I’ve always enjoyed working from home. But wherever I’ve worked there has always been a stigma against it meaning I always had a guilt whenever I took at day working remotely.
When I first started working I found it strange that I had to travel to an office to sit at a desk with a laptop, when I had a much better working setup at home. Yes, the office has other people working that you can have meetings with and chat with throughout the day (sometimes about work), but it still didn’t make a whole deal of sense to me.
I probably came into the workplace with a different perspective to most, having spent much of my school-life not actually in school. I’d do the majority of my schoolwork from home and spend the rest of my time editing YouTube videos from my desk in my bedroom. Some people like the separation between home and work (more on that later), but it was something I was comfortable with doing.
My previous jobs - the stigma
My first job was a traditional office job, working from home was a very frowned upon practice so I used the opportunities sparingly. I didn’t mind it too much being my first job and being in an office helped me with a number of things - being at a place on time (sometimes), how to get out of doing a tea / coffee run, how not to run meetings etc.
The job I worked at the marketing agency I attribute a lot of my personal growth to, but oh my, was remote working frowned upon. We were a digital agency running marketing campaigns on HubSpot, writing content and producing spreadsheets, most of the time sitting there for 8 hours with our headphones on Slacking the person next to us because we couldn’t be bothered to take our headphones off.
When I first joined, flexible / remote working was meant to be openly accepted. If you’ve got a package coming, no worries. Got a doctors appt? Sure. Turns out they didn’t /actually/ like it if we took them up on this offer.
A new process was to be implemented where we could cash in 1 work from home day per month, if completely necessary. Even when we did ask for our monthly day away from the office, we’d be met with a strong ‘why’?
There was a big trust issue here, and I think that is the problem with many companies allowing their staff to work from home. There was even one time they said I had to take a days holiday for a day I’d worked at home, because I didn’t follow the process.
When I joined System1 this all changed. The approach was much more flexible, with most people in marketing working at home every Friday and my boss even being open for me to take time out to record podcasts, like this one with Brian Halligan last year. It was still an office-based role, with lots of meetings and people from all over the world coming to the office for in-person conversations (literally), so I didn’t take advantage of working from home that often.
What came along with this flexible approach was a lot less stress and worry about being in a place at a time. If I’d had a night of terrible sleep, I wouldn’t worry about going into the office or getting in for 9am. This resulted in me having much better sleep much more often.
Pandemic induced working from home
We all know what happens here. In March, the majority of people working in office jobs were asked to work from home indefinitely, while it’s not safe to be in offices. I’m incredibly grateful to still have a job and thankful for those key workers that still had to travel to their place of work - both my mum and sister have been working in a Pharmacy throughout the pandemic.
Every single company had to adapt to life working completely remotely. The whole world seemed to discover Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Many newer companies had been using remote tools to work from anywhere anyway so found it easy, while others found the transition more difficult.
What is for sure, is that many companies that did not trust their staff to work at home, or did not think the roles could be done at home have been proven wrong. When people are given the responsibility to work at home, usually they are going to be productive (some more so than in an office).
How it’s changed my life
When I say remote working has changed my life, I mean that literally. I’ve moved out of London back to my hometown because of the ability to work at home. But the impact it’s had on my general wellbeing has been overwhelmingly positive.
The main thing, and I’m sure many people will echo this, is the lack of a commute. The average commute into London is somewhere between 60-80 minutes - so every day people are clawing back 2 hours or more. That’s 2 hours that you can cook a meal, meet friends, spend with your kids or work on a passion project. Some people might enjoy the commute or the routine it brings - but more on that in the next section.
It isn’t just the commute; it’s the rush to get everything ready in the morning to leave the house, the cost of the train fare, waiting around for public transport, having less sleep. All of which come together to cause more and more stress.
Now I commute from my bed to my desk, approximately 5 steps.
I could go on about the benefits of working remotely - I’m sure we’re all now pretty familiar. It genuinely is life-changing for me, but I’ve made some mistakes and not everyone is in the same position as me.
The mistake I made was assuming that having all this time back would mean I could wake up at 9am and get to work. But then I ended up staying up later because I wasn’t worried about waking up, going round in a vicious cycle. This is where I found I missed the routine of travelling into the office.
I’ve addressed this in a few ways:
1. I’ve set out a new evening and morning routine so I go to sleep nice and early to wake up early.
2. Do plenty of exercise - as much as possible. We’re in the house so much of the time, it’s important to get outside.
3. Journalling. Life without commuting seems a little less hectic, it’s quite easy to get lost. Journalling has helped me get my thoughts out.
I know many people miss the social interaction of being in the office, going to the pub after work and those ‘water cooler moments’. I don’t think there is anything that really can replace these things. We’ve tried remote drinks on a Friday, which are often quite fun to just sit and chat but hard for it to happen spontaneously and regularly. I don’t really miss our water cooler moments because ours was next to the toilets so you’d only have an awkward glance at someone on their way in or out…
I’m also aware that I’m lucky to have a very nice set up to work at home. I have very little distractions being at home all day and will be turning my spare bedroom into a home office. These are luxuries that many people don’t have, but I don’t think companies have been as supportive as they can be in helping their staff adjust to remote work.
I’ve been helping my Dad set up his remote work consultancy as he found the majority of his team didn’t really know the best way to approach remote working. The structure of the day was hard and they didn’t have a dedicated space to do work.
Getting some basic equipment and finding a nook in your house that you can work in will make a world of difference. He’s now helped them out considerably and they now have a strong remote workforce.
There has been lots of talk about what the workforce will look like in 12 months and when people will start going back to the office. Some have suggested that 80% of office workers will be back in the office. Others have been more optimistic that these 5 months of remote work have proven how productive employees can be.
I think for the most part we will all slowly get back into offices, but with a ‘hybrid approach’. Best of both worlds.
We could argue all day about the pros and cons of offices, working at home, or being hybrid, but one thing is for sure; the stigma towards working remotely has been quashed and we’ve been pushed forward a number of years.
I’m looking forward to continuing working at home, with my increased 15-step commute from my bedroom to my home office, with the occasional trip into the office.
Big thanks to my boss Jon (Aka the Uncensored CMO) for being so open to remote working and making it easy for the whole team.
In other news
🎧 Another podcast recommendation is Podpage. I’ve been testing it out to create a better website for the Marketing Mashup podcast and have been very impressed so far.
⚔️ I have accidentally binged 14 episodes of The Last Kingdom on Netflix over the weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it.