2020 has been a heavy year for us in some sort of way; dealing with a pandemic, loss, grief etc. Unfortunately, 2021 will continue on the same note. The truth is that until our governments find effective ways to stop the spread of COVID-19 or distribute the vaccine for free or affordable ‘For All’, the virus will not disappear when we usher in the New Year in our homes. Therefore, we still need to continue taking safety precautions in the New Year.
One safety precaution of COVID-19 — working from home may be here to stay for some of us whose organisations have opted to close their physical offices. The pandemic has revealed to some organisations that they can still be able to have positive outputs even when their employees are working from home.
According to FlexJobs’ survey, 95% of respondents say that their productivity has been higher or the same working from home, and 51% report being more productive when working remotely.
I am sure it has not been easy being accountable to yourself as you work from home, without a supervisor hovering around your workspace ensuring that you working and not ‘wasting company internet bandwidth’ doing random shit on the internet.
In my case, I am 10 months into working from home and I don’t think I want to ever work in a physical office. This means that even when I seek new opportunities I will not only be looking for good pay and benefits but for an organisation that has full or partial remote working.
The Positive Side of Working from Home
Remote working has come with a lot of positives in my personal life:
1. Saved travel costs
Waking up and not commuting to work. I would spend 5 hours commuting to work every Monday to Friday and another 3 hours commuting home — a total of 8 hours lost. This has not only been kind to my monthly expenditure but it has allowed me to get sufficient sleep.
1. Reduced stress and anxiety levels.
The hours that I would lose on my commute I use to rest and put in work in other aspects of my life. Additionally, not having to deal with some employees' micro-aggressions at work has also reduced my anxiety levels.
2. Increased productivity
I was listing all the things I have worked on this year and I must say my productivity has improved both for work and for myself.
Top Tips on How to Work From Home
I am still a newbie in the working-from-home lifestyle but here are some tips that I have learned along the way that will help if you are struggling with working from home:
- Create a schedule
Within a couple of months of working from home, you will realize your most productive hours. Using your most productive hours, create a visual or audible schedule that includes your meetings and tasks of the day. By the end of the day/night, tick off all the tasks you were able to complete.
2. Create a workspace
If possible create a specific section in your home into a comfortable place you can be able to work that is friendly to your back, neck and concentration.
Organisations should ensure that their employees have all the bare minimum tools to work from home such as; laptops and internet connection.
3. Create time to rest
On your schedule, ensure to put in some time to rest. Remote working can have you working throughout the day like a marathon; if you are not deliberate you will end up burning out. Therefore, take some time to nap, walk, spend time with your family, dance, exercise or whatever you can do to allow your brain and body to re-energize.
….And take your leave days!
4. Improve your communication skills
Remote working will force you into communicating with your team. This is because your supervisor can no longer walk up to you to remind you of a task that you may have missed. This requires the organisation to invest in communication and organisations tools such as Flock, Asana, Monday etc. These tools allow teams to create and assign group tasks and chats.
Effective communication builds trust and accountability between you and your teammates, which means fewer tasks will fall through the cracks.
To add to this, there is such a thing as over-communication- every task does not have to be a Zoom meeting, send an email or message using official organisation communication tools such as Flock.
5. Create and respect boundaries
Remote working means setting up an office in your home, if you do not leave alone you will have to set boundaries in your home during your working hours. Some of us come from African homes and I know your parents/guardians are boiling seeing you on your laptop instead of helping out with the housework. When you create your schedule ensure you put in house chores as well as your work tasks. It will also be important to share your schedule with the people you live with, so they know when you are busy and need alone time.
Boundaries also apply to employees and employers; working from home does not mean that we should have Zoom meetings at odd hours of the morning or night — unless the meeting includes staff from different time zones. To add to this, I know some employers would love to increase daily workloads thinking that their employees are not working. Instead, have employees working with tangible outputs rather than working with the hours they have clocked in. Therefore, it is important to develop effective activity work plans for each project.
6. Lastly, Practice Kindness!
We are still working from home in a pandemic; some of us have not figured out how to do it and are going through anxiety, stress, grief and loss. Try to be less hard on yourself and if you have a safe work team communicate with them about the challenges you are facing or seek out therapy if you have the funds or insurance.
Practice kindness with your teammates as well, even when requesting or talking about work-related stuff– lets us not use this to take advantage of each other.
For employers, avoid threatening, gas lighting your employees. I know you are afraid that your organisation will collapse during this time, however, if you have made it through to the final month of 2020 and your company has been able to generate income and not downsize, you owe it to your employees. During this time your employees require all the motivation they can get — remember your employees having a healthy work-life balance can result in increased productivity.
At the end of the day, I know that remote working is a privilege some of us cannot access. They are several people around the world who have not been able to work from home since the pandemic began because the nature of their work requires them to be in a physical office, especially during this time when they put their lives and that of their family at risk to make sure they stay afloat. Therefore, I know my opinions on working from home are biased towards those of us who can work from home.
Here is to hoping that 2021 will be kinder to us and wishing you all a better 2021!