One Year On: What I Learned Working From Home
It’s been a year since transformation and trust were thrust front and centre. Initially, the idea of working from home seemed like an easy setup. Getting up every morning without having to think of my daily commute, wearing more ‘comfortable’ attire, and working quietly in the comfort of my own flat without distraction sounded pretty straightforward to me.
However, I quickly realised that remote working wasn’t going to be as easy as I anticipated. There were a lot of adjustments that had to happen to ensure that I was equally as productive and engaged in my daily work life as I would be in the office.
A year on, I thought I’d share the top five things I’ve learned in this transition…
Fighting distraction is hard — but achievable
You would think that maintaining work-life balance becomes more manageable when you’re working from home. In reality, all those workplace distractions you just got rid of very quickly become replaced by home distractions. I need to have a clear set up for work — that’s separate to my bedroom or my kitchen, a place I can work through the day and close the door as the workday comes to an end. Some people can work in the living room with the TV on in the background — but I’m not one of those people.
I made sure I put effort into creating a proper work area where I can get in the zone and work without getting distracted by the things I can do after work instead.
I also have things in place that work for me and keep me productive — I put in a ‘power hour’ where I turn my status to ‘Do not disturb’ and have an hour free from the distractions of instant messaging and focus on the work at hand. When I want to listen to music, I have a ‘Music for Concentration’ playlist to ensure I don’t get distracted by dancing around to a Britney Spears Megamix.
Little things like these helps keep me focused throughout the day. I also make sure I use my lunch hour and go outside, having that break away from the screen and time to yourself helps to split the morning and afternoon. I can then come back to my desk, refreshed, and ready to go again. I also find going for a stroll to gain headspace is the time I come up with the best ideas..
It’s crucial to stay on top of your tasks and communication is everything
As my teammates and I started working from different locations, communicating and collaborating with them changed a lot from when we were all in the office.
To stay on top of things and ensure tasks didn’t fall behind, we used project management tools to work together in real-time. We made sure we had sessions in place to track projects and responsibilities on both a departmental and team level. These sessions and stand-ups gave us the visibility of progress across a number of projects.
Not only did this ensure small changes and tasks didn’t go a miss — it also boosted visibility and accountability across our individual roles even though we were dispersed. Although I’m the furthest away from my team and department — I’ve never felt I’ve had more of an understanding of all our projects and responsibilities across the team.
You don’t have to do it alone
I love to have a good chat, and loneliness is one of the most common problems faced by remote workers everywhere. One thing I really miss about the office is going to make a tea or coffee and having a catch-up with another colleague doing the same.
Little interactions like this became a noticeable difference in my new working from home life. However, there are so many ways to combat this and both take little effort from both me and my colleagues. We use Teams chat to have ongoing conversations, in meetings we use video chat to make it more personal.
My team also devotes time on a Friday afternoon to have a general catch-up as a way for us to stay connected with each other beyond work. Recently, my manager also put our lunch hour in as ‘out of office’ to encourage us to take lunch and make sure we have that time away from our screens in the middle of the day.
Sometimes I’ll even use this time to book a catch-up with close friends/colleagues and I’ll go for a walk and have a call. Having these quick chats on messenger, video chats in meetings or even catch-ups that are non-work related has helped me feel surrounded by my team.
Unplug when the workday ends
Something I found so easy working from home was working longer than you needed. It feels easier to skip your lunch or work a little later if you’re in the middle of a report.
One important lesson I learned is it’s vital to disconnect from work once I finish my day because all work and no play can cause stress and burnout.
Although it’s tempting to check work emails beyond work hours or continue to complete tasks because I never really have to ‘go home’, all those things add up and have consequences later on. I’ve learned to set my work hours and as the days get lighter, finishing on time is something I look forward to. Knowing I can still take advantage of the light outside and get some exercise.
Using tools to help you stay productive
Needless to say, all of this would’ve been a lot more challenging if I didn’t have the right tool at hand. The tools and methods I use now are still fairly similar to the ones I used when I was working in the office full-time, but perhaps now I’m more aware of having a great structure in place.
For me, nothing beats an old-fashioned to-do list. As I open my laptop at 8 am to start the day, I pour my coffee and begin writing my key objectives and actions for the day. As weird as it may sound, the satisfaction of ticking these off at the end of the day really gives me a sense of achievement and productiveness — I set out with what I needed to do, and I completed it.