Are you one of the growing number of office workers now operating out of a make-shift cubicle in your home theatre, dressed in tracksuit pants, hand sanitisers on standby and surrounded by a stockpile of toilet paper, packets of pasta and canned foods?
Among the coronavirus pandemic’s many impacts, working from home – WFH – is a trend that thankfully is spreading faster than the virus itself as more and more bosses shoo workers away from the office. While the rapid spread of COVID-19 has negatively impacted millions of people, there is an upside for many who have been longing to ditch cramped cubicles for comfy couches.
For some, the opportunity of working from home is a dream made in heaven: zero travel time, home-cooked lunches, avoidance of some of your pesky colleagues and the opportunity to sneak in a load of washing in between emails and teleconferences.
What is not to like?
Working from home has proven a great option for workplace flexibility for those not served well by the traditional office set-up. But for many excited at having been forced into WFH by bosses seeking to minimise the spread of COVID-19, there could be disappointment when their experiences fall short of expectations – the idea of working at home might does not always play out the way it was hoped.
Day after day of hard slog from a makeshift office bunker can cause the novelty of WFH to fade so fast that before too long many will have a longing to be back in the office. And it can be quite a different experience to be permanently at home when compared with the occasional day of WFH.
Suddenly you yearn for the joys of below-average office coffee, oppressive room temperatures, flickering fluorescent lights above your cubicle, the loud phone manners of your desk neighbour, al-desko dining and even the menacing micromanager of a boss. And, faced with the solitary of the WFH environment, how nice would it be for one of your annoying colleagues to interrupt your productivity by asking “what did you get up to on the weekend” or chatting with you for what seems like hours about the weather.
While some who are presented with the chance to work from home take to it like a duck to water, others struggle with the isolation and lack of structure. It may force them to make the most of a difficult situation by offsetting some of the challenges and thinking creatively to get the most out of WFH. In the mornings, get out of your pyjamas and dress like you are going to work.
Have a routine, set work hours and hit the pause button throughout the day just like you would if you were in the office. That might involve taking a coffee break, a short walk or having a phone chat with a friend. Consider also designating parts of your home as work-free zones where you can go to power down.
Maintain social contact by showing your face online using video-conferencing tools but avoid working in front of the television, which can be distracting – and stay off personal social media at all costs because it can swallow up hours of your work time.
At the end of the day, WFH is not for everyone. Some of us want to work at work. Perhaps we have not fully appreciated the benefits of being in the office. There is a broader message for us here, too. During troubled times, let’s focus on enjoying the little things in life and not take them for granted.
And if you are dreaming of working from work again, let’s hope for your speedy return to the office.
Professor Gary Martin is the Chief Executive Officer at the Australian Institute of Management WA.