After our company closed our office to save some coin, I’ve been working from home now for about a month and have a better handle of what that change has meant for me and my well-being. Everyone on our team is adjusting slightly differently, but hopefully by shedding some light on my experience I can shed some light on what to prepare for if the same thing happens to you.
First, What We Accounted For
I think we did a lot of things right when preparing to work from home. The big thing was to do trial runs, communicate about our experiences, and share any insights we might have. We tackled it as a team and that was really useful.
As for specific advice, we immediately figured out the following:
- It would be difficult to truly know what WFH is like until we got all our
equipment shipped from the office (extra monitors and keyboards, etc.), so we
tried to focus on learning other aspects of what would change.
- On the flip side, it gave us a clear impression that working out of coffee shops wouldn’t be ideal given the lack of equipment. Meetings in coffee shops have gotten less awkward, but they can still be noisy.
- Getting out of the house was obvious to fight getting restless.
Working From Home a.k.a. Changing Your Commute
I think the best way to treat a transition to working from home is to think about it as a change in your commute. At this same company, we had moved our office downtown and it changed everyone’s commute. We should have treated this the same way. I think if we did that, we would’ve considered the following:
- Commute route / length would change drastically
- This might mean we need to reconsider what transit benefits mean for us.
- If the length changes drastically, we should consider what that means for our routines.
- Sometimes the mode changes, like going from a car to a train. There may be more or less walking.
I didn’t really think about the impact of walking less every day — the little amount I did when going to and from train stations and going out to lunch was instrumental in keeping my mood up and keeping my weight down! And that weight crept up on me — I didn’t notice it until I weighed myself at the doctor’s.
The separation between work and home is also important. I play games and program for fun in the same space I now work. Having the monitors in the same place isn’t a huge problem, but I need to make sure I get out of my desk and do something else for a bit before returning to it. Otherwise it all kinds of melts together.
Last, having a zero minute commute means more time in the day, right? Except for me, that commute time was necessary to stay sane. I used it to read books and get into a better reading habit! So now I need to make sure I bake that in to my schedule again.
Offices Are Social Spaces
And we are social creatures. We knew this would be affected, but it’s hard to gauge that in testing when you still have an office to return to. Not only does it feel more draining working from home without anyone to talk to, it completely affects the problem-solving methods that our team was accustomed to. We have to be much more deliberate.
And yes, Iggy is great, but she’s not a person! No matter how hard she tries. 🙂
Corporate Passed On Costs To Us
This one is simple — company not only saves money on not having an office via rent, but also via utilities, amenities like snacks and coffee, and providing a gym. And not only do we have to pay for these now in a budget sense, we also have to build their responsibility into our habits. I can’t just bring a duffel bag to work and swing by the gym during lunch — I need to take a twenty minute bus ride to the gym, workout, and come back. I also need to pay for it. And before you ask, no, none of us received raises to cover these costs.
Ultimately, Structure Is Good
I talked to my therapist about this today. Even though I’m not Type A and I don’t impose a lot of structure on myself, I like to dance around existing structure. Without it, I can’t dance! So it’s a big change for me to not have my routine of waking up, showering, getting on a train, sitting down at a desk and saying good morning to everyone.
So we need new structures: for our habits, for our social well-being, to make sure we budget appropriately and to help us do our jobs effectively. And if you know me, you already know I don’t have a lot of faith in those in positions of leadership and power to lead on this appropriately. So we need to roll up our sleeves and get ready to get our hands dirty.