The ups and downs of working from home

Here’s the good and the bad of working from home – and how you can make it better.

Being able to work from home (WFH) was once just a fantasy for many people. Before COVID-19 shut down workplaces around the globe, only about 25% of employees worked from home on either a part-time or full-time basis.

After the pandemic hit, however, companies that wanted to stay in business were forced to let employees work remotely when possible. Now, WFH is something of a revolution, with major employers such as Microsoft, Capital One, Zillow, Amazon and PayPal vowing to keep work from home options in place even after pandemic-related restrictions are eased or lifted.

There are pros and cons of working from home, and in many cases they are related to the same aspects of the situation. These include:

PRO: Employees working remotely save time and money by not having to commute to an office. But this can also be a CON, since the time spent commuting is a good time to plan the day or decompress before heading home.

PRO: At home, employees have few (if any) interruptions from co-workers wanting to schedule a meeting, brainstorm about a project or gossip around the water cooler. But this can also be CON. Many employees cite isolation as one of their biggest complaints about working remotely.

PRO: WFH employees often have flexible hours, if their job doesn’t require being connected to the company server for set hours. Many people appreciate this flexibility but this can be a CON if the employee isn’t good at time-management and self-discipline.

To help make working from home work for you, follow these tips:

  • Carve out a dedicated workspace. Find an area of your home to work, even if it’s in the corner of your dining room. Your kitchen table is used for eating and your bed for sleeping, so working in those places will remind you of their normal uses. You want a location that’s just for work – a space you can physically “enter” and “exit” just as you would an office environment.
  • Equip the space properly. Set up a table or desk that’s the correct height. Use an ergonomic chair (not a saggy couch) to prevent back and neck pain. Make sure you have bright enough lighting so you don’t strain your eyes. Keep everything you’ll need to get your work done within easy reach.
  • Create a regular schedule. Even if your job doesn’t require one, having a routine will make it easier for you to devote the necessary time to getting your work done – and it will also allow you to disconnect and feel less stressed when you’re not working.
  • Get dressed. It doesn’t have to be business attire, but get out of your PJs. It’ll help you get into work mode and will leave you prepared if there’s a last-minute Zoom meeting. Many people also say getting dressed, even if casual, makes them feel more productive.
  • Set guidelines. If you don’t live alone, be firm with your family or roommates about what you need from them to get your work done. Allow disruptions only in the event of an emergency. If your job requires time on the phone, ask everyone to keep their voices down and to try to keep the dog from barking.
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