A Year of WFH

It's been over a year since I've been working from home. I go over of its perks, along with the challenges it presents with respect to my wellbeing.

So it’s been over a year since I’ve been working from home (WFH). Needless to say, WFH has brought a unique set of opportunities and challenges for both myself and the company I’m working at. I’ve probably touched on them before, but perhaps this time around I’ll have some new opinions as I continue to write.

A Small Workspace Update

I’ve been working from my basement for about 6 months now, where my brother is also working remotely. I moved down after having some issues staying put in my living room. Of course, I’ve added a few personal touches to make me feel figuratively at home while being physically at home 🙂

Perks

Working from home has many perks. First, I’ve saved quite a bit of commute time: in fact, my daily commute time has been reduced from an hour and a half roundtrip to roughly 20 seconds. I’ve set up shop in our basement, so I just need to walk down two flights of stairs and I’m ready to go. Along with the time savings, we can add on the cost savings of not having to pay for gas on days I drive (my parents’ car) or fare for public transit. Savings there range between roughly $50-80 a month, assuming I fill up gas roughly twice a month.

Second, WFH allows for a more flexible schedule in my daily life. For example, if I take a longer lunch (I usually do 30 minutes), it’s not a big deal; I can work that extra time I took in the evening. Or, if I wake up not feeling well, I can talk to my manager and delay the start or take the day off to rest. I’ve also had a day where I decided to take the afternoon off due to a headache, and my manager was kind to let me take it off without having to file for paid time off (PTO) because we end up working a little more here and there anyways (I’ll come back to this point later). That being said, you have to be reasonable, and with these extraordinary times, patience and communication with people on your team is key.

To add on to this flexibility of work schedule, it’s also nice to have things set up at home to work whenever. This perk is also a double-edged sword that I’ll get to later, but what I really mean when I say this is the fact that, inevitably, there are days where productivity or self-motivation will be low. Sometimes, that means not being able to concentrate in the middle of the day. For me, when that happens, I become a bit anxious and worry about really trivial things (now that I look at it in retrospect) such as “wow I’m getting nothing accomplished today”, or thoughts to that extent. I sometimes end up just taking a 15-20 minute break away from the computer to recuperate my thoughts before getting back into it.

Drawbacks

Working from home for a year has also exposed some fundamental problems in myself, and things that I never would have considered before.

The biggest part is never knowing when to stop. When I was still at the office, I got in at around 9:15, and left at around 17:45. At home, I’ve been starting at 9:30, and sometimes ending at 20:00 or even later. I’ve been doing better and calling it a day at 18:30 recently, but it’s still not the best. Because “work” is so much closer, I tend to just get sucked into it, and the notion of time just doesn’t exist. It reminds me a bit like how I was when I was in school: “study, study, study” but in this case, it’s like “work, work, work”. The first step is to realize that it’s happening, and the second step is to get out of that habit and into a healthy balance, which I’m still working on.

Second, I feel slightly more disconnected to my colleagues at work. It’s slightly ironic if you think about it, since I work in a computer networking company, and our job is to connect devices (and consequently, people) together. What I mean is that although I’m familiar with how my colleagues are as a contributing member of our team, I don’t really get to know them otherwise. When I used to be in the office, one way or another, I would end up bumping into people at the coffee machine. Sometimes, we would try to get to know each other, and other times we would grab a coffee and have a chat about a work problem that we’re having, and coming up with ideas to solve them.

Another thing I used to do was eat lunch with co-workers. We would take a 30 minute lunch break in the cafeteria, eat, and talk about some other fun stuff like mobages and animes that we’re keeping up with. With WFH, we effectively lost out on that, since it’s easier to eat by yourself. That being said, I now have lunch with my family, and these days, our team has started scheduling small biweekly lunches, where we eat, talk, and play some games in order to keep us connected and to encourage team building.

Transitioning to WFH also meant that I needed to have a place to “set up shop”. In my case, I still live at home with my parents, so I was fortunate enough to have a place in my living room to put a foldable table as my desk and bring home a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and my work laptop when I first started. I eventually ended up buying a standing desk and moved to the basement where my brother also has his setup for work. Nonetheless, WFH means allocating a portion of space for your work environment, and for some, that might not be too feasible. That being said, having a separate place for my work desk has definitely helped with my mental health: I can forget about work on the weekends.

What now?

These days, I’m doing a bit better at managing my work-related stress. I’ve had one emotional breakdown before, but having talked to my manager about it, I think it’s worked out a lot better for me: communication is key. If nobody knows what you’re going through, then it’s hard to expect them to notice and provide you the support they need.

I’ve gotten to know my coworkers a bit better, and we now have biweekly lunches to just hang out and take a break from the work we do. We’ve had three sessions so far, and it’s just been a great way to chat about non-work related things, rant about work-related things, eat, and play games. Definitely brings back that sense of community feeling that we had back in the office. I know some teams at my company do virtual coffee machine talks as well, but yeah that’s also a nice way to keep in touch.

I’m hopeful that once more people are vaccinated, things start to settle down again, and the risk is significantly lower, we can go back into the office. I don’t think we can have 100% working from the office again, but it would be nice to hold some meetings in person, as I find it much easier to discuss and put ideas on an actual whiteboard than to try and do the same over a video call.

Anyways, that’s all I have this time around. Until next time!
~Lui

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Injabie3
Just some guy on the Internet that writes scuffed code and collects anime figurines.
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