Reflecting on Working From Home by Alex O’Sullivan

In March 2020, the coronavirus passed through Australia’s notoriously strict border security and plunged Australia into chaos.

Firstly, toilet paper disappeared overnight from shopping shelves, then it was paper towels, flour and sugar. Only three days later and supermarkets had sold out of tissues and cleaning products. It was odd to watch the world, which had seemed so calm, so rapidly change due to the unknowns of the coronavirus.

It wasn’t long until this pandemic started to personally affect everyone. To prevent the spread of the virus businesses were closed, employees were sent home, interactions were restricted, and we were encouraged to stay indoors. The world literally grinded to a halt.

At Leading Hand Design, we were one of the lucky few, who have been able to transition relatively easily to working from home (WFH).

It has now been two months since we have all been WFH and it’s a good opportunity to reflect on the transition.

At the beginning of this, working from home experience, one of our clients sent the picture below depicting the struggles of WFH. Initially, as I was only a couple of days into this experience, I laughed it off and went back to work. I can now state that this image is the survival guide to working from home.

What I thought would make me productive: Hardwork. What actually does: Hardwork, Time off, sleep, healthy eating, exercise

This image shows the need for balance to drive productivity.

Balance, for me, has been the key to surviving working from home, especially when you are in a house with six adults, all trying different approaches to our new normal.

There has also been a balance of pro and cons that have resulted from my new working experience:

Pro 1:

My family, Australia, and the first world, can no longer take the basics for granted. If supermarkets, in a first world country, can be out of consumer staples in two weeks then surely, we can’t take any anything for granted ever again.  Perhaps people will be more grateful for life gifts again, like the generation that lived through the depression.

Con 1:

Separating home and work life has been difficult; it is tempting to respond to emails late at night because work is always at home. However, this has resulted in a major pro for me.

Pro 2:

When coronavirus started, I was new to my full time working career and was yet to establish a routine. WFH has forced me into a routine of getting up and walking to get coffee before work every day and then walking to get lunch. These outside breaks and other small new elements to my working day have been instrumental to separating work and home time. I also believe it will be helpful to making a smooth transition back to working in the office (whenever that occurs).

Con 2:

Motivation can be hard to maintain, especially when the workflow is intermittent and momentum is low. This may result in easily getting side-tracked. To overcome this, another pro has emerged.

Pro 3:

Discipline has been reinforced to ensure all work is done and to the best standard. Post-it notes litter my desk, and daily to do lists are constantly being created. I don’t think my email inbox has ever been this organised!

Con 3:

Although, discipline curbs the potential for a lull in motivation, the reliance on technology, especially email, to communicate, does slow down work. Instead of walking five metres to ask a co-worker a question, now an email must be sent. This often extends the time it takes to get collaborative tasks done.

Pro 4:

The waiting period however, has created some downtime, which has allowed me to become more self-autonomous in my work. When there is not something to do immediately, it has become a habit to look for tasks or create tasks that will be a benefit to a project.

Pro 4:

Also, relying on email and has developed all our communication skills. To ensure efficiency, we have all learnt to be very clear and concise in emails. 

Con 5:

My cat is constantly trying to distract me by asking for attention.

Pro 5:

She is very cute, so it’s not really a bad thing!

WFH due to coronavirus has become a very personal experience that everyone is reacting to in different ways. Therefore, there are plenty of other pros and cons that have emerged from WFH, that I’m sure I am not even aware off. What is interesting to reflect upon and acknowledge is how our new working norms have changed. I ponder which ones are likely to part of our more permanent “new normal”.

One thing, I think everyone will acknowledge is that Zoom and Teams have been installed in our daily life and words like “social distancing” and “unprecedented” are now mainstays of our vocabulary.