Working from home has become a reality for many people in tech. In the UK, the first lockdown happened and like many others I began working remotely armed with my laptop, extra monitor and office chair. I’d worked remotely before, so I knew what to expect, but it wasn’t really the same.
Not the same as before
When I worked from home in London, I was working for a company a world away, in New Zealand. This meant there was next to no overlap and I could structure my days how I saw fit. Maybe I’d take a longer lunch break to enjoy the sun and make up the time in the evening. I’d start early, so I could go and enjoy the sights London had to offer. When the first lockdown happened, the flexibility that remote work gave wasn’t there. It couldn’t be, things weren’t the same as they were before.
I moved to London with my wife, and we chose a studio flat, why wouldn’t we? London is expensive, and we would make the most of going out and experiencing it, not sitting indoors. This worked well under normal circumstances, but not during lockdown. This confinement to a single room where we ate, lived and worked in took its toll. After almost a year of this, something had to be done.
Finding the right space
Eventually, everything aligned, and we moved to a new flat in London. We specifically got a two-bedroom flat to dedicate that bedroom to working space instead. This has been the best thing we could have done. It’s a luxury that not everyone can afford, but if you can, and work from home, do it. A separate space for working makes remote work much more manageable. It’s a space for productivity, for Zoom calls and focus. Best of all, at the end of the day, I simply close my laptop, turn off the lights and close the door. It’s done. This separation of space and ability to forget about it in the afternoon creates a spatial gap and a mental gap that allows you to switch off. When living in the same space as you work, it’s really difficult to find that balance. You end up working late, starting early and getting distracted. The last piece of the puzzle of remote working is dealing with meetings.
Dealing with Zoom Fatigue
When I worked from an office, meetings happened very organically. They were impromptu and short. When there was a need for the whole team to be in the same room, these meetings were chosen carefully because there were limited meeting rooms available. This demand lead to efficient meetings that were to the point. Remote working made this challenging.
Zoom is just one of many services for video conferencing, but they all create fatigue. There are many reasons for this, but I’ve found a few ways of dealing with this.
Clarify the meeting purpose, have an agenda and stick to it. It’s easy to get lost on the way and having an agenda keeps a meeting more focused, so hopefully they can be shorter and more effective. This doesn’t always work, but if you’re currently dealing with meetings that you finish and realise you still don’t have the answer you’re looking for, try setting an agenda next time.
The other thing I do is take breaks. It’s simple really, you need some time to relax and give yourself space for the next thing at hand. Occasionally, I’ll even block out time in my calendar for focused work to signal to coworkers I’m not available for meetings. In that time, I make sure to take breaks and recharge.
These are some of my experiences working from home during the pandemic. I hope you’re able to take something from these and find what works for you.