work form home

Work from Home – Stumbling block or Stepping Stone

With the ongoing pandemic social distancing, self-quarantine and reduced mobility have necessitated the work-from-home culture and the work dynamics have been drastically modified to adapt to the need of the hour. While sounding seemingly comfortable, over time, professionals have realized the ambiguity of the situation with the challenges lurking behind the soothing-to-ears title of ‘work-from-home’. And the challenges are equally apparent for both the employees as well as the employers. Here, I have listed the most prominent challenges faced by employees and tips to overcome them.

As opposed to the popular misconception painted by many about the comforts of working-from-home, I would like to shed some light on the facts.

Work Timings and Home Environment

Working from the comfort of your homes complicates certain aspects rather than simplifying it. Yes, I agree you save on your daily travel time and other related factors. But the flip side is, when at home you tend to get distracted by house chores, family interruptions especially children, television, visiting guests, repairpersons trying to do their job and scores of similar other reasons. And when you near the end of the day, you realize that neither have you completed your priority work nor spent work-free time with family. So you’re neither here nor there. And to live such a life every day is completely non-productive and stressful.

So, I suggest you clearly define your workspace as off-limits with fixed timing mentioned on a board outside the door. You need to verbally assert the importance of not interrupting during the fixed working hours and space. To drive your message home, you may even think of some form of disciplinary action that you can impose on yourself on not following the rules. Also ensure the absence of other forms of distractions like television, landline phone in the same room. This will help you draw a firm line between your personal and professional life and promote work-life balance.

Communication, Direction, and Management

By now, I am sure a large percentage of professionals are already missing their workplace camaraderie and team meetings which give a certain sense of role clarity with respect to any ongoing or upcoming project. At the workplace, your superiors are able to effectively supervise your progress and it becomes easier for you to reach out to them for any form of guidance. Conversely, from home, constant monitoring may not be possible and as such, you may at some point in time start feeling directionless due to a lack of effective guidance and coordination between team members and with your manager.

Work-from-home requires an even greater focus on frequent communication and elimination of miscommunication. Coordination is a skill best honed to move in tandem with the rest of the team and expedite progress in work to meet deadlines. Also, professionals must connect with their managers on a daily basis to keep them posted on their status and clarify any doubts regarding the same. This will help your manager understand your challenges if any and can guide you to perfection. There are many apps like Microsoft Teams and Zoom available to make this easier for you.

Blurring Goals and Insufficient Networking

Networking is an art inherent to some while cultivated by many. Either way, it demands efforts in terms of communication and socializing. This pandemic has come as a big blow to many who are passionate about expanding their circle of contacts. Networking provides a platform that has propelled many to the top of the ladder and is a source of possibilities for many professionals aspiring the same. And this is equally true about personal and professional long-term goals. Staying aligned to the goals in itself is a persevering act, and to do that while in extended periods of isolation becomes all the more laborious.

In order to keep those sparks of ambition burning consistently under the circumstances, I highly recommend you request a quarterly meet with your manager to discuss your progress and prospects of greater responsibilities and higher role. Also do not neglect networking to not just further your vision but to stay updated and never miss out on greater opportunities.

Dress-Code and Confinement

Being confined indoors may make you feel more lethargic as you start getting comfortable in the new pattern. You may not see the need to get dressed for work or socialize with just one or two close friends and engage in any outdoor activities to rejuvenate yourself. As comfortable as it may seem, working in your home clothes does affect your psyche. How you look and present yourself before others make you feel more confident and work-prone. Your attitude shifts to the work mode as soon as you dress for work just like you feel like partying in your party clothes!

While I understand it’s not possible to stay all suited up on all the working days, you can at least ensure the right dress code while virtually meeting clients and on other important meetings. On other occasions, even if you are not in your business suits, you should keep aside a set of comfortable clothes only for work so you stay entrenched in that mode. Another aspect of confinement is the absence of social contact which though imperative is very stifling. So, what you can do is plan outings on weekends with just 1 or 2 friends to less crowded places, for example, a trek or simply at home. This will help in refreshing your mind and feeling less isolated.

Closing Thoughts

Work-from-home is a norm today and may continue even post the pandemic situation. So, it would be wise to treat your workstation with the same attitude you would at your workplace and put in place your own set of rules and regulations to work efficiently and show the same productivity as in your workplace. Ensure you take your weekly offs and engage with family and close friends to alleviate feelings of emotional distancing and isolation. If you work out a strict regimen for your working hours and religiously follow them, work-from-home can be the best phase of your professional life else you are bound to fail in your productivity. So stay focused, engaged, and connected from your home office.

Hope I have been able to provide a certain direction to all those struggling in their work-from-home scenario. And coming up soon is my take on the topic from the employer’s perspective. Stay connected!