Working from home
I’m not a stranger to working from home. My IT job has allowed me to work remotely for the past couple of years. I have experienced working from home, from cafes, from co-working spaces, moving trains, etc. As long as I have an Internet connection, I’m technically free to work from anywhere I like.
Zero commuting time – This is obvious. No sardine-packed Tokyo morning or evening train rides. My commuting time is not comparable to those who have to take a 2-hour train ride from home to office. It always shocks me how there are many who can endure such long train rides. With the COVID-19 situation, it is unbelievable that there are still many people who are required to travel such long distances on the train. I was even more surprised when initially no one bothers to roll down the train windows. I think they do make sure there is air ventilation now.
No make-up required – Initially, it’s great to know that I don’t have to spend 30 minutes to change into work clothes or make-up. I do try to make it a point to wash up, brush teeth and have breakfast. Recently, with more and more online meetings, I do change into more decent clothes + make-up. And I realise personally this act of changing clothes + making up does help me get into a work mode better.
More sleeping time – With less time spend on commuting or preparing to go to work, it means I can have an extra hour of sleep. It’s terrible when it’s a rainy morning… you just want to have another 5 minutes, another 5 minutes… that snooze button… argh…
More flexibility – I don’t think we should be just focusing on “working” every minute during the office hours. We can pretend to do that, but it doesn’t make sense if we already have a to-do list lined in priority and understand what needs to be done within the day. Even in the office, we go to the pantry to get our drinks, toilet breaks, surfing less-work related sites (oops), etc. while doing our work. The super multi-tasker. At home, I can actually make use of 10-15 minutes in between work to do some household chores.
No work-life balance – I’m one of those who thought I can get more work-life balance when I work remotely, but the lines between work time and private time start to be blurred. In general, I find myself more productive when I’m working from home. There is no change in environment, so there’s a tendency to be so absorbed in work sometimes that I forgot it’s already past office hours. One thing I try to do is not to have lunch in the same desk space so that I can have some downtime and enjoy my lunch without thinking about work.
Home office – Some of us work the best in our office because of the large desk space, large PC monitor(s), keyboard, ergonomic chair, easy access to different beverages/snacks, printer, scanner, fax machine(?!), stationery, stable Internet connection, etc. It’s pretty difficult to replicate everything at home. I did buy myself an office chair so that I don’t end up with a bad posture in front of my laptop. But other than that, I’m pretty used to facing the laptop screen, typing on my laptop keyboard.
Distractions – I’m talking more in terms of meetings when we can just go to a meeting room and focus on the discussion for an hour. With online meetings, this proves to be challenging to some extent. “Can you hear me?” “Can you see my screen?” “Let me show my screen.” “Sorry connection is bad, and I got disconnected.” And not to mention the background noise. When I’m in our apartment in Tokyo, there is hardly any disturbance except for the occasional visit from the deliveryman. But in Singapore, where I’m staying with my parents, online meetings become a little more “challenging” with a lot more background noise. Kudos to working from home parents who also have kids at home. It’s actually annoyingly funny when I’m joining internal team meetings, you can hear all sorts of background noise – grandfather clock from one colleague, barking dog from another, and crying babies from another.
No human interaction – Of course, now that everyone has to practise safe distancing and work from home, it means we have to communicate via the phone or online. Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, Slack, LINE, Whatsapp, etc. are all the common digital tools we use for online communication. I miss the times to be able to turn around and just ask a quick question to my colleague or go for some nice lunch together.
Whether you are staying at home alone, with your partner, with your family, I think it can be a challenge trying to navigate with this temporary new lifestyle.
In case you are interested to know, I’m originally an otaku – meaning I can stay at home a whole day just binge-watching my favourite Johnny’s shows. But I do understand the need to actually move my body, so since we can’t go out, I try to practise yoga. It’s something I started involuntarily this year when I joined my new company which comes with a Chief Health Officer (aka yoga teacher). I wonder why I never started yoga earlier, because it’s really mind-refreshing and my posture improves a lot since I started.
I think this is my forte. When I travel on a 7-hour flight, I can watch 2-3 movies at a go. That’s how I overcome the boredom of being stuck in the same space for hours. And no, I don’t really sleep during flights.
These days I’m making a point to watch one classic film per night, starting with “Singin in the Rain” (1952), “An American in Paris” (1951) to “Holiday Inn” (1942) last night. It was an extremely delightful experience, and we felt really happy after watching these musical films. I think we were surprised to hear “White Christmas“. Such as a classic Christmas song, and it came from this film! Not to mention the fantastic tap dancing from these actors/actresses.
I wonder what others are doing to stay sane during this stay-home period?