The review process for the post the health benefits of remote working had turned into a spirited discussion on the flip side of the story, albeit over the cyberspace on Slack. The team had chipped in to share the inexorable side effects of working from home in their personal perspectives. So, what is it about remote working that bothers us?
1. Problem: No division of space between home and office
- Expectations from family members
Newcomers to remote working might find issues in gaining understanding from family members or partners when they see that we are home all the time and tend to ask us to do chores. It is still normal for people to associate being present at home with “not at work”.
- Switch off from work
It could be challenging to switch off from work at the end of the day since we never leave the working space which is the home office. There is no change of space or a lack of ritual such as commuting to mentally remove ourselves from work, which allows us to adjust our emotion from the office stress so that we become ready to face our family at home.
- Children experience our work stress
There are times when we have arguments with our colleagues over contradictory opinions, or inadvertently curse or bang the keyboard when we hit the wall while trying to solve some problem. Our children might see disagreeable behaviors which might not be the best version of us.
- Work and household multitasking
There are rare days when switching off from work is impossible and some of us become a multitask machine. For our customer support colleagues, when an urgent customer support task continues after 5 pm, they would be cooking, parenting, and working all at once, the computer would be on the dinner table with the meal preparation while listening to their children recounting a day at school.
- Brief the family
Many of us feel the need to brief our respective family on this issue that we are working at home and please do not disturb.
- Find the switch
It might take some effort to find the switch, but it is achievable with some practice; taking a stroll outside, playing our favorite music, taking a hot bath, or meditating might just do the trick.
- Children exposed to working life
This is not entirely a bad thing. There is little opportunity for children to see how their parents work unless a parent works from home, especially since our children would grow up someday and start working too.
- Learn to juggle and prioritize
When we have multiple roles at home, the switching skill becomes even more important. Using a task organizer to see the priority, divide the work hours into multiple tasks helps us to complete our tasks effectively.
2. Problem: No clear separation of uptime and downtime
Not having a clear separation of downtime and uptime, which if not controlled, will lead to more stress. It can become tricky to start balancing our life with all that free time we might get from less commute and less wasted time in office, some might end up overworked or burnt out.
Some of us counter this by using software and tracking sheets for aspects that may seem mundane in terms of work delivery but are essential for well-being. The idea is to apply a similar system that we have for work to our personal life since they overlap anyway in this work-from-home setting. For example, some of us track what we eat to make sure we are having a balanced diet, or that we are not abusing on junk food; some of us track the amount and intensity of our exercise to ensure we are getting enough workout.
3. Problem: Compromised communication with colleagues
Sometimes it is hard to express our abstract ideas through text or a voice or video call, we still feel the need for face-to-face communication assisted by paper and pencil in some instances.
The asynchronous work hours, sometimes we expect our colleagues to respond promptly but the response takes a while, and vice versa.
We try to be creative with our means of communication and usage of readily available tools. It also helps to plan ahead of time, communicate with our teammate in advance and arrange a schedule that the team can adhere to.
4. Problem: Not meeting people as much as we would like
Remote working might lead to less human touch in our life, we do not meet people on a regular basis, having much less face-to-face interpersonal interactions, most of the time just staring at the computer screen and absorbed in the cyberspace. We might feel isolated from the outside world, and not knowing what is going on the world, for those who are not reading the newspaper, nor watching the news on television. For those who stay alone, staying home too much feels unhealthy, remote working might easily lead to a compromised social life.
The parents would take advantage of their parenting circle, or volunteer at the parent-teacher-association in the children’s school. The singles could counter this by working at cafes and coworking spaces as often as possible. There are groups such as the ‘Japan female freelance network’, through which members can look for coworking partners to spend some physical face time with.
5. Problem: Ergonomics of home office
Not having a proper work table and chair can become a health issue. Sometimes we just slouch over the dining table and make do with whatever chair there is around. Working from home in such a less than ideal setting regularly for a long time could cause back pain.
Some of us find it necessary to have an ergonomic office chair at home. Posture awareness is also a good habit to cultivate. Another way that might possibly help is to set an alarm to go off every 30 minutes or so, and to take a break and do some stretches to avoid maintaining the same posture for a long time.
These are the personal experiences of our team. What are yours? Feel free to share them with us in the comments section below.