So, working from home for two weeks turned into working from home for two months turned into… what month are we in now?
Starting at the beginning of the pandemic, many companies insisted on keeping conservative projections for how long their remote work policies would be in effect. Some have refused to commit to timelines altogether, leaving their workers in states of limbo. Leaders at other companies have decided to call a spade a spade, though, and rather than perpetually string employees along, have announced that they’ll stay remote until next year.
Perhaps staying remote is something you wanted (as is true for 54% of people who switched to WFH during COVID). Perhaps you were itching to get back to the office, and the idea of being remote longterm isn’t a welcome one. Regardless, if you’ve found yourself among those for whom WFH is no longer a temporary situation, there are a few important ways you can set yourself up for success.
What’s working for you? What isn’t? Knowing now that you’ll be working like this for some time yet to come, it’s important to take inventory of what’s going well and what needs to be improved upon. The things that helped you perform in an office environment, after all, could look completely different from what drives your productivity while working from home.
Beyond work-specific aspects of your day — how are you taking care of yourself? What does your lunch tend to look like, and are you getting walks in regularly? Your job is just one element of your day — not THE element — so check in with yourself about how your days as a whole are going.
It’s clearer than ever that flexibility isn’t just a nice-to-have policy — it’s an essential component of any humane work culture. If you’d benefit from having more flexibility in your day-to-day routine but hesitated to formalize this ask at the start of COVID, stop waiting. Whether this means starting work at a later hour twice a week, logging off earlier or even arranging for a four-day work week, ask for what you need.
Yes, budgets are tight. No, that doesn’t mean you should be expected to shoulder the expense of making your home space workable. Whether it’s an extra monitor or a more ergonomic chair, consider the equipment that would help you perform better from home, and ask your manager or your company’s HR department for it.
Maybe working from your sofa all day was fine for the first three months of COVID. With several more months to go, though, it’s worth cordoning off a designated part of your home for work purposes. Even if you don’t have the space for a proper home office, where can you set up shop that will help provide you with some structure — and help you unplug at the end of the day by vacating that space? To the above point, you should, again, ask your company’s HR department for any space-optimizing equipment you need.
For instance, if you live in New Jersey and had previously commuted into Manhattan for work, will you continue to have New York City taxes deducted from your paycheck? This is worth clarifying with your HR department.
Maybe Zoom fatigue has made it increasingly hard to get excited about attending yet another virtual happy hour. But since you won’t be seeing your colleagues in-person again anytime soon, and it’s important not to forsake building relationships with them altogether. Whether it’s organizing a virtual trivia night or starting a book club, figure out how you’ll continue to stay connected.
Work-from-home burnout, when you don’t have the ability to easily, physically disengage with work by walking out of an office, is real. Set boundaries for yourself and stick to them. If you continue to stay online after 6 p.m. to “answer that one last email,” you’ll only send the message to others that this is the availability they can continue to expect from you for as long as you’re remote.
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