In many ways I am in a fortunate position during this current crisis. While many have been unable to work and seen severely reduced income, I have been able to continue working. The nature of my job as an accountant means that, aided by modern technology,  I am largely able to do it from wherever I am. There have been additional stresses as I have done extra work, mostly unpaid, to assist clients at this difficult time and help them get the funds they need to survive. But at least I have been able to do this from the comfort of my own home. 

On the face of it, being able to work from home instead of making the daily commute could be considered a blessing. However, it comes with its own sets of challenges. As home working is likely to become more common even after the current crisis is over, I want to share my experiences of some of the pitfalls that come with it. 

PICTURE: Patrick Perkins/Unsplash

Work/Life split

Wherever you go to do your work, there is a clear split between work and personal time. Once you step outside the office you are on your own time and can put work behind you. 

When the office is in your home then maintaining that split becomes harder. Whilst I am using my home computer to type this article, my work laptop is sat right next to me. It would be easy for me to turn it on and start working, even though it is the weekend. Indeed, on several ocassions I have found myself doing some work evenings and weekends since I started working from home. In some instances this is fully justified, with already struggling clients needing prompt assistance. But in most cases it has simply been because it was so easy to do. 

Where possible I would recommend packing away your work computer instead of just turning it off. This will give the sense of separation you normally get from leaving the office. The hassle from having to set it up again should also help dissuade you from ‘just doing some work quickly’. 

Finding room

There was a long-term plan for me to do some work from home. However, when this crisis hit I had not made the preparations necessary for this. As a result, I have my work computer set up on a folding table that blocks access to the window in the room I’m in. This is obviously a less than ideal situation, though the current crisis limits my options for addressing it. If you plan to set up a home office yourself, I would heartily recommend ensuring you have the space ready first. 

I am at least luckier than a colleague who is also working from home. In the moderately small flat where they live, the only space available for their home office is the dining table in the main room. As their television is in the same room, this has caused some friction in their household. 

Ergonomic issues

As well as taking up space in an awkward fashion, there are other issues with the physical setup. The chair for my home computer has fixed legs, meaning there is no simple means of rotating it. When just using the single computer this has not proved an issue, as the chair simply faces that computer. Using the work computer as well has required me to regularly lift and rotate this chair whilst I am sat in it. At first this just felt like a mild inconvenience, but a few weeks of this unnatural movement started creating muscle cramps. With the reduced exercise options under lockdown, this soon became a major issue. 

I have since learned a series of indoor stretching exercises that alleviate the pain. That, coupled with the ability to do more outside exercise, should ensure this does not turn into a serious problem. I will still be looking for more suitable furniture when I can. 

Conclusion

This crisis has undoubtedly shown that home working is a viable option for more people than previously thought possible. Video conferencing, high-speed broadband and secure file-sharing services make it much more viable than even a few years ago. But if you plan to start home-working, make sure you consider the practical issues as well as the business ones. 


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