The new normal

Covid 19 has dramatically changed the world we live and work in. The things we trusted such a short time ago are no longer meaningful or even exist in many situations. We took for granted our daily commute, our working environment, the opportunities to meet friends, hug our family or stand close to a stranger in a queue. 

Prior to the pandemic, who would have thought that working from home could be a possibility for so many?  In a short space of time offices were abandoned and we began our encounter with a very different working world. An environment where managers manage their teams remotely, relying on trust to get the job done. Zoom stopped being just a noun and became a verb for meeting others whether personally or professionally. Words like unprecedented, furloughed, isolation and immunology tripped off the tongue as part of the new daily vernacular.  

For many, the current situation is all so far removed from the regular daily commute and school run. Less than four months ago even a whisper of home working would have been flung aside like something from an Atwood dystopian future.

For some, like myself, working from home is the norm. Shortly after taking the plunge into the self-employed pool of educational consultants and coaches, I made the choice to work from home. 

I have to admit that it’s not for everyone, especially if you are balancing a laptop on the arm of the sofa day in day out. Having the right space is key to successful and productive flexible working. 

Discipline

It also requires discipline. I have a routine, but it’s flexible. Sometimes I don’t start work until 10 or 10.30 but I have a TDL (To Do List) with tasks to be completed that day. Once I sit down at my desk, I do the tasks and don’t finish work (except for scheduled breaks) until the actions are complete. 

Other times, I’m at my desk at 6 am because I’m awake and I have a job or project I want to get cracking on. I might finish early or late or I may take a day off sometimes because I’m ahead of schedule. I don’t need someone behind me cracking the whip as I have self-imposed targets and deadlines and that’s all I need to be productive.

Workspace

I am fortunate to have a dedicated workspace with bookshelves, a desk, office furniture, a printer and the regular paraphernalia that you find in a regular office building. But there is also a dog bed, a salt lamp, pot plants and an incense burner. 

My workspace is at the top of the house with 2 flights of stairs to climb every time the postman calls or the dog needs a walk. It keeps me relatively fit and means that people don’t just pop in. 

Pre-Covid, any meetings were generally held in public spaces. Coffee shops reaped the benefits of small business networks and meetings. Of course, the situation has changed, and we have all become familiar with Zoom, Skype, GoTo, Messenger or your app of choice.

What does the future hold?

Kate Lister from Global Workplace Analytics, forecasts that flexible working, i.e. working from home and the office, will increase with  25-30% of the workforce working-from-home multiple days a week by the end of 2021. 

Many companies and corporations are making short term plans for flexible working in 2020. Spotify says its workforce of more than 4,000 can work from home for the rest of the year.

The Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey has offered staff the option of working from home permanently.

So, it seems there are lots of willing employers and employees. But, what are the disadvantages for post-Covid flexible working?

In January 2017, Regus  conducted a worldwide survey of 20,000 managers and business owners which revealed some interesting statistics about the disadvantages of working from home.

Forty-eight percent of those surveyed reported that children or family demands was the number one issue when working at home.

But in 2020, having a toddler wander across the screen in a Zoom meeting is real life and a little faux pas’ like this a slight distraction rather than a giant misdemeanour.

There are going to be challenges to working from home but none of these seem unsurmountable if you have the space. If you’re going to work at home, rather than just be at home, you need to create an environment that will allow you to operate in a business-like manner. This includes having the relevant tools and a schedule that maintains your motivation but discourages others from interrupting you.

 Ches Moulton, aka The Stress Master says that,

‘The four high frequency negative stressors, anticipation, situation, encounter and time are all in play as we adopt and adapt to new working environments. To successfully manage the stress of constant change we need to determine what we can control and what we can’t.’ 

There are clear advocates for flexible or home working. Andie Killeen, Digital Sales Manager at Seven West Media shared this comment on LinkedIn recently. 

“I don’t want things to go ‘back to normal’, I like my home office. I enjoy taking my dog for a walk in the afternoon instead of reaching for a chocolate bar to get me through the 3pm slump. I’m eating healthier meals I am less distracted and more focussed. I am absolutely, without a doubt, working more hours than ‘before’ but I don’t resent it (as much) when I’m in my Ugg boots and don’t have to drive myself home at the end of the day.

Just because we CAN go back to the office, I‘m not convinced that we SHOULD. At least not all day, every day. Let’s not go back to thinking that if a person is not in the office at their desk this somehow demonstrates their lack of productivity. Let’s trust ourselves and each other to get the job done from wherever we choose. Let’s value work life balance, and mental health more than we did ‘before’. Just as we have for the past 3 months

Is this the same for you or is working from home proving to be a job from hell? I’d love to hear your thoughts

Photo Agni

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