Yeah, things are pretty strange right now. The days are all blending, weeks pass by like days, we’re not interacting like we used to, and most of our workloads haven’t gotten any smaller. If anything, they’ve increased. I know mine has. All these factors, when taken together, make it easy to overdo it and overwork ourselves when working from home. I wanted to share some observations I’ve made over the past 10+ months.
Two Different Paradigms
Let’s compare the way we used to work with the way we’re now working from home. We’ll challenge ourselves to observe our unique situations.
The Workday of Yore
I’m not sure I’d go so far as to call them “the good ol’ days,” but at least the pros and cons of a typical 9-to-5 office job are well known. Omnipresent management with knowledge of everyone’s deadlines (and little regard for their workloads). Getting to talk to and have lunch with like-minded coworkers. Ambient noises from uninteresting conversations about in-laws or children’s plays. Having some variety of environments in your day. The constant fight to not become sedentary, and so many other things.
While office work isn’t perfect, it does provide a structured environment from which you can do your job. Many of us prefer structure to work done during odd timeframes or on a reactionary basis, especially those, like myself, with a personality and mind conducive to development.
Your Home as an Office
Working from home is a unique monster. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, I tend toward a more structured workday, so I don’t struggle with getting things done, though I imagine some do. There are certainly more distractions at home. You also never realize how many functionality issues you have with your home until you spend every waking hour, 7-days a week, in it. These facts probably explain why companies like Home Depot and Lowes are making huge profits during the pandemic.
The pros are honestly pretty good when I think about them. I spend a lot less money on food because I don’t eat out as much. I save a ridiculous amount of money on gas, not having to drive to downtown and back. Oh, and I can work in my pajamas.
The cons of working from home are a little more challenging, though. I don’t eat the right things. I find myself snacking instead of making myself a well-balanced lunch. My soda intake has sky-rocketed because of its availability, meaning my water intake has dropped as a direct result. New distractions such as my neighbor’s annoying dogs that bark at anything that moves, and people marching in with questions and topics of conversation at any point in the day because I must now be available 24/7 </sarcasm>.
One of the major problems I have is managing my time. It doesn’t affect my ability to meet deadlines or produce terrific work, quite the opposite. It causes me to overwork myself. Before I know it, I’ve been at my desk for well over 12 hours, only stopping to relieve myself and eat. As a developer, I tend to know the result I intend to reach. When I’ve worked out the path to get there, in my head, I don’t want to stop working for fear of losing my train of thought.
Changing Course, Righting the Ship, or Shaping Up
I need to correct this behavior for my health as well as the health of those around me. I’ve thought of a few obvious things to start. The “low hanging fruit,” if you will.
Establishing Some Timeframes
One of the pros of working in an office is that you, typically, have a fixed set of hours. That’s not something I established at home, and I can tell. I’ll start at 8 a.m., as I would normally do, but I’ll plow right past 5 p.m. without thinking a thing about it. It seems odd because I didn’t do that at the office. Like most people, I was looking at the clock as the time to leave approached.
I also need to take more breaks throughout the day. Though it’s getting chilly outside, I need to take more walks. To go outdoors, get some fresh air, and avoid being so inactive during the day. One quick method I’ve been developing is a handy little tool for relaxing at my desk called “Breathe.” Its purpose is to give me something else to focus on instead of the task at hand. It’s surprising how many times I’ve come up with an answer to a problem after taking a moment to look away and disconnecting myself from it.
Engaging with Others
If it’s possible and safe for you to engage with others, it’s a good idea to do so. Perhaps you have a spouse, significant other, or someone else living with you, invite them to go on your walk with you. Maybe you haven’t talked with your parents in a while, call them. See how they are doing and what they’ve been up to during the past months of relative sequestration. You could even have a video call with them and show off all the things you’ve done with the additional money you’ve spent at Home Depot.
Wrapping It Up
Okay, everything is a little wonky at the moment. And, yes, things are slowly starting to get back to “normal.” But normal probably won’t be the same for a lot of people any longer. Many companies have realized that remote work is a viable means of getting things done. It also saved a lot of companies an enormous amount of money on building maintenance and parking-related fees. So quite a few of us will have to learn to make do with what we have. With a few changes and some adaptation (which humans are terrific at), you may find yourself never wanting to go to an office again.