Are you working from home or living at work?
Last year, after just a few months of us all working from home, there was a lot of talk about companies not needing a dedicated office space anymore because everyone’s happier at home. I can’t have been the only person to find that really shortsighted?
A few months in, I could see why people were enjoying it; it was a nice and refreshing change not to have to commute - with your head under someone’s armpit, or being breathed on by a guy who’d over done the garlic the night before. It was a novelty to be at home, seeing more of our families, enjoying the amazing weather and getting up a bit later. But as time went on, I think many of us realised that we needed to separate our work from our home life or it just all blurs into one and work takes over; so instead of working from home, you end up feeling like you are living at work. As much as we moan about the commute, it gives us some separation between work and home life, and we need that time to get our brains into gear. If you roll out of bed at 8.50 to start work ten minutes later then your brain isn’t prepared. Those two hours of getting up, getting ready and doing the commute allowed our brains to mentally prepare for the onslaught ahead. The commute is also where you’ll find most people wading through their thousands of emails, catching up and getting ready for the day.
I’ve heard of people walking around the block as a way of ‘walking to work’ to get that demarcation and to get their brains into work mode. I'm lucky that my office is at the bottom of the garden, so I have a natural break between the two. Just by unlocking the back door, leaving the kitchen and walking down the path, my brain is leaving home and I’m gearing up for work.
Now we are a year in, the constant working from home is starting to affect people. We are all struggling with the lack of contact - even my partner who's on maternity leave has commented on how tough it has been becasue she can't see other people or do other things. Staying home the whole time isn’t working from home, it’s isolation and that’s really not good for our mental health.
The government announcement actually asked us to work from home unless it wasn’t ‘efficient’, which is, of course subjective, and I wonder just how efficient we are all being now?
Last week, a few of the team and I had to go into the office for an essential product demonstration. We all stayed for the rest of the day and got on with some work (at our socially distanced desks…). We could overhear each other’s phone calls and we could tell when someone was doing well or if they needed help. We could hear exactly where someone was struggling and we could instantly see how we could jump in and help. We could talk to each other for more than five minutes, to ask each other how we were all doing and take the time to properly listen. If someone had a great call it impacted on all of us and we all did better. We all had a fantastic day, the dynamic was really different and we all felt brilliant about what we’d collectively achieved.
I love working from home, but I’m really looking forward to getting back into the office more regularly. I think we will all need to have a balance; perhaps working from home a few days a week, and in meetings or in the office for a few days too.
So before you make any bold decisions about where you want to work now, really do consider the long term impact that it will have on you, your colleagues and your families and ask yourself, are you really as productive as you think you are? I challenge you to measure yourself and to be brutally honest. I’d love to know how you get on.
Make some steps to get back to the office if you can, and remind yourself how great it is to get outside, and to work with people. Above all, don't let your boss tell you that it's better working from home and that your life has improved.