Working from Home Sweet Home
The need to relocate and work from home has been one of the consequences arising from the coronavirus COVID-19 crises. It has placed what was before a minority pursuit at the mainstream of the working environment. For some employees, it presents an exciting opportunity to skip from the monotony of the office environment, a chance to rise a little later in the morning, work at their own pace, and generally enjoy the rare pleasure of being a professional from the comfort of their own home. For others, it is a terrifying prospect, full of blurred boundaries between where work ends, and home life begins.
Home working raises all sorts of complications for employers concerned with the wellbeing of their employees. The setting is unconventional creating uncertainty for employers and employees alike. Employers who require a high degree of oversight can find it particularly challenging. Such challenges are exaggerated when brought about by the urgent necessity to readjust, as witnessed by the current crises.
This urgency can be very stressful for employees, especially when they have not had time to prepare neither their physical environment nor had the time to adjust psychologically to the new situation. Employers should be sensitive, giving employees time and support to make such adjustments. Disturbingly, we already hear of employers not doing so with employees reporting to being stressed by unwelcome demands from their boss coming for instance outside the normal working hours. Good managers are better showing sensitivity. It is certainly not the right moment for them to assert their authority unnecessarily at what is a challenging time for everyone.
Employers should respect that the home is a very personal domain for the individual. Despite what some would regard as intrusive technology such as keyboard monitoring, even the most totalitarian regimes have generally not sought to penetrate the privacy of the home (George Orwell’s 1984 fiction aside). Employers should not do so either.
Setting such fears (or Big Brother fantasies) aside, here are some pointers to maintaining home based employee wellbeing.
Step one, create a routine in much the same way as you would if you were working in a conventional workplace environment. Get up at a regular hour, work regular hours and finish on time as you would before.
Secondly, try to keep work and home life separate; if possible, work from a designated room or cordoned off space rather than the kitchen table.
Eat regular meals and try to avoid dipping into the fridge to ward off boredom or just because you can. Take regular exercise throughout the day e.g. 5 minutes every hour.
Enjoy music or whatever turns you on but try not to have a movie running in the background. Being focused (mindful) and achieving clearly defined objectives with minimal distractions is all part of being fulfilled at work. That said, the odd sports match is not going to kill you so if you must watch whilst writing that all important report, don’t let the feeling of guilt drive you to an early grave (cricket has yet to be cancelled).
Don’t let your employer abuse you (and employers don’t abuse!). Everyone needs space and a distinction between when in work and when not, applies just as much to home working as in the office. So, unless pre-arranged, there is no need to answer calls, emails, texts, etc from a demanding boss outside your normal assigned working hours. Such intrusions can cause stress and mental fatigue causing some countries such as France to legislate against such behaviour.
Forced exclusion from the office or factory floor can be an isolating experience especially for those who enjoy the casual banter of colleagues. Skype or Google Hangout are wonderful tools for maintaining moment-by-moment dialogue – all strictly professional of course.
If employers and employees collaborate and trust each other, working from home can be the beginning of a wonderful new relationship. It is not for everyone but for many, once tasted (and with some simple rules) can be truly enriching way to work and live. Once started, you might never want it any other way. Enjoy!