I have now been working from home for the last four weeks and it looks likely I will be continuing to do this for a few more weeks, as there is no sign yet of the lockdown restrictions being eased. In view of this I thought it might be interesting to explore the ups and downs of working from home.
I’m fortunate in that I can do my job anywhere and do not need to be in a fixed location. The only tools I need are a laptop and a reliable internet connection. Once I get those I can connect via a VPN to our network and it’s just like being in the office.
For me one of the best things about working from home is that my commute is very short! Normally it takes me 30 minutes from leaving my house to when I’m sitting at my desk. Although the journey is short compared with some commuters, that still means I waste an hour each day travelling to and from work. I have often pondered why we commute to work when we can do our jobs at home. Surely it’s a better use of our time and also beneficial to the environment not to unnecessarily drive to work.
Working from home also means that I get less interruptions from people disturbing me and enables me to concentrate better. Invariably when you work in a busy office there is going to be a certain amount of noise. Sometimes this can be distracting and therefore working from home avoids this problem.
Thanks to the wonder of modern technology I can still keep in touch with my work colleagues. We have been having weekly departmental meetings using Microsoft Teams which works well. I must admit that I do switch off the camera facility for these meetings. I don’t wish to frighten my work colleagues needlessly!
There are some who feel that working from home can cause issues with loneliness. I personally so far have not found this a problem, but that is probably due to me being more introverted than others. However, I acknowledge that for those who are more extrovert and prefer being with people this could be a huge problem. Although being in a busy office does not necessarily prevent one from suffering from loneliness.
There are though obviously problems in working from home. The biggest one for me is my house is not suited for full time working from home. It’s ok for the odd day. I could probably make it work for once a week or once a fortnight but not for every day. I’m currently doing my work at the dining room table on a normal chair.
Additionally I am doing all my work on a 13 inch laptop. In the office I have my laptop plugged into two big screens with another keyboard connected too. I also have a special chair and a block under my desk which raises it to a level more suitable to someone my height.
Therefore I’m encountering two main issues here: my productivity and a sore neck. Yes I can still get my work completed, but not as fast as when I’m using two big screens. I also need to manage my neck so that this problem does not escalate. This means taking regular breaks during the day and doing stretching exercises.
Another problem at home is my internet connection. For some reason my internet normally crashes between two or three times per day. I’m not sure why this happens but it does. Fortunately I have not lost any work or missed anything important but I always have an eye on it checking that it is ok. It’s somewhat ironic that when we are in the office we complain about our internal IT systems yet encounter our own IT problems at home.
Whilst I have not felt lonely at home I acknowledge that there are times when you want to run a problem past a colleague. Yes you can still email them but it’s not the same as asking them a quick question.
When working from home, if you do not have a separate room for an office like me, it can be a challenge separating work from home life. The temptation exists to have a quick look at your emails outside working hours. My personal approach is that I am trying to work exactly the same hours at home as I do in the office. The laptop is switched off at the end of the day and put away until the next morning.
The next few weeks will no doubt be a challenge and it will be interesting to see whether the lockdown leads to any long term change in people’s attitude to working from home on a more regular basis.