“The art of being wise is the art of knowing that solutions don’t come from individuals, but rather experiences.” – Shannon L. Alder
The past two years have forced us to change in many ways. And indeed, although the pandemic is something that nobody asked for, and nobody would wish to be repeated (I should hope), it has brought some positives with it. Parents have had more time to spend with their children, people have found time for hobbies that they otherwise wouldn’t have found, and many of us have benefitted from being given the time and space to look at our lives and think about what really works for us… what is actually important and what isn’t.
However, this article relates to one of the biggest changes to come out of the pandemic, the rise of home-working. Many of us are hoping to keep home-working as an option, post-pandemic. It allows you to spring out of bed an hour later than you might normally have done, ditch the commute, use your time more flexibly and recalibrate your work/life balance. But all that being said, home-working has thrown up a few problems. Every coin has two sides, and for all the home comforts, there are also a few home gripes.
You may recognise a few of the following problems. You may already have solutions for them. But if you don’t here are a few resolutions for those niggles you may not yet have ironed out…
1. An Inappropriate Set-Up
When I refer to the inappropriate set-up, I am not just referring to having the right kit at your disposal, furniture, computers and connectivity for example. I am also referring to the geography of the space you now both live and work in, and indeed the amount of space you have. If you are anything like me, you will not have a spare room available just for work, which means that you are both without a separate workspace, and therefore have your workspace staring at you when you are trying to enjoy leisure time… not ideal for wellbeing and work/life balance.
Now, of course, at this point, if you are looking at home-working beyond the end of this strange time we are living in, it might be time to invest in a decent office chair, a better laptop or an actual desk to replace the end of the dining room table. Any conscious business that supports home-working should be able to help in this regard.
However, when it comes to having a workspace in a small space, here is what I have done to try and create a work bubble for myself that does not encroach on my living space. First, I have invested in a really good pair of headphones into which I pump white noise, which helps to disconnect me from my home and to go to a different mental space. I also have my desk space set up in front of a window, a view that I now associate with ‘work time’. Last, I don’t have a lot of kits… just my headphones, laptop, keyboard and mouse. This stuff gets packed into a basket at the end of the day and put up on my bookshelf, which helps to put an end to the workday. This distinction is very important in helping me switch modes.
2. Less Accountability
When in an office or more ‘traditional’ place of work, you are with a whole bunch of people who keep you accountable. Whether this accountability pertains to staying on task, sticking to deadlines or not procrastinating, the presence of colleagues in your physical space helps us to dig deep when we don’t really want to do the work. Workspaces are also there for the sole purpose of work; the home is not.
The best way I have found around this is to basically tell whoever I am delivering work to when I am going to do it. This might seem obvious, but many of my clients are quite flexible, so it is important that I provide them with some kind of expectation in order to keep my momentum going and stop me scrolling social media.
3. Home Energy
The vibe at home, the atmosphere, is chilled. You have designed your home as a place to come back to and relax and nurture your wellbeing, most likely, so its aura is not well-curated for work. Again, all the stuff above about creating a different space, physically and mentally, will help.
What does help me to knuckle down, is to actually delve into ‘home stuff’ for ten minutes every hour. I use up more energy focussing on a working mindset than I would have done in a workspace, so I allow myself to ‘be at home’ throughout the day as a kind of payoff. I might do the washing up, vacuum, start preparing dinner or just sit in another room with some tea.
4. Much More Distraction
This is such a big one. Home is so distracting. TVs to watch, little jobs to do, all your favourite stuff there to tempt you. Whatever space you are in, clear it of clutter and junk and shut the door when you are working. I leave my phone somewhere out of reach and shut down my internet browser unless I absolutely need it.
I also work in a public space once a week, like a café. This is not as cheap as working from home, but it is much less distracting. The change of scene also gives me fresh new energy.
Working from home is a joy, but it does take practice. People will go on about how easy you have it, but it certainly comes with its difficulties, and it is important for your resilience and wellbeing that you spend some conscious time working out what does and does not work for you.
By Chris Thomson
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