The Unspoken Truths of The Working From Home Life

I’ve been working remotely for 2 years. There are so many misconceptions about the true Working From Home life.

“Oh! You work from home? I’m so jealous! You must not work much!”

I cannot stress how many times I have heard this from my friends and family.

If you think that the traveling from Monday to Thursday consultant lifestyle isn’t for everybody, the #WFH lifestyle isn’t for everyone either (I’ve done both.) I would like to share some advice and tips for those of you who are interested in the unspoken truths of the #WFH life.

When working from home, expectations for productivity are different. This could go either way. Some people strongly believe that people who work remotely can’t be trusted to deliver results. Some people expect you to be online and working 100% since there wouldn’t be any distractions. When working remotely, there is no clear perception about the acceptable amount of work to be done in a day. For better or worse, it is very easy to overwork. In other words, you technically live in your office. However, is this acceptable and feasible? What should the expectation be and how should we communicate that accurately?

  • TIP: When working remotely, your calendar represents your work schedule. My boss Kathy Piontek once advised me to block out times on my calendar for personal matters so that others can’t block out those times for meetings. I found that to be extremely helpful. Once in a while, I would block out an hour on Fridays to head out for lunch so that I would not feel obligated to answer every call or ping. Another important concept is to understand that it is not about the hours you work, but about getting the job done. Don’t ever feel obligated to put in more hours because you’re working from home.

When working from home, there’s literally no human interaction. This is by far the hardest struggle I had to overcome – lack of face time. The WFH lifestyle makes it very difficult to build connections and network with others. Oftentimes, it makes me feel isolated and discouraged. Even though I am on back-to-back calls all day, it still feels lonely that I’m essentially talking to nobody but my laptop. The lack of feedback and interaction could cause dissatisfaction at work!

  • TIP: If face-to-face interaction is important to you, you should find alternate means to work in a social setting. Work at a coffee shop/library, find other friends who are working remotely and work together, or join a local meetup after work to make new friends. If you enjoy the convenience of working from home but need some white noise in the background to help you focus, try Coffitivity, a website that recreates ambient sounds of café to boost creativity and productivity.

Lastly, when working from home, self-motivation and discipline are crucial! At first, I thought I would be very disciplined. But reality is that everyone slacks off to some degree, especially when there is no one looking over your shoulder. It is more important to accept your flaws and find out ways to improve! How do you stay motivated?

  • TIP: I’ve put several tips here because I struggled so much!
  1. Ever heard of sprint planning to focus better? Try it with Be Focused, an app that allows us to get things done in set time intervals while taking short breaks (Thanks Allison Jennings for recommending this to me!)
  2. Start your day by listing the top 3- tasks/priorities to focus on. This sets a guide for yourself and prevents you from becoming distracted.
  3. Introduce as much routine and discipline into your work schedule as possible. Allow yourself time to wake up, brush up, and change out of your PJs to get into a work mode. Despite being able to set your own schedule, there shouldn’t be a reason to start your day any later just because your first call isn’t until 11AM.
  4. A change of environment helps! At a minimum, I rotate between 3 different work stations at home (anywhere but my bed). Even though the distance is only between my kitchen counter top table and my couch, it makes a difference and helps me focus! I also work at coffee shops and libraries from time to time!

Above are my observations and tips about the #WFH life. Many companies are promoting remote work culture in their workforce to increase productivity and employee satisfaction. I hope my article can provide useful tips to maintain productivity while #WFH.

 

Article by Rachel Kam – Global Business Advisor at IBM

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