Opinion

How has working from home matched our initial perceptions?

Since March most of the UK has been adapting to a new way of life as we changed our working habits and moved to work from home. The sudden implementation of lockdown across the country meant that almost overnight we not only had to set up a new office environment for ourselves at home but also significantly change the way in which we worked.

Reflecting on the last few months, it is interesting to see how much life has changed for each of us. The perceptions that we had going into lockdown were a mixture of the challenges we faced in converting a corner of our home into a functioning workspace versus the positive impact of not just a more flexible working environment but also the additional time we would gain to do the things we love in our personal time.

Creating a workspace

That first challenge we all faced was the prospect of creating a comfortable and practical working environment at home. One where we could establish a work area that would be separate from our living space and not tempt us by the many distractions at home.

For the first time, we had to set boundaries with our partners and housemates so that we wouldn’t disturb each other during important video conference calls or when we had a deadline to meet. Colleagues with children faced the even harder task of balancing home-schooling and children’s entertainment with their working schedule.

It was a daunting prospect, but tips and advice soon circulated on how to set yourself up at home to be your most productive. Advice included:

  • Create a designated workspace to help you focus on work
  • Establish a routine
  • Set boundaries with your partner / housemates to avoid interrupting each other
  • Take regular breaks
  • Switch off at the end of the day

Despite this being a good reference point what struck me as most important was the need to set yourself up in a way that works for you as an individual. Speaking to colleagues it was clear that we all varied slightly, for me, instead of finding one location to work from I prefer to move around, finding a different spot depending on the task I am doing. If I need to be creative, I prefer a relaxed environment, so I’ll sit on my sofa in the living room or be in the garden. If I need to focus on a project plan or a budget, then I will head to the desk in the spare room and close the door to concentrate. If a different method helps you to better focus, do it.

The flexibility that working from home offers has to be one of the biggest positives of this change. An office will, unfortunately, always have some restrictions, whether this is simply due to the space available or being mindful of colleagues’ ways of working. At home you are free to create your own environment, change it when you want and make the most of your productivity!

Staying social

One huge benefit the office does provide is the ease with which we are able to communicate and socialise with colleagues. Whether this is to follow up on a project or simply to have a catch up with someone over a cuppa in the kitchen. Working from home meant we had to make some fundamental changes to the way in which we communicated with each other which has ultimately proved key to ensuring the transition from office working to home working has had minimal impact on the overall day to day business operations.

Working from home undoubtedly provides less opportunity to socialise and can often lead to loneliness or feelings of being isolated. We quickly setup new communication channels and regular catch ups within teams and across the company. We swiftly used Microsoft Teams more and more for video conference calls, instant messaging and social channels where we could actively share news, articles or photos that we found interesting. We actively encouraged each other to reach out if we had a question or needed to talk, meaning we were able to recreate our social elements that brought everyone together within the office.

A huge effort has been made across the company to ensure everyone keeps in touch. Our regular company-wide calls have brought together colleagues from our international offices and we present on projects we are working on or a non-work related subject we feel passionate about. This has enabled us to connect with and learn more about the wider team in a way that may not have happened in the office.

So what’s next?

As we ease out of lockdown we understand that although working from home is tough at times, overall it has been easier than perhaps we anticipated. What started as a way to keep staff and colleagues safe has now turned into a popular and productive way of working that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. The flexibility and control you have over your life when working from home ultimately means more enjoyment for your work. That said, it’s important to get the balance right so that you are working from home, and not ‘living at work’.

Most of the initial challenges we faced have now been smoothed out and we seem to have settled into our new routine and way of working. Office life, however, will always be a fundamental part of what it takes to plan, create and deliver events. The human interaction within an office is an invaluable part of our event planning process.

Undoubtedly, when it is safe again, we look forward to being reunited with our colleagues and for client meetings to start happening again in person. It will be interesting to see how businesses return to the office and the flexible working patterns that ensue.

Whatever the future of working may look like, the last few months have been a fantastic example of how adaptable we can be and how a situation like this can still bring us together.

 

Alice is an Event Director at Bray Leino Events.