Tom Inniss Journalist and podcaster

Working from home: expectations v reality

W

In these unprecedented times, I find myself reflecting on the fact that I’m in a very fortunate position of having flexible working hours at Voice, and have an introverted personality perfectly suited to staying away from others.

Yet, I know that for some, the experience of working from home will be new and potentially quite difficult. That loss of separation between work and home can be taxing and stressful, especially if you are sharing your house with others.

Getting up

Expectation

This will vary depending on what your living circumstances are like, and the expectations work have placed on you regarding your workload. I would personally encourage you to try and get up as close to normal time as possible. Obviously you no longer have the commute time to worry about, so you now have this extra time in the morning to maybe go for your regimented exercise outside, or take that extra time to have a fulfilling breakfast rather than the coffee and a breakfast bar you generally grab on your way out of the door. Routine is crucial for a healthy mind.

Reality

No commute? Excellent, an extra hour in bed!

The boss has said I need to be working my normal hours, so as long as I roll out by 8:45am I can still answer my first email by 9am, and no-one will be any the wiser. Maybe I’ll just keep the laptop next to my bed and work from the comfort of these freshly washed sheets, and surface around 10:30am for some breakfast.

Getting dressed

Expectation

It will at first be embedded behaviour to get up and get dressed, that’s what normal people do, right? You’re going to want to choose clothing that is simultaneously comfortable but has an air of ‘professional’ about it, just to keep you in the mindset of ‘being productive’. A smart casual look is what I would recommend. It absolutely cannot be loungewear, as cognitively you will be in a relaxed mentality, and getting motivated to work will be all the harder.

Reality

I’m sure a lot of you are like me, where how you’re dressed will reflect (and impact) how you feel for the rest of the day. That’s why I have two dressing gowns – a colourful one for when I’m feeling fresh and alive, and an all black one to reflect the more serious days. Depending on your living situation, you can also choose to accessorise with jogging bottoms (or shorts, if it’s warm) and a T-shirt, or for the authentic WFH experience keep it plain and just go for the gown.

Meals

Expectation

Why is this even included in here? My meals will be breakfast, lunch and dinner – just like they always are. What a ridiculous thing to even mention.

Reality

Well there is the quick bite to eat before you go to work. Then there is your first coffee break at maybe 10:30 with a couple of biscuits and some fruit. Then the extended lunch break where you then spot all those delicious snacks you managed to scavenge from a shop that still had food. You’ll more than likely take those back to your desk (if you were lucky enough to get one before IKEA was ransacked) and munch your way through those as you work through the afternoon. Once work is put aside, you will of course want to have dinner, and those snacks are still there, teasing and tempting. You’ve been so good all day, you’ll say to yourself, what is another packet of crisps, or some ice-cream?

And that’s not even counting the copious amount of coffee and tea breaks you’ll take to just ‘stretch your legs’.

Work/life divide

Expectation

You’ll get up with plenty of time, treat yourself to a luxurious breakfast, head into an area that you’ve designated ‘the work zone’, and work will stay there. Once you’ve finished work you will leave the space and that is it. Work is totally separate from your home life.

Job’s a good’un.

Reality

You are almost certainly going to be all over the place. You might start working in bed, then transition to the ‘working zone’, but that will get boring exceptionally soon, and maybe you’d work better with the TV on in the background, so you’ll move to the front room. After being totally absorbed by the latest episode of Homes Under the Hammer you’ll feel guilty, so take your laptop with you into the kitchen so you can continue working while you prep some food – but let’s be honest, who can multitask like that. You might have the discipline to work while eating lunch (and second lunch), but after food you’ll feel sluggish, so need to work from a slightly reclined position. Then you might return to the ‘work zone’ for that final push, but will the guilt of not getting enough done while you’ve messed around compel you to work into the evening? How will you know when to stop if others aren’t leaving the office?!

Work ethic and discipline

Expectation

Ok, just because you’re working from home, it doesn’t mean you can’t still keep exactly the same laser focus on your work. When in the office, you might work from 9:00 until 11:00, then have a five minute break for a coffee, and then carry through until lunchtime. After your allotted lunch break you’re back at your desk ready to mop up those afternoon tasks, perhaps slightly lethargic but no less keen to succeed. You’ll keep an eye on the clock, but if you have a task to finish you’re likely to stay and get it done.

Reality

I can’t believe I overslept! No time to get dressed, just going to have to throw on the dressing gown and log-on so the boss knows I’m present. Once I’ve made myself known, I’ll go throw some clothes on.

Wait, why isn’t the computer logging on?! How do I access the VPN? WHY IS NOTHING WORKING. Better send a text just to explain what’s happening, and buy myself time.

*Later*

How have I got no clean clothes to wear?! Guess I better put a wash on, it will only take a second. And while I’m in the kitchen I might as well make a coffee. And how can I have a coffee without one of these biscuits I managed to buy before the hoarding started? In fact I should probably have breakfast.

*Back to work to pick up Slack messages*

Those clothes probably need hanging out, it will take five minutes max and then it’s done. Those biscuits were quite moreish, I’ll just have a couple more (don’t want to be greedy), although it’s getting close to lunch time… And I’m never at home for lunch so I should make the effort to have something proper…

*Prepare a gourmet meal*

Ok, I’ve really not done as much as I’d like, but there is still all afternoon. I’m just feeling a bit sluggish so I’ll quickly grab a coffee to pick myself up, and actually those clothes are already nearly dry because it’s such glorious weather. No – I must keep working, emails and reports await. Although… I wonder what the Government is saying about this all, I’ll just quickly check The Guardian and–Oh my god it’s so bad?! I need a coffee to pick myself up from this, and then I’ll finish that report. On the other hand, the washing should come in while the weather is holding, and I could really do with the fresh air. Maybe I’ll just quickly mow the lawn while it’s not raining….

Ok, I’m going to finish that report now, oh no wait it’s 5:30, that’s me done for the day!

*Close laptop*

This will repeat for at least a couple of days before you settle, or until you’re called out.

About the author

Tom Inniss

Tom is a journalist and feature writer with interests in politics, technology and culture. He currently works as the editor of Voice - an online magazine for young people interested in art and culture.

Tom Inniss Journalist and podcaster

Tom Inniss

Tom is a journalist and feature writer with interests in politics, technology and culture. He currently works as the editor of Voice - an online magazine for young people interested in art and culture.

Follow Me