There are several, palpable advantages to working from home.
You can stay in bed longer and tick a few household chores off your do-to list at lunchtime. You can dodge the delights of commuting, and the horrors of the pre-packed lunchtime sarnie. And, hopefully, you can avoid getting the coronavirus.
But with the perks come the pitfalls. These are the classic mistakes you’re liable to make if you’re suddenly working from home…
1. Working in your pyjamas
It’s the cardinal sin of the home-working world – but we’ve all done it. The symbolic effect of clothes is backed by enough studies to fill several spreadsheets, and doing office jobs in your jammies is a quick way of decimating your productivity.
We know it’s tempting to set your alarm for 8:59, and roll out of bed into your swivel chair, but at the very least do yourself the courtesy of clothing. And don’t risk so-called ‘Skype uniform’ – jacket and shirt for visible half, Mickey Mouse trackies for the rest. You might have to get up to fetch a file…
2. Taking too many breaks
Having an internet connection is often distraction enough, and once you remove your boss’s beady gaze anarchy can quickly take hold. It’s like moving from the regimented lesson time of school to the self-structured library time of university, and, just like at university, it can take a while to adjust.
And don’t get sucked into household chores with the justification that ‘it’s still work.’ You’re out of sight, not out of mind.
3. Not taking enough breaks
The flip side of flexibility is that your work has no clear end point, and on Sunday or Monday your surroundings look the same. If you take your foot off the gas during the daytime you’ll pay for it after hours, and weekend inbox checking can quickly become habitual.
Burnout can happen anywhere, and you need to keep drawing the line between work and play, even when that line is not geographical.
4. Not having a proper work space
Remember that HR person who told you your funny ringtone was “not conducive to a working environment”? You now see what they meant, and a decent home office needs a distraction-free desktop, minimal street noise, and, most importantly, an ergonomic chair.
And unless you live in a studio flat, do not work where you sleep. At 9am you’ll be at your desk, by noon you’ll have graduated to an armchair, and by 3pm you’ll be on your bed with a duvet over your toes.
5. Beware your family
Unpopular opinion: school holidays should be immediately abolished. There seems to be an assumption among younger generations that your mere physical presence means it’s open season for play time, snack time, and helping them find their lost toy time.
It’s particularly irksome when friends or partners fail to see the issue. No, I can’t come for tennis Wednesday morning. What do you mean, ‘why?’
6. Struggling with tech
There’s few things more frustrating that sitting down at your desk to find that your computer/monitor/internet connection is malfunctioning, probably in a way you’re wholly unqualified to understand.
The tech team are miles away, and wireless routers, office VPNs and home printers can all go wrong for absolutely no reason. Your best defence is luck.
7. Getting lonely
You never thought you’d miss Sharon from accounts, but now your day consists of email alerts and typing sounds, a dose of water cooler gossip actually sounds quite nice. There’s a lot to be said for face-to-face meetings – even via Skype.