Working from home (WFH) became the norm for thousands (if not millions) of people almost overnight. What was once a “nice to have” benefit, was suddenly enforced upon workers to help control the spread of the new Coronavirus.
While we are not experiencing WFH under normal circumstances, the same challenges exist and it is a polarising subject. Those who love it applaud the flexibility and freedom. Those who loathe it struggle to find focus and motivation. But for some, regardless of how you come to start, the work from home transition is tough and one that induces unease, even anxiety.
James Edmondson shares his experience of joining the new workplace revolution before Covid-19 made it compulsory.
Work from home transition
My first day working from home was planned to coincide with my car’s regular service and it was frankly rather awful. I was up at my normal time, early. But instead of following the regular cadence of activities to get me out of the door, within two minutes of my usual departure time, I naturally got involved with the household routine of getting two toddlers ready for nursery and pre-school. This is when the feeling of anxiety first began to kick in. Although this was all taking place well before 9 am, by coming out of my routine, the feeling of guilt that I should be working began to seep into me.
In an effort to make myself feel better, I logged on to my work laptop and instantly felt the anxiety subside — after all it was still early and according to Lync, I was on line and ‘working’. Boom. But then again, I wasn’t. I was soon walking to the school drop-off and the unease resurfaced, this time stronger. To remedy this, I checked my work phone every five paces, and even managed to reply to an email whilst trying to answer my son’s questions about the way the clouds were blowing. Anxiety temporarily cloaked, but replaced by guilt as I realised I wasn’t being the engaged father and looked like ‘that’ person doing emails whilst walking his child to pre-school.
By the time I had returned home, the ‘normal’ office day had begun and I felt that I had lost all the advantages that I gained by getting up and logging on early. To over compensate for this and the overall feeling that I was ‘working from home’, I started sending people in the office pointless emails and Lync messages. In my mind, the conversations would go like this: “Where’s James?” “Oh, he’s working from home today, but I saw that he’d logged on at 8 am and I’ve already seen a bunch of emails from him.” “Great, so he’s actually working.”
Work from home anxiety
This soundtrack played in my head all day, though I was particularly proud of how I managed to seamlessly make a call to my boss whilst the annual boiler service was taking place in the kitchen (the other reason for me taking a work from home day in the first place). Result.
The feeling of utter relief when the clock struck 5 was palpable; I had made it through the day without anyone phoning up asking me where I was or why I wasn’t at my desk. It was relief that I hadn’t been accused of: “Working. From. Home”.
I hadn’t enjoyed the experience one bit, and in fact the chronic low-level anxiety that resided inside of me throughout the day was awful. Yet, I had been incredibly productive, completing some important work, work that had I had been in my office would probably have taken me three or four days to do.
Adapting to a new normal
Having the option to work from home in a flexible manner that allows a workforce to fit work around their busy lives is a game-changer and something I believe the working world must embrace as widely as possible. But that’s not a stance I arrived at immediately.
You see, working from home was never really an option for me. From the age of 19 until two years ago, just shy of my 40th Birthday, I was a Naval Officer and spent the majority of my working life at sea or in naval bases. The concept of working from home was alien to me; in my mind it was something writers or artists might do. That all changed when I decided to rejoin the civilian world and the opportunity for flexible working became a reality.
Faced with the option to work from home in my new role I was not quite sure what to make of it. I quite liked going to the office, my morning the routine, engaging with my co-workers, and yes putting on my smart new civilian work clothes.
As an ambitious, now former Naval Officer, I was very focused on making the right impression and proving to everyone that I would continue on the upwards trajectory that I had left behind in the Forces.
To me, that meant getting to the office before anyone else, being impeccably organised and being seen by the leadership.
To put the record straight, the company I work for…
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