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The Work From Home (WFH) concept is portrayed as being the best of two worlds, but is it really that easy to work from home?
The WFH model of work immediately appeals to many women as well as a few men today. By working from home, a woman can make complete use of her grey matter, and stay connected to the her world of business through teleconferences and online presentation from her home office. Her family, if it consists of young kids and elderly parents can find it very comforting to have her at home. She can rustle up a quick lunch or delegate the lunch making project to a domestic helper in between her office work. So it is a win-win for everyone!
However, questions remain as to the exact truth of this scenario and as to why there are companies, who do not encourage remote working among their employees.
Another relocation stuck our lives recently, and this time, I was not bothered this time since my company offers remote working facilities to its employees to combat such situations. It is championed by many of our co-workers. This was the first time when relocating with my husband needed no break in my CV. I was glad!
After some years of daily commuting, fed up of a small office corner, and the daily morning rush, I was looking forward to this change – a life beyond 9 am to 7 pm office hours, a model of work where both work and home blend in perfect harmony with each other.
Here is my personal take, sharing my experiences as a newbie at working from home.
After relocating to the new city and a small break, I was looking forward to start my work from home. I switched off the scheduled morning alarm that rang for the last three years to wake me up; no more commutes and I could afford to get some extra sleep. I could now enjoy my morning cuppa while looking at the unfolding new leaves of my indoor plants.
Above all, the ongoing summer vacation of my child did not bother us this year. We did not need to arrange for day care or an expensive summer camp routine with mummy onboard!
Within a few days of WFH, I understood that an office environment shields its employees from the surrounding noise, of doorbells, nearby construction sites and other such. I invested heavily in high-speed broadband and a good mobile network. A background noise cancelling blue tooth came next so that I could talk to my colleagues without letting them hear the background noise at home. Another WFH colleague advised me to keep a mobile back up for the Internet – at her place, power cuts are a common phenomenon and the back up power is curtailed at times.
Soon another realization hit me that ‘Out of sight and out of mind’ is very true for WFH employees in a company. It requires constant communication through telephone, email, and office communicator to be cued in to the activities going on in a project, especially if your role requires constant interaction with others.
WFH employees are often not preferred for new projects as that could require a lot of streamlining and interactions with different stakeholders. Many managers believe that this would need presence at the office premises.
While at office, lunch and tea times used to be for guilt-free socializing with colleagues. This used to be the time to dust off the bad moods caused at work or discuss about the home front. WFH does not allow that. Lunchtime is to fix a quick lunch, ask the child a few minimal queries and dread the moment when she announces that she is getting bored. Wasn’t I happier when she was in summer camp learning some fun craft?
After getting used to the initial liberty of freedom from the morning rush I had some hard weeks when I really wanted to leave home (and its chores) and go and catch the bus to the office. I am sure every WFH employee misses the routine of escaping to office at times.
It is very easy to get distracted with the ongoing activities at home and the sense of time is lost – so the trail of work keeps going on till late at evening leaving a very tired and irksome soul in me.
I was almost giving in to all the above challenges that came with my WFH status, but Hey! I cannot give up. I slowly started finding my way around WFH. The first step was to induce some rush into the mornings. I now start my work a little earlier, so by the time my colleagues reach office and I get my first call, I have already finished a bit of work. I made sure to call my colleagues once in a while and stay connected; I started taking proper breaks for lunch and tea. I utilize these breaks to communicate better with my daughter and help her decide on something more than getting bored on some days of the week.
Initially I was not able to finish my work till late evenings; now I try to go for a walk on some days of the week and hence close the system. This is not that easy as many colleagues prefer to call their WFH peers while they commute back home. I am still working on finding a solution to this.
The WFH model is getting discussed on many forums for example such as lean In, Sheroes, and womensweb. I am reaching out to other WFH people and finding solutions from their experiences, to avoid reinventing the wheel. It is always a better feeling to know that I am not alone in facing and accommodating the challenges of WFH.
WFH is an effective mean to retain women (and some men) in the workforce specially when they are new parents, going through any treatment, or are looking after elderly parents. It is also the need of the time in cities clogged with traffic jams.
WFH has also proven to be a successful model for independent contributors, start-up entrepreneurs, coders, artists, authors and so many others from different walks of life. It is time to see how WFH can be utilized in projects where many people are involved and how team members remain closely knit to each other from the corners of their homes, even sitting in different countries.
Work is no more a 9 am – 5 pm activity; it has blended into our lives. If we find happiness and take pride in our work, it is just a matter of time or practice on how we can we continue doing that while working from home too.
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Image of woman at home working via Shutterstock
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