Work from home can be a blessing, or a curse…
This year marks the 4th year in my software development career that I have been given the privilege of working from home. Before the workforce was compelled to adapt to C19, I worked from home 3 days for the week, transitioning to fulltime work from home during the pandemic. In this article, I will be outlining my personal experience and advice, but every situation in different, and the best advice is that you need to be honest, open and retrospective about work from home. It’s a blessing, and it can be a curse if not handled properly.
What does honest, open and retrospective mean? Be honest and open to your managers and family, and those around you, be retrospective to understand what works and what does not. A bit about my situation, living with family, my wife and I share a studio apartment. We share the rest of the household amenities with the family. Most of the advice comes from this context. Making work from home manageable while your living space is shared with your working space.
Separating the Spaces
If you’re a single room dweller like I am, it’s important that you draw the line where you work, and where you play. Having a designated work area is best. What works in my experience is actually having a physical barrier from the other parts of the room. This can be a simple partition that you get at the store. It secures privacy and helps with focus. When the laptop closes, and you step out, It’s no longer being at work, even though you’re in the same room. I will talk about this a bit more in the “Boundaries” section of this post.
Off means Off
It’s easy to get into the habit of overwork, but Off means off. Don’t make it a habit to work overtime. This has to be the one that I struggle with the most.
There is always going to be more work.
Overworking yourself isn’t worth it. The negative effects permeate through work and family life. At some point the law of diminishing returns set in and your efficiency sinks through the floor. There are so many times where I would wrestle with a problem, a piece of code, a task for hours overtime only to solve it in a third of the time in the morning with fresh eyes. The CEO of the company once told me that consistent working overtime was a signal of poor planning. I tend to agree with this, the better you plan your day, the more effective you will be in your workday. There are exceptions, but they should be just that.
We all may have put on some weight over the last two years, I’m definitely in that camp. Take time…No…Make Time for your health.
Mental Health, Spiritual Health and Physical health are all equally important. There are times where my mental health was connected to my physical health, the feeling of being lethargic after sitting 8 or more hours at a desk, only to then eat, and sit some more. From aches and pains to a noted decrease in strength and cardiovascular health, it started to take a toll. As a Christian, spiritual health is important to me, and taking time from your day to pray or read scripture has a great impact on my mental state. At the end of the day, being healthy means finding the balance between caring for all three aspects of your health. Here are some useful pointers:
- Make it a habit to move. Take a short walk, stretch, get the blood flowing.
- Stop snacking on junk. Goodbye to the sweets, the biscuits and cakes. After tracking, I would consume at times 800+ calories in just snacks. Replace unhealthy snacks with fulling healthy alternatives.
- Get a gym membership / home workout
- Plant a garden. Large or small, It takes your mind off of work and gives you a sense of pride when you reap.
- Take a walk outdoors when you can.
- Spend time with family/friends.
- Don’t be afraid to get help if you feel like things are getting to a bad place.
(this is not medical advice, please ensure to consult with a doctor )
There may be a temptation by family members or even yourself to get distracted during work hours. To do things “because you are home”. There may even be some negative feedback from the household, where the assumption can be, you’re home and “have time to do things” during work hours. When you’re on the clock, you’re on the clock. Sure there may be some exceptions, but typically, I treat my work day very similarly to if I had to commute. What I mean here is, have a routine and be disciplined about it. Don’t be brushing your teeth during the morning meeting, that’s not something you would do at the office, don’t make it a habit at home. Always be dressed appropriately as well, not formally, but appropriately. Being in your jammies at the desk is not good. The converse of this is true as well, when you’re off the clock, then treat the family with the same respect as you did with the work time. This balance and boundary keeps me sane, and I guarantee it would make a big difference to you as well.
These are my personal tips to you. Some I have learnt the hard way, some are still being worked on actively. Hope they make your work from home life easier, happier and more enjoyable.