For those of us not used to working from home, these last few months have been a period of adaptation. I understand the necessity of learning to work remotely since the coronavirus outbreak, but I’ve always enjoyed going into the office – I like the routine of having somewhere to go, I enjoy interacting with my colleagues, and I love the ideas that come out of collaborative working – so I was incredibly nervous about the idea of having to work from home for an extended period of time. I was worried about productivity, I was concerned about staying motivated and particularly anxious about retaining a positive state of mind.
In the past few months, I’ve learned a lot about myself and my ability to work remotely. While I still look forward to the day that I can have an actual coffee catch up with my team rather than a virtual one, I have come to the conclusion that working from home definitely has some advantages. My concerns were valid – staying motivated was initially a challenge, so I did some research on how to work from home effectively (and even wrote an article about it) and just got down to it. Now the longer I spend working remotely, the more I can see the benefits to both my work and lifestyle.
Here are the benefits I’ve discovered after months of working from home.
1. Working to your productive hours
I have always been a morning person, and don’t generally struggle to get up early and get going. I’m wide awake as soon as my eyes open, and I have no problem launching straight into my day. While working from home, I need to be available for calls, emails, etc, between 9 and 5, but that doesn’t mean that I’m bound by those hours, and I’ve found that I can use my productive hours more effectively by doing complex work earlier in the day, and saving admin for the afternoon when my energy starts to dip.
I generally start my day with a run at 6am when I’m unlikely to encounter others (following the guidelines of social distancing), and when I get home, I’m feeling strong and energised. My mind works differently when I’m outside, and it’s often where I find my best ideas. So why wait until 9am to get started? When I get home, I can now spring straight into action and start working on those ideas. Then if I want to have a mid-morning cup of coffee with my husband, I can do so guilt-free.
2. It’s easier to make phone calls
I hate the phone. I feel like somehow my thoughts just don’t come out properly when I can’t see the other person, and I always feel so awkward talking on the phone when there are other people around. But of course, when everyone is at home, the only way to stay in touch is either on the phone or via video conferencing (check out some of the best video conferencing tools of 2020), so I’m slowly becoming more comfortable with both. Now when I’m on the phone, I know that my conversation isn’t disturbing anyone else which is making it easier to talk freely, and I feel like I’m finally overcoming one of my most challenging professional weaknesses.
3. You’ll always be on time
I’m customarily punctual. Being a morning person, I’m usually at the office by around 8:40 because I get bored sitting at home and just want to get going. But like every other person on earth, I have occasionally slept through my alarm or forgotten that I’m out of fuel and need to do a last minute detour to the fuel station to avoid being stranded on the side of the road. One such moment happened on Monday in the first week of lockdown, after the clocks had changed and I forgot to reset my analogue alarm clock. But this time, there was no getting ready in a panic and running out the front door with wet hair and no lunch. No yelling at traffic, screeching into the parking lot and tripping up the steps to get to my desk by 9am. No. On realising that I had overslept, I got up calmly, got ready for the day in record time (the benefit of not having to do hair and make-up) and even had time to make a cup of coffee before getting to my desk at 8:45.
4. Fewer distractions
I love being busy, feeling productive and getting things ticked off my to-do list. I also love to chat, and with my office desk smack in the middle of the main path to the kitchen, I’ll often have a quick chat to the people coming and going with their freshly brewed cups of coffee. I like these chats, because it’s nice to catch up with colleagues, and I’ve always felt that you find great ideas and solutions when you talk to the people around you. I can generally get back to work quickly and keep going, but the distractions do become a bit more of a challenge for me when it comes to complex projects. I get deeply involved and with a clear mind and space, I can keep going for hours, but any distraction can break that concentration and it may take some time to get back into the groove. Working from home, I have less distractions and find it easier to concentrate deeply and become immersed in my projects.
5. Boost productivity with effective breaks
There sometimes comes a point in the day when I just struggle to focus, especially if I’ve been writing for a few hours or working through a particularly complex project. I get quite frustrated when this happens, which also doesn’t help with being able to focus. When I’m in the office, I try to take a short break at times like that. Make a cup of coffee, or just sit outside for 5 minutes to breathe some fresh air and clear my head. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. When I’m in my home office, I find that those breaks have become more constructive, which makes me more effective when I’m back at my desk. This morning, I was struggling to concentrate and feeling generally a bit sluggish. So I took a 15-minute break and did some yoga to boost concentration. When I came back to my desk, I was feeling refreshed and energised and found that I was immediately able to get my head down and ticked a good few things off my to-do list.
6. Try a new routine
I quite enjoyed my office routine. I would wake up early, read for a bit before getting ready for work, then at the end of the day, I would get home, make dinner, and then either hang out with my husband or see friends. I would make time for exercise a couple of times a week, and plan what to do on the weekends. It was a good routine, and I enjoyed it. Now, out of necessity, I’ve had to develop a new routine, and I’ve found that to be quite exciting. Being forced to stay home has given me a new perspective on my previous freedom, but has also encouraged me to try new things. I now start every day with exercise to ensure that I’m staying active (thanks to the multitude of online exercise tools available), and find that it’s given me more energy and a newly discovered love of running. I’ve taken up new hobbies to fill the time, and am planning to take some online classes to keep my personal learning and development up.
7. Eat better
There’s no such thing as forgetting your lunch when you’re working from home. Instead of a sandwich and a packet of crisps from the local café, I’m able to consume healthier, energy-efficient meals because I have a full fridge and a kitchen in which to prepare real food. And instead of snacking on chocolate and biscuits, I’m snacking on fruit. As a result, I feel like I have sustained energy throughout the day, and my concentration has improved.
I’m also having more fun with cooking because I’m not restricted to what I can make in half an hour when I get home. I recently found a recipe for pulled pork that needed to be in the oven for 2 and a half hours, so I prepped it at lunch-time, and then had it roasting away for the afternoon. It also meant I had more time that evening because dinner was already done.
8. No commute means more time
The process of getting to work can take up to an hour and a half, between getting ready and driving to work. It might even take a little bit longer if I stop at Costa on the way. Getting home isn’t as bad, but still usually takes around 20 minutes to half an hour anyway. So working from home, that’s 2 hours extra that I’ve gained in my day, and I find myself driven to use that time productively. I’m exercising, playing mind-stimulating games like scrabble, or having video call dance parties and story time with my niece and nephew. Now that I’m in the swing of things, I’m looking at even more ways to use that time for personal and professional development, like learning a new language online or doing a photoshop course.
9. Save money
I’m just going to say it – not going into the office has already saved me so much money. First off, I’m not paying for fuel because I’m not driving to work, and in fact, because of self-isolation, I’m not having to drive anywhere. I’m also really good at forgetting to pack lunch when I go into the office, so I’m saving on the usual meal deals and subsequent cups of coffee. And the random things I end up buying when I go out to get said meal deal, like a sparkly new notebook, snacks that I don’t need or a heated drying-rack for home. All of these things add up! We’re also not going to pubs and eating less takeout, so overall, this period of self-isolation is making my bank account very happy. If you’re not great at budgeting, now could be a great time to get started, and there are loads of online budget planners or different types of budgeting apps available to help you make the most of the money you’re saving.
10. Say goodbye to corporate wear
I’m not a big fan of corporate wear, mostly because I don’t really know how to do it right – I always end up feeling frumpy. I’m more of a jeans-with-a-stylish-top-and-wedges kind of girl. Or if I’m being really honest, I’m more a jeans-with-a-tshirt-and-flats kind of girl. I’ve spent many frustrated hours staring at my cupboard and not wanting to wear anything in it (one of the contributing factors when I’m occasionally running late). So I’m really enjoying not having to get dressed up to go to work. I believe that it’s still important to get dressed for the day (here’s why wearing pyjamas when working from home is a no) but I no longer have to get dressed up, and that, again, is saving me time, money and anxiety.
11. Great opportunity to multi-task
As a marketer, I have to be good at multi-tasking. Working with many brands on many projects, I have to be able to flit easily from one project to the next. What I’ve never been particularly good at is doing two things at once, and that’s something that I’m learning the joy of while working from home. I can listen to an industry podcast while checking this month’s content plan. I can watch a webinar while reading and responding to emails. And there are other opportunities to multitask that allow me to work while doing other things. I can have a team catch-up while getting some exercise, or do some strategic planning while spending time with my husband.
I’m so looking forward to getting back to the office, but am also viewing this time working from home as a learning experience, and it’s certainly been a good one. The whole team here at jobs.ac.uk are working from home to continue to bring you job opportunities in science, research and higher education, and many institutions are offering skype interviews, so keep searching.
You can find remote working opportunities on jobs.ac.uk. Look after yourselves, stay safe and good luck with your job search!