“Once upon a time, there used to be a place called the office”. Okay; stop right there. I don’t want to be telling this story to my kids when they grow up. Call me old school, but I am one of those people who really loves going to the office, mainly because it allows me to appreciate my non-work life at home that much more. I miss the charm of switching off and heading home after a hard day’s work and spending uninterrupted quality time with my family – until 2020 happened.
Don’t get me wrong. I fully appreciate the many upsides of WFH. Productivity has increased. Companies are cutting down on fixed costs. Agreed. However, for normal working stiffs like me, WFH comes with its own cost, mainly at the expense of my personal time and life. Changing where we work from has not only disturbed the way we work, it has drastically affected how we manage our free time. In a few short months, this new domesticated work culture has blurred the already fading lines between home and work life, playing havoc with both.
Nowadays, you are never really in full work mode, neither can you enjoy your home life entirely. It is a constant state of flux, especially for people who are almost exclusively working online. And despite the fact that WFH is going to take some time getting used to, here are some suggestions to make it feel a little more like a day at the office.
Define Your Workspace
Avoid waking up and working in the first place you see. Pick a room and use it exclusively as your office. Ensure that it has a proper desk, chair, WiFi connection and the necessary tech for virtual meetings. Decorate it with your office mug, water bottle or bulletin board. Most importantly, ensure this space is free from all distractions, especially friends and family. If they didn’t bother you at the office before, there is no reason to start now.
It’s A Bedroom, Not A Boardroom
Your bedroom may be the heart of your home, but it is not the ideal workspace. In fact, it is probably the worst place to work in. Sure, it may seem convenient (and decadent) to launch into a Zoom meeting via your laptop while loafing in bed, but the truth is that you are destroying the sanctity of the one place in your home that is meant for relaxation (working excessively in your bedroom can even lead to insomnia). Pick a room that can be repurposed exclusively for work and use it for nothing other than that.
No Pajamas, Please
Look, nobody expects you to show up on a video call sporting Armani, but that doesn’t mean it is okay to throw all decorum out of the window. Wear something that is appropriate or at the very least not distracting. Nobody wants to discuss the stripes on your PJ’s halfway through a business meeting. Even if you are meeting people online, you are still meeting them, so appearances always count. What you choose to wear (or not wear) under the table and off camera is your choice.
Be Available But Not All the Time
WFH does not necessarily mean working all the time, even if you are home all the time. Changing where you work should not affect when you work. Keep your routine structured, including your off-time. Your family (especially kids) and office should know when you are accessible and when you are not. Be sure to sign out after hours and on the weekend. Whatever you do, don’t make yourself available to the office at all times. Work is like temptation – it always comes through the door that is left open.
No one knows when this pandemic will loosen its grip on our lives. It could be six months or six years. We don’t know when it will be completely safe to go back to the office, or start shaking hands again or plan our next vacation. But as Clarence Darrow said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, rather the ones most adaptable to change.”
It is critical we learn to master the art of WFH so that we can ensure that when things go back to normal, we too can go back to work as normal. Back to fixed working hours, back to weekends, back to life.
Asrar Alam is Creative Director, Spectrum Y&R. firstname.lastname@example.org