It has now been two and a half years to the day since the government announced that all but key workers were to work from home. I am sure you will agree it is safe to say there was a mixture of panic, uncertainty, apprehension, fear and perhaps for some excitement or relief. For many this was an alien concept but now 30 months later it is becoming quite commonplace and many more companies are considering the pros of flexible working. At MPI, however, it was not an unusual concept. Ahead of the curve, as we like to be, MPI has offered various members of staff this option of flexible working for many years rather than risk losing a valuable team member. This left us in an unique but fantastic position of being able to transfer all workforce to this scenario quickly and easily and give our entire workforce points of contact should they need support. But now we are back to normal how to home workers feel?
MPI currently have four full time home workers and one on a part time basis and we spoke to them about how it felt during the pandemic and now life is returning to normal. The highs, the lows, the pros , the cons and tips for anyone who finds themselves working from home through choice or not. With a variety of length of home work experience from a few months to 10 years, and jobs roles from recruiter, payroll, compliance and director there is a good wealth of knowledge to share. And as a home worker myself for nearly a decade I have pulled together our thoughts.
The main change post COVID is the understanding, not just from colleagues, but from the wider community about the reality of working from home. Previously when you mentioned working from home to people the reaction was generally wow you are so lucky- you can do what you want.... the underlying message appeared to be that you didn't offer a good days work. For me personally I felt I had to work harder to prove myself to those around me, but perhaps to myself as well. Working from home was and is a privilege but it doesn't mean we are sat on the sofa watching TV, many people who had to do it in COVID now understand how productive you can be working from home but they also appreciate that the isolation can be a challenge in itself. Many now also acknowledge that the self motivation it takes should be admired as so many found that aspect difficult with their own home distractions.
A major positive is the ability to be more efficient, all workers felt they were able to concentrate better and achieve more in their day so don't be hard on yourself if the doorbell rings etc as yes you would miss it if you weren't home but you would also probably get caught with other office activities and don't feel guilty for making a cuppa or getting some water as these are normal work activities! The other major positive that the home workers have identified is avoiding the commute!! This saves time and as a few have pointed out is also very good for the environment.
The things that people find tough are communication, or lack there of but have recognised that that is a two way street. It is often too easy to send an email when you could give someone a call and get that human contact. It is a hard thing to do and something I still worry about after 10 years as you never know what people are in the middle of which you would in an office but you can always start with "is it a bad time?" If this means you get that human contact in your day that can be a big step. The management at MPI are great at sending regular updates about the company as a whole as with different office bases and home workers it is hard to remember who knows what so they identified an area of concern for home workers and addressed it. They have also created a home workers whatsapp group for urgent and important IT updates for example. Perhaps that is something you can suggest to your own employers if they aren't doing that themselves. For those of you in an office in a company that has home workers don't forget to give them a call from time to time as it can make a big difference to their day or to remember to tell them something you may have shouted across the office if they need to know it.
The advise from most at MPI to make it work as a long term solution is to make sure you have a dedicated workstation in an area of the house to help ensure you are 1. not distracted and 2. are still taking yourself "to work" even if that is in your home. Set yourself a plan for the day and make sure you take breaks like you would in an office. It is VERY easy to get sucked into something with no-one to interrupt you and one worker at MPI has described that she often realises she has not taken a lunch break until her stomach reminds her into the afternoon. Try to set reminders to get a drink and stretch your legs.
Working from home isn't for everyone, some love it, some hate it and whichever camp you fall into we hope some of these tips and experiences help you manage should you need to.