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Working from home has put a halt to water-cooler gossip all over the world!
Surely, it’s not as much fun to discuss frivolous and serious office business via Zoom calls. Especially when half of the conversation consists of asking whether you are audible. At the same time, remote work might just be what we need right now.
According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, about 86 percent of employed Americans found it fairly easy to obtain the necessary technology and equipment to work from home. Needless to say, changes in the traditional workspace in a tech-driven world were a long time coming. In fact, it was expected!
However, the change was never anticipated to happen so abruptly – let alone during a distressing pandemic. On a bittersweet note, here is a breakdown of why workers are warming up to this unexpected experiment.
Working From Home – The New Order?
- Working From Home – The New Order?
- Work From Home Essentials
- Tips For Working From Home
Why Work From Home?
Remote work cancels out distractions like petty office politics and much-loved light-hearted banter with co-workers. However, it has brought in other distractions like demanding pets or kids, soothing puzzles, and enriching hobbies.
In hindsight, these provide much-needed breaks that harmoniously blend work and life like tie-and-dye. In fact, 6 in 10 employed Americans now prefer to work from home after having had a taste of this long-awaited change in the work culture. Here’s why.
This spells good news for the night owls who feel victimized by the traditional 9-5 working hours. At the same time, those who despise late-night shifts, and are expected to fully function at the wee hours, can equally reap the benefits of flexible work timings.
After all, if productivity is the end goal, personalized schedules that utilize a worker’s most productive hours are a win-win for both companies and employees. What’s more, guiltlessly dashing out in case of emergencies is just one of the perks of the absence of a hovering supervisor.
Additionally, balancing personal and professional life has become less of a burden for the average worker. Consider all the errands that can be checked off in between scattered work hours – buying groceries, fitting in a workout, walking the dog, pursuing creative passions, and so on.
Needless to say, your chances of burning out are reduced greatly with healthy distractions around. Also, being home to sign off all your packages doesn’t have to be a distant dream anymore!
Gone are the days of waking up early to beat the rush hour traffic or to catch the early train. Contrary to popular belief, the benefits of cutting out commutes don’t end with saving time and money, though these are good enough reasons to get with the program.
According to Marchetti’s Law, the average person spends an hour of every workday commuting – for some, the number can go up to three hours a day! To get an idea of how this adds up, consider how the average worker with a daily 90-minute commute can save more than one year of their lifetime by working from home.
That’s not all; commuting more than 10 miles a day is accompanied by health risks like increased stress and anxiety, high cholesterol, and elevated blood sugar. Also, of course, one of the biggest health risks you do avoid is that of motor accidents!
Anyhow, scientific evidence suggests that starting work at around 10 a.m. has been proven to have a better outcome than beginning too early in the morning. So, feel free to catch those extra Zs and take your time to prepare a healthy breakfast before starting the workday. After all, you probably won’t be wasting any more time than you did before.
3. Better Performance
Although shop-talk cannot escape the conversation when you’re working from home, there are far fewer incidents of office drama.
Even if you miss water-cooler moments and juicy gossip over coffee breaks, it’s not as much fun being on the receiving end of stressful office politics. In fact, working from home has been a blessing for those who are stressed by the social implications and distractions of work.
For instance, the pretense of “false positives” notoriously brings about favoritism in the workspace. Clocking in more hours by arriving early and leaving late – unreliable standards of diligence such as these are now done away with. Moreover, in these matters, some have an advantage over those with family obligations or health issues.
At the end of the day, productivity and performance are the only markers of excellence and the requirement for that well-deserved promotion. Not to mention how the Flexjobs survey of 2020 had more than 50% of respondents saying that they are more productive and less stressed working from a home environment. The leading reasons for it being fewer interruptions and quiet surroundings.
It’s true what they say – a happy employee is a loyal employee!
Working virtually from home has become synonymous with plummeting stress levels, combined with the convenience of deciding your own work hours and no commutes. Surely, it comes as no surprise then that dopamine-filled employees have stronger respect and a deeper appreciation for their employers.
Needless to say, without the drama and bias that engulfs most office spaces, employee retention has never seen better days. So, not only are employees satisfied, but even employers have it easier.
However, this spells a bittersweet end to face-to-face connections with dear colleagues, mentors, or even work-spouses. But, with social-distancing norms in place, maintaining relationships digitally has anyway become the norm – if it wasn’t already so.
On the bright side, there are opportunities galore to work on interpersonal relationships with household members. A survey by the Pew Research Center asked employees who had recently joined the remote-workforce what were their reasons for going remote. About 45% of them have stated that childcare responsibilities remain their greatest concern.
With kids off on a long vacation from schools, most parents are now working the additional job of a homeschool teacher. While this may seem like an extra responsibility, consider how 78% percent of peer-reviewed academic papers have shown that homeschooled kids perform significantly better.
Work From Anywhere
Take a page out of the travel blogger’s blog and become a digital nomad!
Before the onset of the pandemic, work was never limited by borders, although earning while traveling could be considered a daunting leap of faith. However, with remote work now being the norm, there is a beacon of hope that your office setting may switch between countries in the future. No more excuses about having too little time to travel!
Things being what they are, traveling too far and wide is not advisable at the moment, but location independence can still be a boon to those who live in rural outskirts. Or perhaps, for those who choose to be off-the-grid. Even more so for those who were working in other cities, and returned to their hometowns to save money or to be with family in recent days.
After all, you shouldn’t have to give up on that dream career in order to be with your loved ones during these tumultuous times.
As mentioned earlier, it’s not always easy to find your career path while sitting at home. But, what about those who have no choice but to be home?
Luckily, the new work-from-home movement has been bridging gaps and flattening some of these inequalities. Be it a stay-at-home parent or those with disabilities, remote work gives them an equally good chance to kickstart a career.
Moreover, the living standards in cities have skyrocketed in the past decades. Although many companies have diversity policies, the ground reality lies in the fact that socially and economically challenged folk cannot afford to keep up.
Add this to the rising trend of young people choosing to live closer to home to take care of their elderly relatives. Anyhow, the insane commutes of bustling metropolitan areas, coupled with pollution and deafening isolation, demonstrate how cities may not be the healthiest option for mental, as well as, physical well-being.
All in all, mainstream hiring processes favor the rigid system that espouses walk-in interviews, probation periods with long work hours, and the willingness to commute every workday. Needless to say, some of the most qualified candidates will be out of their catchment area. In this way, remote work is a more democratic option by leaps and bounds.
According to a research by the Pew Research Centre, the leading major reason for people going remote, after personal preference, was the concern of being exposed to the virus.
On the flip side, 54% of those who still go to their workplace and have limited interaction with peers have complained of a similar fear. At the same time, 51% of the same group feared passing on the virus unknowingly.
Even without the threats of a lurking killer virus, working from home makes room for exercise options such as jogs, walks, yoga and meditation. This is in addition to canceling out all the potential mental and physical stress that come from commutes, long office hours, and unhealthy eating habits.
Beating the morning rush and hitting the snooze button multiple times in the morning spells trouble.
For most employed workers living alone in cities, getting their morning coffee from the neighborhood Starbucks has become a cultural phenomenon. Perhaps, a bagel or an apple along the way completes their entire breakfast.
Come lunch break, they either head on to the cafeteria or find a delivery place that could bring in a burger – after all, it is a well-deserved reward for not eating anything all morning! On the other hand, salads in restaurants cost an arm and a leg – and they are usually loaded with fatty dressing that isn’t doing your figure any favors.
Truth be told, fixing your own food is one of the most economical and healthy ways to eat right – after all, it’s the only way to really know what goes in your body. And, remote working seems like your best bet to find all that free time to pick up groceries, watch video recipes and get to cooking.
Personalized Office Set-up
Haven’t we all fallen to the temptation of flopping down on the bed to casually finish assignments?
Nevertheless, it is highly recommended that you relegate a separate office space within your home – but more on that later. As long as it’s home, it is most probably the place where you are at your most comfortable. Add this to the fact that you can go to work in your PJs!
Anyhow, getting out a recliner massage chair for your back problems while working won’t be met with disapproval at home. Regardless, you are bound to feel more comfortable than being cooped up in a cubicle all day.
Cleaner And Greener Cities
Clearer blue skies and wildlife have been making an appearance ever since the roads outside have become empty and devoid of cars and human traffic.
While social-media hashtags about nature healing may be far-reaching, working from home may still be the first radical step in the long journey of making reparations to our planet. To get down to the good news, an estimate of about 4 million Americans are currently employed. And about half of them have gone remote.
What this means for air quality is all good news – beginning with the biggest-ever yearly dip of CO2 emissions in the US. In fact, since 2006, worldwide emissions were at their lowest in 2020. Americans contributed to this by driving 92 million miles less – saving up almost 143 billion gallons of gasoline.
Not only lesser cars, but closing down commercial office buildings have lent to the decrease of CO2 levels. Interestingly, 40% of all carbon dioxide in the US is emitted by large buildings, so staying home and being mindful of how you use resources might have a bigger impact than planting a tree.
However, with all the free time you have, why not do both?
Tech-giant Google has saved millions of dollars since most of its employees went remote. Company retreats, hired catering, and in-house massage tables have left the building along with the employees – saving the company over a billion dollars.
The grounding of planes has also saved both employers and employees the costs of zipping to and from different countries. Although, far from losing their perks, those professionals who managed to retain their jobs by working remotely are now witnessing less expenditure.
Naturally, the cost of daily commutes was the first to go, followed closely by miscellaneous expenses like food deliveries and after-work entertainment and meals. Moreover, the need to buy “work clothes” and formal suits took a backseat.
And, with social-distancing protocols and lockdowns in place, vacations, concerts, sports events were out of the question. Instead, a majority of salaries went into bank and stock investments.
Work From Home Essentials
Now that remote work has got on your good side, it’s time to prepare for the harder parts. But, don’t fret – with just a little bit of planning and dedication, you will get the hang of it in no time.
First, make sure you have these essentials before getting started.
The key to maintaining a schedule that triggers the professional in you is, ironically, change. So, it only makes sense that your office space should have a desk that allows you to switch positions ever so often.
With that being said, an adjustable desk can be raised to a comfortable enough height that allows you to do work while standing. Apart from providing that much-needed variety, taking breaks from long periods of sitting deals with health risks like obesity, heart diseases, and, of course, backaches.
An ideal ergonomic chair has all that you want for your particular needs. Adjustable height, wheels, reclining mechanism, heating pads – it’s your call! Having the option to pick your own furniture is particularly well-suited for those who have chronic muscle pains or backaches.
It’s evident that remote work and technology cannot be separated.
Research well, and check out important features such as storage space and RAM before purchasing a laptop. If your work is related to video editing, graphic designing, or gaming, investing in a good graphics card can go a long way.
While desktops are a sturdy addition to your home office, portable laptops can be carried outside the home for when you would like to “work from anywhere.”
Having a great posture is not just a desirable physical attribute to have. In fact, hunching over for long hours can cause serious ailments that may be hard to fix without physiological treatment. Sitting upright also improves concentration to a degree, so make sure you get a laptop stand that elevates your screen to eye level.
“Can you hear me?” could just be one of the most-used phrases in the last two years. While this one is a no-brainer, having high-speed internet can eliminate the frustration of not being able to download big files pronto. Additionally, video-conferencing calls become shorter and more efficient.
Noise Cancelling Headphones
Unless you live alone in the middle of the woods, there are bound to be unwanted distractions from family members, construction sites, or car horns. While some people prefer white music or jazz music, others can work just as well with hip-hop beats blasting in their ears.
Tips For Working From Home
Now that you’re up to date with all the benefits and essentials of a work-from-home lifestyle, here are a few tips to keep you on the right track.
Make A Work Schedule
Pretend you are back in school, take out a binder and plan a schedule. Perhaps, tech-driven remote working calls for a more technical outlook – so, you can just as easily download a time-tracking app.
Although virtual work means flexibility, you still need to pick the hours of the day which are dedicated to working (with allowance for breaks). It may take some trial-and-error before you can spot your most productive hours, whether it be in the morning or late evening.
But once you do, try tackling difficult assignments through those 3-4 hours. In case you need to schedule meetings, do them outside these primary work hours.
Make A Schedule For Breaks
A lunch break and two coffee breaks might be the norm during your traditional workdays. Luckily, a sedentary work-at-home lifestyle calls for much more. No need to feel guilty – blame science!
Science does say that sitting for hours on end isn’t a good thing while watching TV, and it isn’t much better while working. With that being said, there are a few methods of structured breaks that people swear have changed their lives. This is not to say that you can’t go the old-fashioned way and just get up to walk every hour or so.
Anyhow, you can try the 20-20-20 rule that is especially recommended for those who have to stare at screens throughout the day. The 20-20-20 mantra says that after every 20 minutes of looking at the screen, look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
On the other hand, the rules of the Pomodoro method, named after the Italian word for tomato, are not as easy to guess. To follow this method, set a timer for 25 minutes – during which your only focus should be your work. Once the timer goes off, take a 5-minute break and begin again. After completing three cycles or Pomodoros, take a longer break of 15 minutes.
Maintain A Morning Routine
They say that man is a creature of habit. Maybe that’s why traditional workspaces have a particular order of things. Perhaps it is the prying eyes of a boss or the aura of professionalism that signals your body to get into the “zone.”
Replicating these at home can be a task, to say the least; so, instead, indulge in a cup of tea or a morning jog just before you begin your workday.
While some people (let’s face it – many people) enjoy plopping down on their office chairs straight out of bed in their pajamas, this actually might be counterproductive. Although it may not be a dealbreaker, a shower and change of clothes may just be the cue your body needs to prepare itself for the workday ahead.
And, don’t be thrown off by the terminology. A “morning routine” doesn’t need to be followed only in the mornings. For the late workers and late risers, their choice of activity can be done as soon as they wake up – even if it’s early noon!
Maintain Regular Meal Times
Surprisingly, your gut health is the most obvious sign of a good or bad routine. Even without knowing the science behind it, most people notice that stress, lack of sleep, and irregular meal times can lead to an upset stomach, constipation, or bloating.
With your kitchen just a few feet away from the work desk, cooking up a storm and trying your hand at baking makes for a good and long break. Needless to say, you also build cooking skills while feeding yourself.
With that being said, the novelty of preparing meals wears off after a few months of thinking up new recipes each day. That is if you haven’t already surrendered to the idea of having pasta for all your meals.
No reason to fret – a host of prepared meal delivery services brings exciting new flavors to your door thrice a day. Whether you are a hardcore meat-lover or a vegan purist, it’s so simple to find a meal plan that caters to your needs.
Compromise With Housemates
Evidently, staying home has turned the dynamics between household members upside down. Even among all the chaos and blurred lines of personal space, the boundaries surrounding your work schedule should ideally be non-negotiable.
This era might be immortalized in history as the year of live telecasts featuring kids and pets interrupting their newsreader parents. With that being said, children and pets need to be taught early on about when to give space to the working adults in the house.
Not limited to children – even adults need to be sat down, and quiet times have to be negotiated, especially if you have moved back into the family home. What’s more, you must talk to other family members or housemates and draw up a plan for the distribution of chores.
Asking for favors back and forth is just a ticking time bomb waiting to explode – imagine stressing over a deadline and someone asks you to pick up the cat litter!
Sometimes, staying locked up at home can make you go bananas. To avoid burning out, take some time out in your workday to breathe in the fresh air of the great outdoors, and to walk under natural sunlight.
Not only is this an instant mood-lifter, but a walk is also always welcome for its health benefits. However, do abide by the social-distancing norms in your region when you head out.
On the other hand, even in pre-Covid times, taking your work to libraries and cafes offered a respite from monotony, while also allowing nature to boost anyone’s mood. Hopefully, the trend will continue once it is safe to go out again.
Personalize Your Workspace
Maintaining a work space is as crucial as maintaining the headspace to unlock your productivity.
Ideally, you would have an entire room dedicated just for work. This spare room would be complete with a desk, comfy chair, printer, scanner, paper shredder, filing cabinet – you get the gist. However, the reality is much more disappointing for most of us.
Perhaps, the next best thing you can do is to set up shop on any desk around the house. Alternatively, you can simply section off a part of the room if you live in a small space. In a game of restraint, only work while sitting at the desk and resist the temptation to watch funny animal videos. At the same time, refrain from doing work when you are using your laptop on the couch or the bed.
What’s more, making a separate user account just for work may “trick” your brain into entering work mode. With more and more people complaining about work seeping into life and vice-versa, making similar small but creative changes can help strike the right balance.
While working overtime may sound like a good idea, too much of it is a recipe for burning out in the long run. Since life at home does become monotonous even with a hundred Netflix shows being added every day, the difference between the weekends and weekdays does get blurred.
With that being said, the temptation to over-work is a real phenomenon among a lot of those working from home. In case you do feel overwhelmed by the workload, don’t hesitate to take a well-deserved time-out.
And, of course, the same goes for when you are feeling a little bit under the weather. Sometimes, working from the confines of home may convince you that you are comfortable enough to work even while sick. However, taking the break your body needs is of utmost importance if you want to deliver quality work not just on current assignments, but even on those that are yet to come.
After all, a healthy mind and a healthy body go hand-in-hand.
What better time than now to polish those hobbies into real skills that will give you an edge over others?
Needless to say, the future is in tech – online training programs that hone your programming or software skills will never go to waste. More so, if you foresee a long stint of working from home then online courses specializing in remote working tools will serve your best interests.
Apart from these, building skills in any creative pursuit (be it a foreign language or even carpentry) might unlock a passion you never knew existed! If not – you have an interesting hobby to indulge in during the weekends.
Working from home has especially been hard on extroverts.
Even if you aren’t one, it is always a good idea to leave a message on Slack to maintain a connection with colleagues. Not only does increased communication via any channel help to avoid misunderstandings related to business, but it’s also a great way to keep your social life afloat.
Perhaps, weekly video conferences with the team may be a great way to motivate everyone to do better. At the same time, this also fills the empty gap left by the absence of people you previously hung out with on an almost daily basis.
However, don’t just limit yourself to socializing only at work. On days when you’re feeling low, simply ring a friend for a heart-to-heart – after all, you won’t be receiving any glares for wasting company time!
Don’t Give Up
At the end of the day, your home cannot be the same as your office. Ask yourself if you would ever try to do the opposite and bring a futon to the office just to make it feel more like home. Surely, it goes both ways!
With this in mind, remember that being imperfect is normal. And, failing to keep up with your schedule is human. In fact, many employees who are working from home describe the experience as juggling four jobs – that of a parent, housekeeper, and chef, in addition to their full-time profession. One wrong move – and it all comes crashing down.
However, the reality is not quite so and faltering does not mean failure. Remote working – that too, on a worldwide scale – is uncharted waters for most of us, so cut yourself and your colleagues some slack. Occasionally, a kid or pet might gate-crash your video conference calls, and that’s okay.
So what if you can’t control what happens outside home?
You can still take your own space by the reins. Go ahead and re-create a work environment that makes you feel and do your best. Perhaps, you might end up liking it more than your dreary cubicle!
As a final tip, don’t forget to log off every night – this means turning off all notifications from work. If you find yourself in a desperate situation, download an app like TimeOut or Smart Break that locks users out of the computer for a set time.
With that being said, follow our guide and become a more productive you – even when the boss is not there to oversee your every move. Stick to the program (well, most of the time), and soon you will realize that remote work works!