Phewwww, it’s nearly been a whole year of living through a pandemic, and that means it’s been nearly a whole year of working from home for a lot of us. And you know what? I feel a little bit cheated by the internet. I thought working from home would involve a lot of lovely looking leisurewear, mid-day bento boxes, and bursts of positive energy (damn you internet for setting unrealistic expectations like you always do). Even when Googling ‘tips for working from home’, most articles center around creating this glossy, super tidy, well-controlled approach to work, and maintaining it. Well, I soon learnt that the Insta-lovely-coffee-and-fresh-air approach to WFH was all lieeeeees.
For me, working from home has involved a lot of spilt tea, greasy messy buns, unwashed jumpers, and saying things to myself like ‘oh no, someone is calling me on Teams; why would they do that?!’ and ‘toast again for lunch? Don’t mind if I do!’ It’s not shiny or perfect or Insta-worthy by the smallest stretch of the imagination. I do not have the Girl Boss attitude of ‘wake up, have a smoothie, hustle hard’, despite trying. Nor do I have the Early-Riser mantra of ‘early mornings and yoga before work!’ – although I’ve tried that too. But you know what? I’ve found what works for me, and it’s in no way pretty. It’s super damn real.
So, now I’ve got a year’s worth of realistic WFH under my belt, I thought I’d share with you what I’ve learnt; how I unabashedly and realistically get shit done whilst dealing with life and a pandemic. Let’s take that glossy and sugar coated advice and smash it.
What Instagram Says: Set up a beautiful work environment! Choose a large window with a magnificent view to let in that natural light. Make sure you can shut that door behind you so you can get to work – you don’t want anyone bothering you!
Reality: So, you don’t have a spare room with southern-facing garden windows and a gorgeous writing desk, with a door to shut behind you so the real world can leave you alone for eight working hours. Well, neither do I.
Despite the assumption that we can all have a hidden room to use whenever, I do understand what this statement and those of it’s kind are getting at. The aim is to keep your workspace and lifes-pace as separate as possible.
With this in mind, my advice would be to not work in your bed, if you can help it (and I say this as someone who is a sucker for her ‘soft office’ aka. bed). Try the dining table, coffee table and a cushion, or even a sofa and armrest. The goal is to not mix your relaxed (sleep) place with your work (stress) place. Sometimes, this can’t be avoided – maybe every space in the house is already full, you need some extra quiet for meetings, or you need to work from bed for health reasons like me! I have PCOS and sometimes I need to lie with my legs straight or be curled up in a ball or be slumped in odd positions to help alleviate my pain. On those days, I put a blanket on top of the bed, stack all the pillows behind me to support my back, and get a tray to put my laptop on. If the blanket is on the bed, it’s working time and I can’t get under the covers. As soon as the end of the day hits, the blanket comes off and it’s snoozle time. That way, I manage to keep my work space and relax space separate! It’s all about finding what works for you within the parameters of your life.
What Instagram Says: Lay out your outfit the night before. To be that boss bitch, you’ve got to dress like that boss bitch. Do your hair, make-up, and wear that blazer. On Friday’s, why don’t you take it easy and wear your favourite athleisure piece?
Reality: Looking down at my body right now, I have a butter stain on my oversized men’s rugby shirt I’m wearing, and can see two holes in my leggings. I’m wearing fluffy odd socks that don’t match and have forego’d a bra. Some people might think I look like a mess, but I feel like a boss bitch.
My takeaway here is don’t feel like you have to look perfect for a day of WFH. I started this lockdown with putting on a full face of make-up, putting my hair up, and wearing what I’d wear to the office. But that just didn’t work for me. Blazers and boots aren’t meant for home – leggings and slippers are! If dressing up everyday isn’t practical or even needed for you to work effectively, then don’t do it! Can you imagine wearing a pressed white shirt and expensive jacket when there’s a toddler that needs caring for? Or wearing that fancy pair of skinny jeans when you are on day two of your period? Hell no. Whilst you shouldn’t feel like you have to dress up, I’ve found that having some clothes specifically for WFH has really helped me out – I’m talking leggings, jumpers, t-shirts, and sports bras here, nothing fancy. Changing into these clothes when I wake up and changing out of them when the work day ends essentially logs my brain out of work mode for the day!
What Instagram Says: Make sure to keep yourself organised! Keep your to-do list on hand to keep productive, and keep your desk clean and clear of any clutter (apart from that grande coffee, of course!). Minimalism is key.
Reality: Ooof those minimalist bloggers would hate my desk setup. I’ve got to-do lists spread across my bullet journal, notebooks, post it notes, and Google Keep. And then I’ve got all of those spread across my desk, laptop and sometimes even on to the floor. I’ve got pens of all colours strewn across the place, for highlighting, making notes, or bujo-ing.
I think you can guess what I am going to say here. My desk setup, with all it’s clutter and ‘mess’ works for me. I know exactly where everything is, and the right-side of my brain is kept happy! Your setup doesn’t have to be ‘tidy’ for it to work for you. If you need a clear space to have a clear mind, do it. You creative souls who need to grab paper for a quick idea, you make that scrap paper haven. If you are secretly a mole who needs to work in the dark, shut those curtains and block out that light. It’s all about making WFH work for you.
I could go on and on about the perception of working from home – how we need to make a routine, how we need to leave the house, how we should stick to our timings. Blah blah blah blah blaaaaaah. After nearly a year of working from home, there’s only one thing I have learnt – everyone is different. There’s different ways of working, different levels of productivity, different requirements for everyone. Your own requirements might even change day to day! The life and WFH requirements of a glossy, single, boss bitch influencer is going to be very different to mine – a hobby blogger with a full-time admin job, housemates, and plenty of chronic illnesses. I’m going to have a different life and WFH requirements than someone who is WFH and is teaching online. And they are going to have a different life and WFH requirements than someone who is a disabled parent who is homeschooling their children.
So the best tip for working from home is simply – do what’s bet for you! There is no WFH rule book! You don’t need chia bowls or a beige athleisure two piece to work from home. Your grubby jumpers and sixth cup of tea is enough. Don’t let Instagram fool you into thinking you are not working from home ‘correctly’. Work how you see fit, take in your own requirements, and do what works best for you. Oh, and remember – we’ve all taken a lunchtime nap before, there’s no shame in that…
Let me know if you’ve had to make the change to working from home and how you are finding it! Have you got any tips or tricks that help you WFH?