Working From Home One Year On

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Its been one hell of a year. From the first breaking news headlines from China regarding a new virus, through to the spread to Italy and then quickly through the rest of Europe and across the world. A year ago the UK went into lock down which was initially for a few weeks. Here we are a year later, still in lock down (granted some of us have had various levels change over that period) and still working from home. But what are the lessons we have learned working from home one year on.

achievement

We Made It!

One of the biggest lessons that we have learned is that we can. If you had asked any of a thousand bosses from any company two years ago if they could envisage a future where their entire workforce was working remotely (and very successfully I may add) I don’t think a single one would have said yes they could.

There was always going to be issues, whether they be technical, logistical, or just plain old trust to deal with. What has happened in the last year may have ordinarily taken decades to happen. Suddenly a huge percentage of the population are no longer commuting five days a week to offices in centres of towns, in industrial estates and purpose built office “parks” to work. Forced to stay at home due to the ever growing threat of the pandemic, people were told to work from home if at all possible and although its been tough for most, if not all people, we’ve come through this last year changed.

Through the stress of getting set up in living rooms, dining room tables and on the top of ironing tables people have shown that work can continue. Despite many companies having severe reservations about working from home, people have continually shown to the bosses that the work can get done. In fact, people have shown that they can be more productive (some reports show a 47% increase in productivity which is staggering if true!) working from home.

The trust issue is something that has not gone away however. As some companies have embraced trust, other have adopted a much more Draconian approach to the point of installing snooping software on employees computers to see what they are up to. My opinion is that trust has got to be there – if employees see a company whose management are prepared to snoop on them then I think it demonstrates a breakdown in management and says a lot about that company and how they value their employees. Would you want to work for a company knowing that they will be checking to see how many keystrokes you took today, what applications you had open, for how long and what software you used?

learning

What Have We learnt?

In a year when children were in school, out of school, back in again, and then in school part time  its been especially tricky for parents. Having to work from home has been stressful enough without throwing children into the mix as well. With schools and nurseries shut down, parents have had to home school as best they can. On top of the obvious lack of teaching there has been the additional stresses on children as they have been unable to meet up with their friends, and have had their social interactions severely limited.

Again, people have shown great resilience in powering through, sometimes juggling work as well as homeschooling, checking on elderly family, and all the usual cooking and cleaning. Its been a real perfect storm as far as stress levels go. The parents who have been able to work from home as well, have been luckier than some, with huge redundancies, or people put into furlough – its been a tough year for everyone.

Throughout it all, I can say that I have spent more time with my children in the last year than I had in the previous five years put together. In that time we have had good times and bad but I think the bonds that we have, have grown much stronger in the past year. Spending time with family is so important, it doesn’t even have to be doing anything special just being there for them and we have had plenty of time to do that.

It’s been a year when we have hopefully found pleasure in the little things, whether its spending time with family, a phonephone call call and a catch up with friends or a socially distanced chat with a neighbour.

We have found out the importance of keeping in touch with people, we have found out in some cases who our friends really are, those that will send a quick message to see how you are getting on, or an email with their news.

I’ve kind of gone off the topic of work but this last year has been weird in that boundaries have changed.

Before we may have kept work and our home lives entirely separate but we have been forced to merge the two slightly. We have become accustomed to having our pets or our children interrupt zoom meetings at whatever time of the day and I hope that we have found a bit more out about each other as a result over the course of the last year.

There’s nothing more levelling than seeing your boss speaking to her pet or a colleague sitting with their child trying to keep them quiet. I’ve seen the phrase “am I working from home or living at work now?” a few times and it really is true. We seem to have mixed the two things up.

What I hope has happened is that we HAVE learned

I hope we have learned that working from home and not spending one, two or more hours a day getting to and from an office in the centre of town is a better way of doing things. That its better for people, for the company, and for the environment.

I hope we have learned that we need to have a good balance of work, rest and exercise in order to have a good work / life balance and be happy.

Most importantly I hope that we have found out the importance of keeping in touch with friends and family because at the end of the day what this last year has taught us is that life can very quickly change and that you don’t know just how long you have so make the most of it!

Apologies for the sprawling rambling article which I just wanted to write to mark the one year that we have been in the grip of this global pandemic. It has changed so many things and I hope we don’t ignore some of what we have learned in the rush to return to “normal”.

Let me know what you have learnt in the last year in the comments below, I would, more so than ever, like to hear from you.

Take care,

Dave

Simple wfh

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