Making it work long term
From wardrobe inspiration to the best ergonomic products to buy, to how to overcome Zoom fatigue and the culture of presenteeism, tips for home working are everywhere. With major companies like Twitter announcing remote working for all their employees, working from home has become a permanent reality for many of us. Something that none of us, while working away in our makeshift offices, fully expected. So, let’s be honest here; we can all buy that freestanding ladder desk and a smart loungewear set for our important virtual meetings, but what are the long-promised benefits of working from home? How do we really make it work long term, and do we want to make it work at all?
I’m gonna miss you when you’re gone
The home working revolution has the benefits of a commute-free life, at least for now. According to a recent study, Londoners spend on average 1 hour and 19 minutes each day commuting to and from work. That’s time that could be spent with family, squeezing in an extra workout or doing things that you never had the time to do before. Another obvious benefit is the savings on travel costs. London commuters are spending almost a fifth (18%) of their salaries travelling, and working from home full time could save approximately £5,114 a year (excluding all those overpriced lunches and morning lattes of course.) To put it into context, that’s 10% of the average deposit for a mortgage in London*.
However, the long and expensive daily commute offers something that an extra yoga session or a morning jog doesn’t. Like a podcast on the train, a coffee while waiting for the bus, or simply a moment of reflection on the evening commute. All these little moments act as a transition between our home and work lives. The study suggests, the daily commute gives us an opportunity to engage in ‘role-clarifying prospection’, meaning it gives us more time and space to think about our day. So, perhaps we need to introduce new habits in the absence of our daily commute rituals; something that prepares us mentally for the day ahead the same way a bus or train journey does.
Changing attitudes of place and space
Morning coffees from our local coffee shop, slightly healthier lunches, walks around the nearest park and more flexibility. These have been the main silver linings of remote working for many of us. However, the shift towards a more remote future has made us reassess our living spaces and how we want to use them. It’s only natural that home movers will be searching for homes with larger kitchens, extra space to work and more outdoor space. Plus, living in close proximity to green open spaces in areas with good cycling paths and faster broadband connectivity will also be the top priorities for home movers. In fact, a recent survey revealed that one in five people said that being able to walk or cycle to work will be important to them. This increases to almost half of those living in London, with 35% of people also prioritising being near to green spaces. More than a quarter of Londoners also said that high-speed broadband will be an important factor when choosing their next home.
The conventional view has always been that offices are critical to productivity, creativity and collaboration. These social and intellectual benefits of the office were easily overlooked, until we unexpectedly found ourselves deprived of them. Now, we are left with virtual ‘watercooler moments’ and ‘good mornings’ in a form of GIFs. For those working from home, it’s been difficult to manage the sudden blurring of work and home boundaries. We have realised that we can’t be our most creative in pyjamas, or properly listening to our Zoom meetings between multiple trips to the fridge. In the absence of after-work drinks and all the other interactions that made the 9-5 more bearable, there also comes the longing for real human interaction, team cohesion and mentorship. Something that a Zoom call just can’t recreate.
Now, we need to find a new way to build collaborative workplaces, learn how to set boundaries and stay productive without an actual office. Research suggests that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach when it comes to working from home. Some people are more productive, while others will always prefer to work from an office. There’s a lot of research that cites blurred boundaries between work and home as the main issue for remote workers. So, it’s important to consider time and space. Creating more schedules and routines, sticking to your predetermined working hours as well as being able to negotiate your working hours between your family and colleagues will help you stay on track. Dressing for work will also help you to bring your whole self to work. Plus, organising real life catch ups with your colleagues every now and then will fuel better relationships and communication. To help, we have put together a list of tips here.
While not everyone has that spare room; we might have to learn to build a greater tolerance for family intrusions and distractions. There will be many challenges that we will need to face, but we might find ourselves re-establishing the norms of remote working and develop new skills over time.
Home is where the work is?
The truth is, whether remote working is short-lived or becomes a permanent future, at some point it will once again be safe to commute to office buildings that will never be the same as when we left them. There’s no doubt that this shift has presented a steep learning curve for all of us. If we didn’t know that before the pandemic, then we clearly know now that working from home is complex, and it’s a very personal decision. For some it might be overrated, for others it’s a luxury, but for a while at least, it is here to stay.