Surviving WFH

19 January 2021

The challenges of working from home... and how to overcome them!

Throughout the past year our work environment changed dramatically and work from home (WFH), or a home office, became widespread like never before. Let me share with you some – and surely, there are many more – challenges I saw many firms face, as well as having talked to many employees.

Managing your own working time

At first glance it sounds just great! You don’t need to get up early, you can skip your commute time, you can avoid quick lunches and you can set your own hours to work when you feel like it. Unfortunately, in reality it doesn’t always work that way - it is very difficult to set up and stick to normal business hours. You might have to homeschool your children and so can’t do everything you’d intended to. This means you end up working into the evening or worse still, put off your tasks. Most employees complain about the rigid structure of a regular schedule, but that structure can actually be hugely beneficial.

Some ideas for better time management:

  • Set your work schedule and stick to it;
  • Prioritize your tasks. If possible, don’t do too many video calls. Anything more than 6-7 video calls a day really depletes your energy and attention;
  • Try not to mix your professional and private tasks. Resist the temptation to clean the house between two video calls!
  • Don’t forget your lunch break. Try not eat your lunch at your desk, but go somewhere else to clear your head;
  • Take regular breaks. This is the key is working effectively, not working overly long hours;
  • Set boundaries. Let people know what you can and will respond to, or engage with, during work hours, and what you can’t or won’t. It also helps you to delineate;
  • Not constantly checking your emails, or not being available on chat channels until your work is completed could be also a useful idea;
  • Finally go offline once you have finished your work.

Working too much

Based on many research studies and also on my own experience, people in home office mode tend to spend more time working than before.

When your personal life and your professional one are under the same roof, it's harder to switch off either one.

How to avoid overworking:

  • Set appointments or reminders on your calendar for the end of the day to get yourself out of your office mode. Allocate time for shopping, going to the gym, being with your family or just hanging out;
  • Inform others when you're leaving and put it into your calendar or other tools, so they know you have finished your work;
  • Build physical boundaries between you and your workspace. Make sure your workspace, is separate, so you have a dedicated office space at home. If there is no possibility for such separation, place your lap top and other office tools out of sight so that when you’ve finished there is little temptation to go back and start working again.
  • Turn off all notifications. Everywhere. On your phone, laptop, whatever, so they do not pull you back into work once you’ve called it a day.

Annoying issues affecting your work

Well, we’ve all faced distracting circumstances while working from home.

These might simply be due to the set-up of our home office: an uncomfortable chair, not enough space for the laptop, etc. It might be a technical issue such as a slow internet, an electricity outage, etc. which are annoying and sometimes difficult to fix. Other disturbing things could be the noise from the neighbour’s house renovation right in the middle of your video presentation, or your partner just using the espresso machine.

At times some disturbances can be funny such as in the middle of your Zoom presentation your cat crawls across your desk in front of the camera, or one of your kids insists you to fix his/her toy asap.

The important thing is to never lose your sense of humour!

Social interactions, or lack of them.

In a ‘normal’ work environment human interaction is very important - in some roles it is even crucial.

Social contact is vital and can boost your productivity. You should find those platforms, apps and time to talk about the weekend events or other non-work related events. You could set up time with your colleagues before or after work to chat freely about more personal things.

Little or no recognition of your work

When working from home, it is possible that you, your workload or the results of your work are only partially visible to your employer or manager. This can easily happen, especially in larger organizations where remote workers are not as recognized or could be the last in line to get a promotion.

Understandably, this sort of low visibility and lack of recognition can be demotivating and possibly limit your performance in the long run.

What to do?

  • Try to help people acknowledge your presence and contribution;
  • Based on your company policies, make regular visits to your office and try to work from the office a few days a month;
  • Communicate with your manager about the tasks on which you have been working.
  • Ask for feedback as well as giving it, share your thoughts about the process, what your difficulties are and discuss your results;
  • Be brave - why wait around for someone to acknowledge your efforts when it may all come down to a lack of information?

We all have our own ideas of working from home – in many ways this unites us as a shared global experience. The future may well result in us all returning to office based lives, but even if that is the case I feel sure that over the past year we will have learned more about ourselves and our own working practices.

Zoltan Petho
Partner Hungary

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