Q: Working from home was grand when it started. The company was relaxed. “We’ll do what we can” was its mantra. But soon enough the novelty wore off and, to be honest, I’m burnt out from the past few months. Someone wrote on Twitter last week that we should stop calling it working from home and call it living at work. I know how they feel. How can I get my company to help me revive my flagging energy as I face back into the office? (DR, email).
A: Everybody – historians, scientists, sociologists and a hundred other -ists – will write about the great lock down of 2020 and the impact it had on those forced to work from home. Working from home has become a cool concept and that’s all the more reason why we should examine it closely before embracing it as the panacea to all our ills, writes Ines Gonzalez, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.
Here are negative consequences that have arisen for some people:
- Holidays have piled up. There was nowhere to go anyway, so people tended to work straight through without taking time off. That causes burnout.
- Some actually took their holidays – and used it to mind the children. Not exactly a ‘get away from it all’ break in the Seychelles or west Cork, was it?
- I came across many couples who juggled their time in all sorts of creative – and draining – ways to allow both of them to work at home while the children were also at home. For example, one worked morning and afternoon, the other evening. The working day in the house went on forever. And then there are those raising children on their own. All very stressful stuff.
- Uncertainty over redundancy or reduction in hours has created real pressure for employees.
- Not everybody takes to working from home. It is a different discipline. Life and work can become blurred, resulting in confusion and a sense of being trapped. Those endless Zoom calls piling up…
To your problem, DR: I would have an honest conversation with your manager or team leader. Surely they cannot be blind to what has gone on and the company should have alerted its managers to be mindful of anxieties that employees might articulate.
Be clear in what you want: do you want to take a day a week off for a few weeks/months? Do you want some special leave or holidays? Do you want to combine working from home with working from the office for a period of time?
It is important to enter the meeting with some idea of your desired outcome. This will keep you focused. Try to avoid it becoming a snappy encounter between you and your manager.
Companies will have to be inventive and generous in how they assimilate workers back into the workplace. Almost everyone feels tired now, including those who like working from home. The changes wrought over the last few months have sapped energy and you should not apologise for seeking to tip the balance back in your favour.
If the company is serious about its workforce, it will give you the time and space you require, within reason. Have that conversation. You owe it to yourself and the company would be foolish to ignore the warning signs. You’re not the only one in this boat.
Ines Gonzalez is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers.
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