Here’s How To WFH The Right Way

We've been doing it for 9 months now, but still, we're yet to master it.

Remember when we thought that working from home was going to be a temporary thing? Ah, those were the days. Our working lives have changed completely over the last few months, with many offices set to stay closed until 2021 – and many employees seeing the benefits of working remotely (with some even choosing to do so for good).

While lots of people have taken to working from home like ducks to water, there is a considerable number still figuring out this new normal (sorry, we had to say it). Now that it’s becoming more of a permanent fixture in our lives, there’s no better time to re-assess your home office setup. We turned to careers coach Pauline Harley (paulineharley.com) to ask: How do you WFH ‘right’?

First, adjust your expectations. Working from the office and working from home are not the same, and you should adjust your expectations of yourself to reflect that. “I think you have to try to be self-aware enough to know your own body and mind and how it operates in these two separate working environments,” Pauline notes. “One person’s working from home sanctuary is another person’s hell. I am working with people who adapted well at home, and are now  finding the return to the office difficult, but then I see others who can’t get back quick enough as they need the structure and routine it brings.”

If you’re one of those people who finds it hard to ‘get in the zone’ at home, don’t stress. Regular life intrudes more within your own four walls, and things can be a little unpredictable, especially if there are kids in the mix. Something that might help you gain perspective is asking yourself: Are you working flat to the mat every second you’re in the office? No, probably not. You’re talking to colleagues, in meetings that could have been emails, making tea. So if you feel like you’re ‘not getting enough done’ – you probably are, in the grand scheme of things. And if you know for a fact you’re not, go easy on yourself!

 It is a completely new situation and everyone is still working things out. “It is a good idea to consider the level of productivity you were happy with before in your office setting and renegotiate what is reasonable and achievable in your home setting, allowing for distractions to show up,” says Pauline. “A simple tip is to ask ourselves first thing in the morning, ‘What is the most manageable thing I can do today to challenge my output without overwhelming myself?’ Manage your expectations while managing your workload. If it becomes too much, ask for help, or apply more adequate boundaries. It is much easier to say no at the offset than it is to say it later on.”

Be strict about that work-life balance

So, about those boundaries. It’s very easy to allow work and leisure to mix and mingle when you aren’t physically leaving for the office every day. You might stay longer answering those pesky emails that come in at 5.33pm (rude), or turn your lunch hour into a lunch 15 minutes – sure aren’t you sitting all comfy on your couch anyway? If this is already a habit for you, it’s time to break it.

Yes, the fun of working from home is being able to work on the couch or from bed sometimes, but don’t allow your entire house to become your workspace. Create a dedicated area to work in, and set it up to suit your needs (more tips on that below). Stick to your office hours. Take your lunch break. Find a nice way to end your day at the ‘office’ – take a walk, do some yoga, read your book for a half an hour, call your friends and loved ones. Once you’ve started that, you’re finished work. Communication tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams are great, but they can encourage people to ping away messages at all hours of the day or night. Let your team know that you’re signing o for the day and won’t be looking at any messages until the morning – and then do NOT check your messages until the morning. Boundaries only work if you actively enforce them.

Find a way to stay connected to your colleagues

If you’re not used to working on your own, the transition from a bustling office to your kitchen table can be a bit jarring. Here’s the whole issue with communication and feeling generally out of the loop – where once it was easy to walk up to Christine in Accounts and say what you needed to say, now you have to be like, “Hi Christine, I do hope you are staying safe in these strange and unprecedented times. So about my expenses…” But also, it can just be a bit lonely. Zoom meetings aren’t satisfactory stand-ins for chats with your work wife, and you’d nearly miss the canteen small talk.

So how can you feel connected with your colleagues as you all work from home? “I’m not a big fan of WhatsApp or work messaging groups due to the boundaries and switching off situation,” says Pauline. “I do think it is essential to create a small professional circle that you can pick up the phone to chat to, or have coffee or a socially- distanced walk and talk with, so as not to become overly dependent on Zoom.” Don’t be afraid to reach out – chances are most people are looking for a natter.

And do not feel guilty about switching off

Girl working out at home

“Remember, you have a choice to switch off – I am always amazed by the number of people who seem to forget this,” says Pauline. “A question to consider is why one feels the need to tie themselves to a home office desk. Is it a form of self-punishment for feeling guilty for being at home? I am seeing some people experience pangs of guilt for the autonomy working from home brings. You have to address that guilt, or it will consume you.” Working from home is a learning curve, to be sure, but trust yourself (and set those boundaries) and you will be just fine. 

Images via Unsplash. 

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