When I first heard I’d be working from home due to COVID-19, it seemed to come completely left field. When I’d left the office on Wednesday with a few birthday-celebrating days off, it had been agreed that we could all WFH if we felt more comfortable – but the COVID-19 UK cases were only just starting to pick up (I think sub 1000 at that point), there wasn’t quite widespread fear just yet, and we each confirmed that we were happy to continue to come to the office. But the (justified) hysteria around COVID-19 picked up incredibly fast, and by the end of that weekend I had received my e-mail from work that I would be WFH until further notice.
I was excited but sceptical. Excited because – you’re telling me, I just roll out of bed at 8 AM and I’m already in the office? I don’t have to worry about leaving the office at a reasonable time to go home and cook dinner as my kitchen is just across the hall – whaat?
But also sceptical because – I’d worked from home before on different evenings and weekends – granted, on my laptop and in bed on a system previously not built for thousands of people to be working from home all at the same time; and I found it to be seriously inefficient and slow and quite frankly, lying in bed for hours on my laptop hurt my back and my wrists. The first day of working from home – I woke up early and logged in so that being people see that while I was WFH – I was taking this ish . At the very beginning – this was a bit worry of mine. I really wanted people to know that just because I was working from home, it didn’t mean I was messing around. I spent some time trying to figure out how to adjust my schedule and how I usually go about my day in the office to this brand new set-up. From calling clients, doing presentations and meetings, staying connected to my team, and balancing this all with regular workouts, cooking lunches and dinners, finding a good balance of new working hours and all of the above.
At first I certainly felt a bit like a dear in the headlights. It was trickier to know what was going on without my colleagues from my team and others usually sitting just behind and around me. There is a lot of value you get from actually sitting within your team, all hands on deck on the desk. A lot of that is just listening, hearing what’s going on all around you and using that as colour for your own clients and projects, some of it is just the ease of getting the answer to a quick question. As well as connectivity, I also struggled in the very early days of WFH to separate work from life. Usually in the office I’m keen to get out at a good time, get my ass back to my comfy home to make a good dinner and relax for the evening. But when WFH, if I really got tired or it seriously got late, there was always the option of unplugging my laptop from my monitor and working on my laptop in bed. It was easier to take breaks in the evening to go and cook dinner, eat and chill for a bit, then continue my work sometimes way into the night. The issue was there wasn’t a “home” time and I found it hard to draw the line between finishing my working day, and relaxing for the evening.
It took a bit of fine tuning my approach and recognising where I was going wrong to start to feel as though I could be even more productive WFH than being physically in the office. Our systems got used to the capacity meaning that IT issues started to become far and few in between. Lots more productive team calls, bilateral calls, Bloomberg chats and e-mails also meant that I started to feel again as connected with both my team and broader team about what’s going and what needs to be done as I did in the office. The ability to take a quick break and eat my lunch in the dining room in front of a 30 minute episode of Insecure; or take a quick break and go for a (tragic) run; or take a quick break and just chill and chat to my boyfriend for 10 minutes; or take a break for dinner and cook the most delicious pot of fried rice you ever did eat – got me in a good enough mood and fuelled my productivity more than I ever would have expected.
Getting up and running as soon as possible has also become a lot easier – if I have a lot on my to do list and want to start work earlier, I can literally roll out of bed at 07:30 and jump on my computer. Meanwhile, an early start in the office could mean an extremely early wake up, dark and cold journey into work and the greeting of a brutally empty office… a much less attractive proposition.
Now that I’ve found my “groove”, I’m feeling pretty comfy WFH and riding out this WFH wave until it calms at shore.
If you’re working from home and struggling to find your feet – here are a few of my best practices:
- Actually get out of bed and go to your work station to work. I am a lot more productive actually working from my desk than half lying down in bed
- Get ready! I’m not saying you have to be at your desk in a suit, but just get yourself showered and cleaned up, maybe slap some make-up on, and get out of your PJs. Today I have my hair in a bun, some foundation and highlight on and an oversized shirt and leggings. Alternatively, I could be literally still in the same state as when I woke up which would make me feel a lot more groggy, lazy and bleurgh
- Communication is key. Get on the phone or on chat to stay in good touch with your team and the teams you work with; we’re not in the office so it’s not like you can just chat to your colleague next to you or walk over to their desk
- Find your own space if you can that allows you to work away from flatmates and partners; it could be that someone’s working in the living area and someone else in the bedroom. It’s a lot more refreshing to have a break and a chat than sit in the same room with someone for the entire day
- Have breaks. In the office your breaks are probably grabbing a coffee with a colleague or evne taking a long walk to get lunch; at home it’s so easy to end up taking a break only to go to the toilet and cook lunch. I try to eat my breakfast/lunch/dinner away from all of my work if I can, I also try to actively switch off in the evening rather than walking a tight rope of being online/offline at work until I close my eyes to sleep
We’re entering a new time – whilst I do definitely see the value of being in the office and actually around your colleagues; WFH I really think has been such a success for so many businesses. I do hope that 5 years down the line, we can say that this period has changed how we work forever. Not to say that we should all WFH every single day – but 1-2 days a week seems very achievable. Plus – we’ve all got our set-ups now and need to put those to good use. 😉