my ‘frog’ out of the way, I’ll breeze through the rest of my daily tasks safe in the knowledge I’ve overcome my biggest obstacle.
Working from home is definitely a less energetic environment. A lack of dynamism makes me demotivated at times, and less enthusiastic about what I do. How do I overcome it?
Thankfully, due to my past experience, I have a few friends overseas who do the same work I do. I give them a call and we’ll stay connected all day, sharing ideas and supporting each other 20% of the time, and spending 80% of the time in silence. A bit of ‘hand-holding’ is necessary sometimes – there’s absolutely no shame in it.
Ah, now this one is a real problem for me – household noise. I share a house, so there’s always a lot of movement going on, and people living their (noisy) lives around me. However, there is a workaround…
Noise-cancelling headphones – an absolute Godsend! I search for ‘white noise’ playlists on Spotify. Drown them out!
Whilst the future post-Covid is still unsure, it’s probably safe to say that working remotely is here to stay. It’s important that we continue to treat it as a privilege and not a right, and if the current pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that a work-life balance is more important than anything, and time spent with family is more precious than ever.