JULY 28, 2020

Time for a WFH Reality Check 

It’s hard to believe that I have been working from home for five months. There was a short lived 3-week period when I returned to my office in a co-working space - if only for few days a week.   That abruptly ended when members of a work group on our floor (who were notorious for not wearing masks) one day ALL rushed to get tested for Covid.  Only a few of them actually had it, but that was enough for me. Once a week or so I get another memo from the office manager announcing new cases, so I have no desire to return any time soon.

 

Despite the fact that I abhor the term “new normal” – I have adjusted to the idea that this will be how we will be working for the foreseeable future.  Consider that this week Google – who employs 200,000 people – told their employees that they should not expect to be back in the office until JULY 2021. 

 

Photo by Angie Myung, Poketo

There are definitely positives - as well as negatives - that stem from working from home. Forgive me for not getting into the dynamics of doing this with children at home -  I’m not qualified – I am not part of that demographic, though I feel for you! 

 

Purely from the perspective of uprooting your workspace from your office to your home, the plusses and minuses go far deeper than saving time on the commute (on the plus side), or gaining weight because your face is in the fridge much more often than it should be (DEFINITELY on the minus side).   

Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford University economics professor who studies working from home, says that while his research has shown that people are 13% more productive when working from home, creativity suffers

 

Per Sally Augustin, a Chicago area environmental and design psychologist, “creativity is difficult without collaboration in the same space.  Employees can lose the inspiration that comes from spontaneous interaction.” Esther Sternberg, whose book Healing Spaces was recognized by the AIA as an inspiration for its Design and Health Initiative, says  “People working together in the same room also solve problems more quickly than remote collaborators.”  

I can totally relate.  In my prior work-life I worked in leadership roles at an ad agency.   An important part of my job was creating an environment (physically and culturally) where ideas could come alive and thrive.  

 

WFH is solitary. I miss working with my team.  I crave the energy that comes from brainstorming and bouncing ideas off of others or acting as a sounding board.   I firmly believe that we are always better together. One of the things that my partner Aleksandra and I do is launch a zoom call when we start working in the morning.  We can discuss the day’s priorities, keep the call in the background all day, and come back when we need to discuss an issue or to brainstorm.  It’s far from perfect, but it does help us feel more connected.  

 

MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR WFH SPACE, EVEN IF IT’S TEMPORARY

 

If this your new reality, make your WFH environment as comfortable as possible. If you work full time, you will be spending over 40 hours a week in that same place. 

 

Here are a few things to consider, even if you are commandeering the dining room table during the day.

 

1. Keep the clutter under control

“People tend to keep their office workspaces neater than their home ones, if only because others will see it. At home, stacks of books or papers may be shoved aside for a Zoom call, but never resolved. That’s a problem since clutter always leads to stress, according to Agustin.    So, seize the moment! Now is the time to go paperless.  If you don’t have a scanner, download the Adobe Scan App on your mobile device. Via your camera it scans documents into PDFs, automatically recognizes text, and allows you to enhance your them. If paperless isn’t your thing, invest in some pretty paper storage solutions that you can move around, or a file cabinet on casters, so that your papers can come with you no matter where in the house you're working. 

 

2. Designate a “zoom room”

If you can’t work in a private space, designate a separate quiet space to do your phone and zoom calls. This will not only keep you focused, but your co-workers on the call will thank you.

 

3. Invest in a noise cancelling headset

The good news is that renovations are being allowed again in my building. The bad news is that the noise is incredibly annoying.  A noise cancelling headset is worth its weight in gold: you will tune out noise and concentrate better, and  the headset serves as an  "I am busy" indicator to your family members.    Most of the time, at least.

4. Make sure that your laptop screen is high enough

If your neck has been bothering you, you may need to either put your laptop on a stack of books (and invest in a separate keyboard) or get a laptop stand. Ergonomics are incredibly important, and you don’t need to sacrifice comfort because of lack of space.

 

Here are a few more tips from Refinery 29 to help you work comfortably, even without a designated space to go to.

 

IF YOU CAN CREATE A DEDICATED WFH AREA, HAVE SOME FUN!

 

If you do have the ability to create a nook or space all for yourself, then there are lots of options - even for a very small area. Check out these desks, some of which are small in footprint, but huge in style.  (I’m a sucker for mid-century design, so please indulge me). 

 

IF YOU ACTUALLY HAVE A ROOM THAT YOU CAN CONVERT, GO TO TOWN! 

 

We have so few opportunities to find joy these days.  If you have a spare room / guest room to work with, here’s some inspo from designers that will hopefully spark some cool ideas to help you create something really awesome.  

 

The way we work is being totally transformed and working from home will likely move from what used to be a privilege for a few to the mainstream. If your makeshift WFH set up isn’t cutting it anymore, we hope these ideas will help you create a more productive and inviting space for the long haul. 

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Make your WFH environment as comfortable as possible. Remember, if you work full time, you will be spending over 40 hours a week in that same place. 

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