The Hidden Side to Working From Home...
Are you in the vast population of people in the UK now working from home? Perhaps you were working from home already but for the rest of you to whom it is a new experience, is it how you imagined it would be? To be clear, I am not even factoring in working around looking after children - for all those who have children at home right now - that's a whole other dimension!
The idea of being able to work flexibly, cut down on a long commute and perhaps have fewer 'interruptions' to our day (ha ha!) is very appealing but in reality, working from home isn't always the idyll it's painted to be. It can be a very lonely business having little to no social contact with others except virtually; having the ongoing worry of juggling work and home life, not to mention the constant feeling of having to compensate for not being 'in the office,' meaning that you end up working far longer hours than you would otherwise and do not take proper breaks. Trust me, I know. I've been there.
As humans we get a lot from our interactions with others, from hearing ideas in the office, by being a part of something 'bigger.'
Mental health can suffer if left unchecked, potentially leading to increased anxiety, stress and depression. It is also hard to exercise self-discipline when it comes to switching off, taking regular breaks and exercise and eating healthily (step away from that biscuit tin!) as well as in setting clearly defined boundaries between work and home life. It can be more difficult to say no to work (particularly if you are self-employed) and as a result you may take on more than you can realistically handle, leading to burnout.
So, what do you need for successful home working (other than the right technology of course)?
- Self-confidence and self-belief - you've got this! You CAN do this!
- Excellent communication skills - it is so important that you check in regularly with others (your colleagues, your boss, your mentor), not so much so they know what you are 'up to' but for your own sanity. They can help you regain perspective if things are not going to plan. Start online meetings by asking colleagues/clients about their weekend plans or their families - this helps establish rapport and build trust. It's also what you would probably do in a 'normal' work environment
- Desire to grow your network - think about joining an online community of similarly minded people. There has been an uprising of such groups on Facebook and other platforms since the start of the pandemic. These can be invaluable sources of support and advice from people who are going through the same things as you are and crucially remind you that you are not alone. Once we are through this and no longer in lockdown, cultivate real life friendships and encounters by joining groups, starting a new hobby that involves being with others or simply interact more purposefully with others when you go to the shops or are out for a walk
- Ability to work consistently - this replaces the regular feedback you might otherwise get by being in an office with others
- Recognition that you need to take proper breaks from your work
- Having a clearly defined workspace and routine - get up, get dressed, start at a set time and finish at a set time
- Have more realistic expectations of yourself and what you can achieve - don't push yourself too far, too soon. It's going to take time to adjust and settle into this new way of working