Work from home? Only if I have to!
"My name's Emma and I'm a reluctant homeworker."
12 weeks ago, this would have been my opening line. Like most people I considered working from home a 'Friday thing,' but only if I had no meetings that day. Or, very occasionally, if I had something I needed to be home for, like a boiler service or a furniture delivery.
12 weeks ago my work and home life felt hectic and frantic most of the time, I felt I didn’t have enough time to do it all properly. At the office I'd think about home, at home I'd think about work and by the end of the week my energy levels were so low that I needed the weekend to recharge my batteries.
So, I did what I considered to be the sensible thing and just avoided mixing the two. I kept both parts of my life completely separate. I came into the office everyday so I could draw on the energy and comfort I got (and still get) from being with people. And home was, well, home.
When lockdown changes everything
Then coronavirus happened. Making the choice of where I work completely out of the equation. I genuinely hated that last day in the office. I lied to my manager that I was going to be 'just fine' working from home while inside I dreaded about being able to cope.
How would I manage to mix work life and home life? How could I be a mother, a wife and a professional all in the same space? How would I juggle it all without the comfort blanket of the office-based routine? Would it all eventually catch up and implode on me?
Learning to love it
Fast forward 12 weeks and nothing could be further from the truth. I now genuinely love working from home full-time and as I said to my colleagues in a recent meeting, "you'll have to drag me back to that office kicking and screaming!"
All that from just changing where I physically work?
The short answer is no.
It isn't just a physical change
The longer answer includes the fact that I still work full-time with homeschooling thrown into the mix. Meanwhile, personal commitments haven't changed, if anything they’ve increased. With both mine and my husband’s family shielding, we need to check in with them to ensure they’re ok and have everything they need. And entertaining our 11-year-old, when he’s not either doing his school work or paying Xbox.
I still do my three exercise classes a week, albeit via Zoom these days rather than in a village hall.
Thankfully, hubby does shopping, normally on a Thursday night around 8pm to avoid the rush. And I've even discovered a greengrocers in Braintree who deliver me fresh fruit and veg every week which I’m going keep going as it’s so much more tasty and fresh (and plastic free!).
So how come I find this way of life better, more relaxed? And 'relaxed' is definitely not a word I (or anyone I know) would use to describe me anyway.
One thing is that I don't have the stress of getting ready for work. The panic I feel when running for the bus just so I make it to work on time. Not to mention the lost time spent commuting when I could be doing something more productive.
I also find real-time collaboration is better. I now find it easier and quicker to have conversations with the people I need to get the job done. I don't have to book the right room for the number of people, or factor in travelling time to meetings in different locations. Is it me or do people just seem more accessible these days?
Relationships with colleagues feel different via a screen but we still have the same sense of fun and enjoyment together that we always had. It’s just taken a while to get used to the fact it all feels more formal as it requires an invite on a calendar to bring everyone together.
And spending more time with my family has been great, if I’m really honest!
Creating the right balance
That’s not to say it’s been plain sailing. It's taken a lot of discipline to look at what’s important to me and others. Also to get to a point where I feel I still have choice and control, leading to genuine work-life balance.
I've learnt it's not about trying to simply transfer and replicate office life into your home. It's about navigating your way to a place where both work and home life are no longer fighting for your attention and you get to manage it all in the best possible way for you.
And it took a pandemic for me to finally get there.