Working From Home – Reflections On The First 18 Months
Having a job where I can work from home is like a dream come true for me. In the past few years, I’ve moved countries three times (from Australia to UK, back to Australia, back to UK again). It’s stressful trying to manage finances whilst trying to find a job in a new city. I’ve also learnt, across various jobs, that working full-time in offices does not pan out well for me, health-wise. No matter how many yoga classes I go to and good lunches and eat and sleep that I get, it inevitably leads to me feeling trapped and suffocated.
So, you can imagine my relief and gratitude when I became a part of the team at Vine Street Digital! It’s been about 18 months now, which is a great time for some reflecting on how my experience has been. Here are some of the things I’ve noticed.
Sudden Loss of Structure
The first thing I can remember feeling was a sense of… giddiness. It was thoroughly exciting to be able to work from home, but also so new and strange that I felt a bit disoriented. I had all these thoughts running around in my head, like “You mean I don’t HAVE to get dressed? Or leave the house?!” Disclaimer: please, do both of these things, at least sometimes!
I had gained a new ability: to choose when and where to work. I didn’t really know what to do, or where to go! I’m someone who tends to work better with good habits and routines set in place, yet there I was without a routine. Even back when I used to struggle with commuting to physical offices, at least the commute gave me a sense of structure.
But With That Loss, Came Freedom!
Once I got into the flow of things, I realised what an amazing opportunity it was to be working remotely. I could finally make my work fit my life for once, instead of trying to fit my life around work.
I can choose my work times to fit my natural schedule as much as possible. Depending on where I live at the time, I’m productive at different times of the day. In Australia, I find I’m often more productive and focused in the morning, especially if I wake up earlier and get myself ready by 7 am. Sometimes half of my workday is done before 11am! But in England, I’m more productive at night time.
I can take lunch breaks at times that suit my weird eating habits, and if I need to go to an appointment it’s okay to do that too. Even better, if I find that I am having trouble focusing, I am able to step away for a bit to clear my head. Sometimes that means I’ll go outside for a walk – get some fresh air and the blood pumping!
Oh, and the best thing of all? I can pick what music gets played, and no one complains!
Feeling Connected to the Team
For me, the hardest thing about working from home is that I’m by myself. I really value connection, so having good relationships helps me to be happy. It’s important to me that I feel I fit in with the team. As an introvert, I need time to chill out and look after myself, which is time that I certainly get working from home. But I still want to feel like I’m part of the group.
So, we keep in contact regularly. Especially in the beginning, Gemma (the boss!) and I were talking every day over Skype, as she was training me up for the role. Once I achieved independence in my ability to do most tasks, we didn’t need to talk every day as I worked. However, we usually check in every couple of days: say hello, have a quick catchup about our weekends, and so on. We’ve swapped to using Slack instead of Skype now, and we’ll have group chats with other staff members too.
Working from home does feel very different from the days of working together in a physical location where you could just turn to the person next to you and start chatting face-to-face. Sometimes I really miss having my workmates around me. But Gemma has suggested I could try going to a co-working space on occasion, once I’ve settled into my new life over in the UK!
Update as of July 2020: Gemma and I now have weekly 30-minute calls to talk through tasks, goals, and priorities. We have weekly staff calls with the whole team as well. I also have a fortnightly call with Rebecca who works with me on some of our admin and marketing. Also, I did end up trying a few days in a coworking office – more on that another time!
Looking After Myself
Working at a computer all day puts a lot of strain on the body. I’ve been told by multiple professionals (physiotherapists, massage therapists, chiropractors, the list goes on) that I should get up and stretch every so often. Setting a timer is a good way to remind me of that! Do some stretching, go for a little walk, just move your body. Sometimes, I even go to do my grocery shopping! No more having to find time on the weekend when it’s supermarket rush hour (shudder).
I’ll even split up my workday by going out to grab some lunch or meet a friend for a few hours (in which case I’ll do some work in the evening instead of the afternoon, for example). Working from home means you’ve got the freedom to do that. Plenty of office-workers can pop out and have lunch or coffee with friends too, of course. It’s just easier when your hours are flexible!
Also, for someone working remotely, giving myself the option to go outside and see people is something that helps not just my body, but my mind as well. It’s too easy to get stuck in my little work cave at home and not go outside… tsk tsk.
Sometimes I find it hard to separate my home life from my work life. It’s especially difficult as there’s not a lot of room where I live, so my work desk is located in the same room where I sleep. One day, this will change! Fingers crossed for a lottery win to build a home office, thanks.
Not only is it the desk location, but it’s the computer too. All of my paid work is done on the same laptop as my regular internet and social activities. I wouldn’t mind some further separation here! Gemma achieves this separation by using different login profiles on her computer. So, instead of just switching Chrome browser profiles as I do, she actually logs in and out of her work mode versus her life mode. I might give that a go!
Oh, and one other thing. I actually get dressed before I start work in the morning. I know some people who even give themselves a ‘uniform’ or wear something reasonably business-like when they work from home, but I prefer to be more comfortable than that. My rule is that I can wear anything, even a baggy shirt and leggings, as long as it’s not what I slept in! Getting dressed helps get my mind ready and know that it’s work time now!
Update as of July 2020: I’ve changed up my logins now so that I have a dedicated work login on my computer. I’ve found this helps keep everything nicely organised and separated from my personal computer use. This became especially important during the pandemic when my time at home was even further increased than it was pre-COVID. I’ve also been able to move into a house where I can have my desk in a different room from where I sleep, which does wonders for helping me disconnect from work life.
Opportunities Gained By Working From Home
Honestly, the freedom of working from home is the most amazing thing! The flexibility of not only time but also location feels like such a gift. I’m able to take my laptop with me anywhere, and as long as I have an internet connection I am good to go! I went on a trip to the UK in 2017 for five weeks and was able to do some work in-between my travel times. In March 2018, I actually moved to England, and for the first time moving to a new city I didn’t have to worry about finding work upon arrival!
Working from home presents so many amazing opportunities. I’ve been finding out more about how I best operate, and what makes me tick. It’s something I’m incredibly grateful for.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!
Written by Chelsea Zanki