Over recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the work from home setup. Employers and employees were starting to realize that offering the flexibility of working from home might actually be mutually beneficial.
This was true even before most of us were forced to transition from offices to working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic. We had to quickly adapt to the new normal work set up. This meant more online meetings, the blurring of work life and home life, and honestly, (admit it for even a tiny bit), missing lunch out or water break gossip with our colleagues.
It was unnerving at the start, and to some extent, exhausting, to adjust and cope up with the changes we certainly did not anticipate nor ask for. We had to deal with the anxiety and uncertainty on how our lives, our routines, and our communities are changing because of the pandemic.
This article offers support on how to work from home more effectively and productively without sacrificing your work and life balance. We will talk about work from home tips on how to maintain productivity, like staying motivated by spicing things up with some home office ideas, while still making your mental health a priority. And if you are on the hunt for something new, we will also take a look at some work from home jobs that you can consider, as well as some part time work from home alternatives.
Advantages and Disadvantages of the Work From Home Setup
Working from home, as with working in the office, does have its share of disadvantages and advantages. As the world starts to recover, more and more people, like yourself, might be asking if working from home is the way to go moving forward.
Benefits of Working From Home
The reason why the work from home setup caught on the trend pretty quickly is that companies and employees alike have recognized the benefits that it brings for both parties. Businesses are realizing that granting employees the flexibility of work might actually inspire productivity while saving money on operational and logistics costs. Likewise, employees are given the opportunity to relieve themselves of the stress that often comes with traveling to work. It also allows them to focus on working on a better and healthier work life balance.
1 – It has become more accessible and easier.
Thanks to technology, connecting with your colleagues doesn’t have to be a headache (technically!) and can easily be just one or a few taps away. We have seen the rise of online video conferencing platforms over the past few months. Remember when we had to quickly learn how to use Zoom? Likewise, sharing and storing documents or files has become more convenient with the emergence of cloud technology.
2 – Spend less time and money on commuting.
Apart from the convenience of working from home can bring to you, it can also be a source of saving opportunities on different resources, not just money but also your precious time. Pre-COVID, you might have spent, give or take, 54 minutes a day to commute to and from work, which was how much time a typical American spent on commuting. With work from home, perhaps the only travel you’ll have to do in a day is going from your bed to your home office.
3 – Have a schedule you can flex!
Many work from home companies grant their employees the liberty to clock-in or clock-out anytime. This gives you the freedom to control your day as long as you still complete your work. This can be important especially if you’re balancing a lot of things on your plate. If you are a working mom or dad who has to attend to both yours and your kids’ needs, it gives extra support to be able to decide your work schedule.
4 – Save money.
With the time you might have spent on commuting before, every morning might have felt like a marathon – a figurative race against the clock. This may mean having to rush out of the house and skipping breakfast altogether, having to get your morning fix from a nearby cafe, and then getting lunch takeaways because you didn’t get the chance to prepare a proper meal. All these expenses add up. Plus, we haven’t even touched on travel costs yet or fuel expenses if you’re driving.
5 – Your home office is yours to customize!
This should excite the hidden interior designer spirit in us! Now that you control your workspace, you dictate what goes in and what goes out in there. If you are a plant parent, surrounding yourself with pots of indoor plants might be the key to ignite the spark in you to easily beat the deadlines or finally present that grand marketing idea you’ve been sitting on for months. If you’re more on the vintage aesthetic side of things, you can throw in some antique wallpapers or homey side tables. A trip to the thrift shop to get yourself a miniature grandfather’s clock might just be what you need. When we’re in the office, we sometimes don’t get to choose what we bring into our workstation.
6 – Control work distractions.
Workplace distractions are inevitable, which can sometimes slow down your productivity. This can range from sudden standup meetings to annoying interruptions, to unnecessary strict office policies. You might not have control over some of these distractions. Working from home can bring back that sense of control over your environment.
7 – Achieve work-life balance.
Ever heard of the proverb, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?” Don’t be like Jack. Thankfully, there has been a general shift towards achieving a balance between work and life. We have been repeating the words ‘flexibility’ and ‘control’ while talking about working from home. When you have the power these two things can offer, you get to decide how you spend your time. And really, if there’s one thing the pandemic taught us – it’s to make the most of things while we still have them.
Taking distractions and travel time out of the equation, we might actually have more time to spend with the people or things we love the most. Call your parents or grandparents today now that you have the extra hour. Sit down and eat lunch with your kids. Facetime with your best friends. Read that book that you’ve been using as a paperweight for months. There’s more to life than what happens on your computer screen. This might just be the ultimate offering of work from home.
Challenges of Working From Home
Let’s get real. Working from home is not all flowers and rainbows. We might not have been able to adjust as easily or as quickly as we would have wanted. There may still be other challenges to face on a daily basis even after working from home for quite some time.
1 – A constant battle with your willpower.
You know what they say: willpower is a finite resource. Some days it might not be as easy to sit through the whole eight-hour shift. It might even take a lot of effort just to get up and out of bed in the morning. And with no authority or no boss, we can easily lose the battle with willpower. With no proper personal systems in place, we can lose track of our work schedule. Your HR manager won’t be dropping by your workstation to check in on some things from time to time.
2 – Difficulty with setting up a new routine.
We jumped off from one work routine to another, and as with many things in life, starting a new endeavor is not easy. With the new environment, we will need to figure out and build new routines – while factoring in some new set of distractions and costs.
3 – Having to deal with boredom quite often.
If you’re one person who finds joy in social interaction or you identify yourself as a team player where you thrive in a team setting, working alone at home might not come quickly and easily for you. Even the best of the introverts is not safe from the threat of boredom. If you have been in one place for a long time, you will eventually get bored with the lack of action and novelty. So no more ‘Band Shirt Wednesdays’? Probably. But you can definitely do ‘Band Shirt Everyday’ by yourself.
4 – Plus, the never-ending technical difficulties!
When you can’t get your document printed out or when you accidentally lost your password or you just suddenly got disconnected from the internet in the middle of a meeting, it only takes a ring to get the IT guy to drop by your workstation. While some of our tech problems can be resolved through remote support, some things might just be alien to our non-techie brains.
5 – Longer turnaround times, aka, “Ugh, how much longer?”
You might need to reach out to IT for the tech difficulty you’ve been experiencing or to another colleague for an issue or a project that you’ve been working on, but with the remote set up, your waiting time might be longer than usual. After all, you can no longer physically tap their shoulder to call their attention.
6 – Goodbye Work Bestie.
We need allies everywhere and the workplace might just be one place where you can find a best friend to lean on when the going gets tough at work. Or maybe you just need someone to sit with at the pantry or run with to the nearest Starbucks to get yourselves a caramel cafe latte to get through the remainder of the afternoon. Having a work bestie can serve as a buffer against uncertainty and stress. The quality of friendships we create at work can even foster workplace productivity. Working alone at home can mean just making your coffee by yourself.
How to Work from Home Effectively
Of course, we are not ending this article on the challenges. We have compiled actionable steps below on how to work from home effectively.
Do NOT let work invade your home and your personal life.
First things first, while we’re bringing work to our homes, it is important to not let your work overpower your home. We have already talked about work life balance, and we cannot underscore enough that a line should be drawn between work and home. Here are some working from home tips to make your new work experience more effective and worthwhile.
Choose Your Space
Set up a place in your house or room solely dedicated to working. Light it up and settle down. Your home office is literally where all the work takes place, and for the magic to occur you have to set it up for success. Choose a place in your house where you feel you can be the most productive. Is it the kitchen table, the dining area, the study room, or a spot on the couch? (On some days, you might just want to stay in bed!) Once you identified your new workplace, set the tone and ambiance. Personalize your workspace. A large portion of your day will be spent there. Throw in some flowers or warm lights if that’s what works for you. Essentially, make it as conducive for work as possible.
Set Your Work Time
There are only 24 hours a day. If you’re working full-time, a third of that is already taken up by work. Be strict with it. Set a work time that’s totally separate from personal time. While some of us are given the flexibility to set our own schedule, we might want to consider sticking to regular working hours. If you feel your best in the morning, consider starting your workday in the morning while taking your coffee.
It is equally as important that you also communicate your work schedule to your colleagues and to your boss. If you have been given the freedom to set your own time, you might want to discuss this with them so they know when to reach you and when they can expect your response. Your boss can also tell you when they might need you the most. And from there, you can both adjust accordingly.
Build Up Your Routine
Setting up a routine can be a challenge, especially if you are just starting out with working from home. Your mind was used to having your home as a place of relaxation, and suddenly, work came into the picture. Once you’ve set up your workplace and your work schedule, build a routine around it. Do you prefer working out in the morning or in the afternoon? Do you eat breakfast early or do you just skip to brunch? With a routine, you’re taking off mental energy on things that can be completed on autopilot and spend that energy elsewhere.
Draw the Line
Once you’ve identified your work schedule and home office locations, it’s time to set boundaries and let people know. Communicate this clearly to your co-workers and to your family members. Chances are, they will communicate theirs with you as well, and you can agree to respect these boundaries. Setting boundaries, especially at work, should actually be a collaborative effort. When it becomes a collaboration, the work process will flow much smoother.
Maximize your breaks. If you’re granted a 30-minute paid break, make sure to take it. You can do two 15-minutes, too. Stretch it out, take your dog out for a short walk, or treat yourself to a warm lunch. Do not underestimate break times. Taking your break allows you to refresh your mind and become even more productive at work.
Keep in Touch
Working from home already physically isolates you versus when you’re in an office surrounded by your co-workers. It can get a little bit lonely. As social beings, creating friendships contributes to our overall well-being. Make use of technology to keep in touch with friends, family, and teammates. Pick up the phone from time to time for a quick checking in. Sending a funny wholesome work from home meme or two sometimes doesn’t hurt either. The key is to keep the communication going even when we’re far away from each other.
How To Work From Home With Kids
When you’re working from home with kids, setting boundaries and managing your time properly can be extremely challenging. Needs and demands can come from different places; these can easily take a toll on your mental health and even on your relationships – both work and personal. The pandemic brought a lot of things to a halt and this included school closures, which means that our kids are now at home 24/7.
If you’re a working mom or dad, then at one point you might have muted yourself in the middle of a conference call because one of your kids just barged into the room asking for a breakfast they finished 10 minutes ago! It’s easy to get worn out with this setup, but there are a few things you can incorporate into your routine to make it even a little bit bearable.
Create a schedule.
Create a work schedule and share responsibilities if help is available. If you have a spouse or another family member at home, schedule times or shifts when the other one can take over looking after the kids. You can take the mornings, and they can take the afternoons. Or, you can do it alternately. Sit down with them and plot the schedule together.
Set up a routine.
In some cases, where help might not be accessible, build a strong routine with your kids. Setting up nap times and a playdate schedule might help. If your kids are at the age where they can help with housework, enlist their help, and even set a schedule to take turns with chores.
Be kind to yourself.
Parenting is already extremely hard and balancing it while working from home is already almost impossible. Consider talking to your boss about your situation. If you’re honest with them about the difficulty of your situation, any reasonable boss will be willing to work things out with you and even plan arrangements to help you out. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented kindness.
Best Work From Home Jobs
If you are on the lookout for something new, we’ve got you covered as well. More remote work from home jobs are opening up due to the increasing demand for work from home employment coupled with the ever-evolving availability and convenience of technology.
Here are some of the best work from home jobs you can consider:
1 – Virtual Assistant
If you have experience in performing administrative tasks, like planning appointments, sorting out work calendars, and managing emails and phone calls, virtual assistant jobs might be for you. For the most part, it will be your responsibility to provide support to your boss or the company you work for.
2 – Web Developers
Web development has been one of the jobs that have been steadily increasing in popularity over the years. It is the web developer’s job to develop and design websites that are both functional and user-friendly. The business world now depends a lot on virtual platforms, and if you have the skill set of a web developer, you might have just found your next work from home job.
3 – Graphic Designers
If your strengths include effective visual communication, consider browsing for a graphic designing position. Graphic designers are known to put together images, colors, and typography, to portray an idea visually. These are the designs and posters you see on websites, billboards, and other marketing materials.
4 – Social Media Managers
Social media is a diverse and dynamic platform, and it takes a good strategist to effectively manage one or multiple accounts. As social media work is done completely over the internet, it’s no wonder why job positions related to managing and working on social media platforms made it to the list of the best work from home jobs. You might be spending a lot of time on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, so you may as well level up your social media skills to land a work from home job and earn while using them.
5 – Customer Service Representatives
A customer service representative (CSR) can represent a brand. They are responsible for providing support to clients. A top-tier customer service reputation gives companies a competitive advantage. This is the reason why CSRs continue to be on high demand. Companies where you can work from home, like Concentrix, VIPdesk Connect, and Sutherland, are continuously hiring for work from home customer service agents.
There are tons of options if you are looking for work from home jobs online. Part time work from home jobs are also highly available. This is representative of the flexibility of remote jobs. Teaching and tutoring are some of the top options for both online jobs and part time work as well. Flexjobs has a running list of top companies such as Kaplan and Pearson that offer part time jobs.
Working from home might just be the future of employment. It is the new reality that we are globally moving towards. With the anticipation of this new normal, it sure pays to be prepared and well-adjusted.