The global WFH phenomenon has been a cause of changes in dynamics at the personal and professional level, which, in turn, have caused a domino effect on various parts of lives.
As most organisations continue to encourage employees to WFH, with some even declaring 2020 as being the year of WFH, the situation has put us in this state of haze – the struggle to balance work-and-home while working from home is a harsh reality!
As someone who’s been working from home for more than a year now, I am well aware of how little it takes to send that precariously balanced routine tumbling. And trying to find that space to focus and work, set boundaries with family members, try not to get distracted… to many battles to be won there! Not to mention the emotional ramifications and realisations when you feel isolated, realise that hour-long meeting was more an exercise in co-worker bonding than discussing work and battle to bring the team together virtually!
But everyone has found a way around this new phase of life and most have emerged stronger, wiser and with some interesting learnings, the kind that had me nodding my head in agreement!
Tips to make WFH easier
- setting boundaries with family members
- creating rules to help you focus
- sticking to the rules that you made
- using a to-do list with some realistic goals for increased productivity (influencer/educator Juhi Bansal shares tips on time management to increase productivity)
- dress for work, even if its WFH
- stay away from places you relax
- remove unnecessary distractions
- opt for an ergonomically designed chair
- exercise! Move your body! (physiotherapist Dr Shinee Shanbag talks of ways to tend to WFH aches and pains)
- create a dedicated workspace/desk
But does everyone think like I do? Does everyone feel that having a dedicated workspace/work desk makes WFH life a tad bit easier, especially when you are living with family? Is everyone sailing through with a set routine?
I checked in with five friends from different parts of the world for their take on having a ‘workspace’… I’ll say the jury is still out on what WFH has been like…
- A dedicated work area and desk, a positive zone in my house where I’m motivated to work & stay creatively inspired
- Other comfortable nooks to work in
- Taking time to socialize with friends & family
- Sticking to schedules of lunchtime & tea breaks
These have been my way of tackling the challenges that Work from Home brought into my life 6 months (and counting) ago!
The initial days were fraught with irregularity in the sleep cycle and mealtimes, lack of motivation and the immense guilt of taking time away from work – which resulted in overworking. It’s been difficult working outside a formal office environment with fixed timings. And do I miss the sense of camaraderie & teamwork! Breaks are so lonesome…
But as I mentioned earlier, comfortable positive nooks to work in and crossing the hurdle of regulating myself and my productivity have made life relatively easier.
I don’t really have a fixed schedule but I’ve put a limitation on the hours of work per day – 10 – 12 hours every day and then I move away.
More about Anuradha & her work on @hooplaback.girl
The United Kingdom went into lockdown from 23rd March, but I had changed my status to Work from Home a month before, on 28th February 2020. Which makes it nearly 200 odd days of WFH!
This has not been my first experience of working from home – as a norm, I WFH on Fridays and for that reason, I have a setup at home. In fact, I’d say my home office is better than the hot desk system at work. The two things I needed to look into for this uncertainly long WFH transition were a good set of ‘ears’ for smooth work calls and great internet connectivity – since all four of us in the family would be using the common broadband line.
A good headset and a wireless mesh network later, WFH has been a breeze. More so since I have a dedicated desk and a study room – where I can close the doors to keep the family out!
Did this WFH bit make me more productive? I’d say it did! With commuting to work out of the picture, I have more time on hand. I can sleep a bit longer which has worked wonders for my health and stress levels. My productivity levels are better. But I do find myself catching up on work after dinner.
Not that that’s a bad thing. It reduces my workload for the next day and helps me set daily goals for my team. The best part about this WFH phase has been the amount of time I’ve been able to spend with my family. Pre-pandemic, for almost 4 years, I’d be travelling 4 days a week to London and Portsmouth. Being home for such a long time has been a welcome break…
More about Anupam at @patraanupam
The transition from being an office-goer to working from home is an eye opener! You learn new things about yourself and family members. I’ve re-learned the importance of being true, being kind but most importantly, showing up and being mindful.
In Singapore, the lockdown came into effect in April as did Work from Home; but we’d started working in split teams in the last week of January – which meant going to office twice in a week and working from home the rest of the days. That makes about 7 months of working from home! There were no external ‘real challenges’ per se!
The ‘challenge’ was in working from home – finding a good place to work from and smooth internet connectivity. My husband also works from home so trying to make our calls work sans hitches was a bit of a task.
Did I have a dedicated desk or routine? No to both! With a toddler at home, it’s very hard to have a set routine that works. I did attempt it initially but when it didn’t work out, I gave up on it and decided to go easy on myself. Now, it’s an adapt-as-you-go situation.
Some days are good, some days are bad and some are ugly. If there are days that have been unkind or where you have been unkind, forgive yourself, seek forgiveness from the one you’ve hurt and move on. Forgive yourself if the day hasn’t gone as planned. I did it with everyone – myself, family and friends.
More about Aditi on @ aditij25
I’m no stranger to Work from Home. November 2019 saw me undergoing a knee surgery which was followed by three-weeks of bedrest, which, in turn, meant three weeks of work from home. But that period of WFH was way easier! I was at home with my parents AND I didn’t have to manage everything on my own!
It’s been 6 months and some days of working from home due to the pandemic – March 15, 2020 was when lockdown happened here. It’s been weird but I’ve become strangely immune to all of it now. Perhaps it’s the coping mechanism. The one that kicked in when I was faced with all the challenges in the initial months of the lockdown. The one that has kicked in to help deal with what (I hope) is surely a once-in-a-lifetime instance!
Looking back, one of the main challenges I’d faced was the division of time – between work and daily chores and relaxation activities. There was the usual network connectivity issue and need for a dedicated work booth. Teething issues also included setting clear work schedule with colleagues. Added to this mix was the general sense of anxiety that resulted from a large layoff exercise at work.
The only way I could endure was to ensure that my daily routine was as close to the one I had before the lockdown – this facilitated efficient time management. And that dedicated work desk in my room worked wonders! It helped me maintain an office-like environment where I can focus, work regular office hours and most of all, walk away from to take a break or ‘leave’ office. In fact, I make it a point to walk out of my room and have lunch with my flatmate for that sense of ‘leaving workspace’ for a break.
Six months down the line, WFH is ‘normal’ to a large extent, with the occasional connectivity glitch. But with the company declaring 2020 to be a WFH year coupled with the uncertainty regarding the process of re-opening because my office is in a tech park and real social distancing measures are next to impossible – there’s a feeling of surrealism when I think of what to expect next…
More about Lakshmi on lmenon91
For the Chaliha couple, life during the 4-month partial lockdown was a learning experience (for lack of a better term). Two individuals, two diverse industries, two different perspectives, one household and a similar feeling of having aced the game!
In Anju’s words… The lack of routine, the eminent uncertainty and ergonomic issues – these were the three biggest challenges in the initial days of the WFH period. But I’d say I’ve been able to combat these issues with some conversation and a positive mindset.
Within a month into the lockdown, I set up a dedicated workspace for myself – a new desk set up in a private nook, looking out of the window –it helped me focus and keep from being distracted by the kids. Productivity was also increased after an ease in anxiety – I spoke to my work manager about the future, created a work routine and that desk – all of it put together helped a lot! I’d say the transition from ‘going to office’ outside to ‘going to the office’ at home has been rather easy! It’s been a new experience and I get to spend time with the family! Helping the kids with their studies, having meals with the family… simple things lost in the rush of office life. I’d say I’ve been at my productive best because I’ve not had to stress about getting ready, choosing clothes, looking good – says a lot, right?
Being in the human resource industry, Sthabirjit’s WFH has revolved around making his team’s life easier. As he explains… the main challenge was that most staffers were a little unaware of how to go about with the entire work from the home process. A lot of planning went into guiding staffers through programmes and software crucial for team meetings, getting everyone together to start on time, setting up large team meetings. But we got through with organised training, setting goals and following up, to name a few things.
On the personal front, I realised WFH gave me more time to think and look at things from different angles. I was my productive best from 9am till 1pm so I worked around it – the second half of the day was set aside for reports, idea crunching with the think tank, assess the team’s capability – what also helped was the unhindered support. With a dedicated home office and the family ensuring I was not disturbed; I was able to concentrate better – the overall productivity level of the team shot up! On the whole, I’d say despite the initial discomfort, WFH facilitated growth.
Do you have a similar story to share? Drop me an email on email@example.com or share in the comments section below. You can also talk to me on Facebook (click here), Instagram (click here) and Pinterest (click here). If you enjoy reading, then the weekly newsletter is something you’ll enjoy a lot! Fill the form below & subscribe to be part of the mailing list.
Reading your lovely article took me through this lockdown journey from the beginning. I don’t have a paid job and I was busy with my volunteering, most of which stopped at the beginning of the lockdown. But I have been extremely busy managing the emotions of my family ( 2 teenagers n a husband) and my parents n siblings, cousins who live back in India. Interesting that I find the progression no less than a job. I too have tried to maintain routine for myself and make myself available to others. I decided not to be too demanding of myself or anyone, just one day at a time. I became more productive and got the hang of the new set up. Of course it was a full house and at times a but much. Fortunately I had my art as catharsis and it has kept me going along with some new friendships discovered during this pandemic.
It is a misconception that you have to have a ‘paid’ job to understand the pressure of ‘work’. The lockdown has been hard on each one of us, being able to provide support to our family & friends has been as much a challenge as working for home and working from home. I am delighted to know you took a conscious decision to be gentle with yourself. It has been a key learning for me too in this time…
wow, Rapti! That is a lovely summary of the different changes brought about by this so called new normal and WFH. Most of us are sailing in the same boat but in spite of this, each one of us have different nuances to add to the WFH story.
The common point is that WFH is here to stay in some shape or form and the sooner we find a way to make it work optimally for us as individuals, the better it will be for all of us.