When the initial lockdown occurred, I was surprised by how little my life changed. I was one of the many millions of people who already worked remotely and I have been doing so for years. So, when it was announced that communities needed to stay indoors to protect lives, I felt very well prepared. The most significant changes seemed to take place among the businesses I work with, many of whom were starting to adapt to a remote work environment themselves.
What I didn’t realise, however, was that the way I was working from home, that is to say, the way I had always worked from home, was not the most productive, efficient, or conducive to professionalism. As others began managing their hours independently and away from shared office spaces, I found myself receiving a greater amount of correspondence in the evenings.
After only a few months of spreading my workload across the days and into the evening, I realised that I was actually working more hours than before. It seemed harmless to answer an urgent email from my phone while eating my dinner. Then, I started eating next to my computer, wanting to get ahead on tasks.
It may seem like this is a good work ethic, the kind that someone who is dedicated to their career should have. However, as I discovered, the opposite is true. I was working more hours but with less energy and enthusiasm. My productivity dropped and I was burning out.
So, I started to look at those who were excelling as remote workers, wondering how they were managing differently.
It turns out that, one of the most ubiquitous assets of productive remote workers is a dedicated, professional, and, importantly, private office space. Some had converted their attics while others were operating inside summer houses. Regardless of the space and its size, they had their own office.
I had always worked in cafes, enjoying the buzz and access to coffee and cakes. Then, during the initial lockdown, I began working from my kitchen table, which is large enough to be comfortable and right by the window, allowing me to enjoy a small bit of nature. I hadn’t ever assumed the environment I operated within might have much of an effect on my output, or that I could potentially improve my work. That is until I gave it a try.
I purchased an affordable cabin for my garden, one that now sits only a short walk from my backdoor. It is a modest space, but it fits my documents and equipment perfectly while allowing me to work without distractions in a quiet, professional setting. When on a video call, many clients assume I’m working in a professional office.
The biggest impact this had, however, was that, at the end of the day, I close the door. There is nothing work-related inside my home and I switch my professional mindset off when I leave the cabin. It has made a huge difference to both my productivity and my wellbeing, preventing me from getting caught up with work while I brush my teeth. I always assumed that flexibility and versatility were assets to remote working, but now I realise they are hindrances.