Make working from home work for you

Ines Gonzalez, Career Coach

Q:  I’ve enjoyed working from home as a temporary thing. The routine was new. Now, my company is making us permanent remote employees. I’m not sure how I feel. I fear it may affect my career and mental health. Any advice? (BC, email).

A:  A lot has been written about working from home – some very positive and some not so much. Family distractions, lack of motivation, Zoom fatigue and an endless list of similar complaints are part of a new working life for many, writes Ines Gonzalez, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.

The famous new normal is not new anymore. More and more companies are moving into remote work or some hybrid compromise.

Fifty per cent of Facebook employees will be remote in ten years. Twitter is offering the remote option to all. Some tech companies are developing meeting software with holograms depicting people.

But, for many, the reality is not quite so fancy. This new situation has been a big research experiment. And we still only have a hint of the real results.

You had no choice. The decision was made for you. If your company has left you to your own devices, demand clarity. This is more important now than ever. They should be very clear about what is expected from you and from them.

Clear boundaries

Things to look for are working hours and responsibilities. Defined boundaries will help you to manage the situation a lot better.

As you are at home, you also need to make your own office rules and stick to them. Think back on your time in the office.

What did you do? Coffee, chit-chat? Try to incorporate similar breaks into your day in a different way. A walk around the block takes only a few minutes. It will clear your mind to help you reach that decision or finish that project.

You mention concern about your career prospects. Review if you have a clear path of progression. Training and development opportunities should be available to you.

If they are not available internally, explore what you need and make a proposal to your manager to cover the cost. The company is saving money by keeping you at home, remember.

In terms of mental health, the fact that you are aware of the potential danger is a good first step. If you are really concerned, please talk to a professional. You don’t have to be in a bad situation to seek advice. Prevention is the best option, get ahead of it.

Weigh up the pros and cons

As a first step, concentrate on figuring out the best way for you to tackle this new working arrangement.  Think of the positives and be very aware of the negatives. I make a list of both here, but I invite you to make your own list.

Potential positives: flexibility, no commuting time, productivity, healthy eating, additional work independence, better work-life balance, saving money and good for environment.

Potential negatives: struggle to fix boundaries between work and home life, stress, long hours, loneliness, lack of energy, burnout, remote meeting fatigue and anxiety.

Devising specific strategies to fight these negatives will keep you on track – e.g. if you struggle to set boundaries between work and home life, schedule work hours and meetings at the beginning of the day. Make sure you leave enough time for home, family demands and exercise.

Ines Gonzalez is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers.

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