By Shannon Gibbons
I have added a new acronym to my vocabulary, and I’m fairly certain that smart phones all over the globe have added this new acronym to their dictionaries – WFH. Also known as Work From Home. As workplaces have quickly adapted in the face of COVID-19, and because us Aussies do like to shorten our words as much as possible, WFH has quickly become well recognised.
I have been working from home a few days a week for some time now. I live quite a distance for our office so having a few days where I don’t have the travel time to add into my day has been great for a number of reasons. It’s one thing to make the choice to work from home, but it’s another to be forced to for reasons beyond your control. Even the seasoned work from homers are feeling the pinch in this time of forced isolation – I am no exception!! Oh, and throw in supervision of remote learning for your children and it’s even more challenging – here’s my reflections on working from home during this time.
What’s been the hardest adjustment?
Working from home on my own is one thing – I usually find it to be really productive and I get energised by the increase in productivity. Working from home with a primary school aged child is a challenge that’s seen my normal routines thrown out the window. Here in Australia at this time of COVID-19, if you work from home then you are seen to be able to supervise students’ remote learning. My husband works in an essential service so the majority of the learning has been up to me. And let’s face it, a six-year-old isn’t great on independent learning! I’ve had to block out time in my day where I’m not available for meetings or calls, so that I can focus on giving my child the attention needed to get some level of work done. I am fortunate that TDi is an understanding and agile workplace, so this hasn’t been a problem at all.
What’s been the most helpful thing you’ve done/adopted?
Within a short period of time I realised that, in order to preserve my sanity and ensure that my child’s emotional wellbeing was also intact, I just had to go with the flow! Some days that is a lot easier than others but mostly it’s working. I also had to yell for help when I was drowning in all of the responsibility. Often, we mother’s wear martyrdom like a badge of honour, but I am working hard to ensure that I don’t because it’s not a badge that I want to wear. Over the years I have learnt that the hard way, particularly when my children were babies. My husband has taken a day a week off to allow me a full day of focussed work and he takes over the school supervision duties. I have also made sure that I get out once on the weekend on my own – no child in tow, just some quality alone time (just a walk is enough) to gather my thoughts and breath for a moment without being interrupted for more food, drink or ‘let’s play hide and seek’ requests!
When I first started working from home some years ago, I always felt that I couldn’t start my day unless the house was immaculate! I had to remind myself that I wasn’t getting paid to clean and sort my own house, and if I waited for it to be spotless I wouldn’t get any paid work done. I also got into a good routine of a start time, lunch time and end time. If my kitchen bench is covered in dishes when I am due to start work, bad luck! I can clean them away when I take a break between tasks or when I have lunch.
I also find that getting up, moving around, getting the stick-vac or broom out of the cupboard and doing some of those mundane chores when I needed to do some thinking on something for work was really helpful – it also meant that I was able to multi-task between work and home jobs. I remember the first time I gave myself ‘permission’ to do this – I was writing a really important document and I had been staring at my computer screen for way too long with very minimal results. I decided to do the vacuuming, the whole time mulling over the document in my head. I sat down to work post-vacuuming and the words just spilled onto the screen. Since then it has been my go-to thinking activity and it’s been pretty reliable ever since.
What do you love and dislike about WFH?
I love not having to travel into the city and back for 3+ hours a few times during the week! Whilst I use the travel time productively, I do have to get up pretty early to rush about to get ready and sometimes get the children organised as well. It’s really nice to just roll out of bed at a more ‘normal’ hour and get stuck into work, plus being able to be in my kitchen to prepare dinner at a decent time is a bonus. Whilst some days I do make a real effort with my appearance, I can also wear more casual gear – I don’t just wear my trackies because I do find that my mindset becomes a bit more casual to go with the dress style! But I don’t suit-up either!
I can find that when you are in an office environment you are much more prone to getting interrupted mid-task. If you are working from home on your own or without young children, you can find less of these unplanned interruptions, therefore increase in focussed work time.
I am an extrovert, so I really miss seeing people IRL (in real life, another acronym that I’m sure is now recognised by smartphone dictionaries). Modern technology with video conference calling is excellent. Here at TDi I believe that we’ve done an excellent job of keeping connected as a team, so I don’t feel that we could’ve done better on that front. It’s just that for me, nothing replaces the real, face-to-face interaction with people you genuinely love being around – and I really do like and respect everyone I work with!!
What would you tell others?
Go easy on yourself in this time. If you’re not used to WFH, it does take some time to find your rhythm and groove – you might not even find that until we’re all told that we’re fine to go back to our offices, and that’s ok. WFH definitely isn’t for everyone, but just do the best you can in the meantime. Find ways to keep your mental health on track – take regular breaks, have regular and set start and finish times so that you don’t find yourself unable to clock off (which can be a trap when you are WFH).
If you are like me and you have young ones at home that you need to supervise with their remote learning – you are doing an amazing job! Hang in there, you are not alone and it’s ok to fall apart some days when it all gets overwhelming…just remember to take deep breaths, you don’t have to be the teacher and have all the answers – and if you have to give it a miss some days just because (for your sanity for example) then do it!!! Did I mention that I used to be a teacher? No? I was pre-TDi days so I give you permission to skip school some days 😉