Are you working hard, or are you inefficient?

OK OK, I’m not trying to provoke you… Those aren’t the only two possibilities.

I’m in the UK, and for a while now we’ve all been advised to work from home if we can. I am fortunate enough to work in a typical 9–5 office job. So, I’ve been at my home-desk, tapping away and making calls all throughout the varying levels of lockdown we’ve had to endure. This post is really geared towards those of you in a similar situation to me. But anyone can be a workaholic, or afflicted with presenteeism. So please do read on if you think that you prioritise your job to a level that you perhaps shouldn’t.

Ive noticed recently that quite a few people are telling me about a correlation between working from home, and getting more work done. Whether or not they realise it, they’re referring to the extra time spent working as the real reason for this. “Instead of getting to work and starting at 9, I’m sitting at my desk working from about 8:15… Then I’ll probably work until 6 or 7, because you’re already home — you don’t have to travel anywhere!”

Excuse me? U ok hun?

Now I’m not afraid of hard work, and I’m well aware that there are those days where you’re super busy and things spill over. It can be beneficial or even necessary to ‘stay late’ and complete your tasks, even if you’re already at home.

However, if you can’t typically get the right amount of work done in the hours you’re getting paid for, this could be indicative of a different issue entirely. This is where other possibilities come into play: Like unrealistic workloads; inefficient processes that are out of your control etc. I can immediately think of friends of mine who’ve been saddled with outrageous workloads recently because their employers decided to furlough staff, presumably just to save money, despite the fact that there was clearly still work there to be done. In fact, one friend literally chose unemployment instead, and left when it simply became too much. I can’t think of a worse review for an employer.

Then of course there are those firms who don’t even need a government-backed wage-paying scheme to ask too much of people on a consistent basis! (If you read that and thought “Yep, I work for one of them.” See below for an age-old truism that my wise grandad reminded me of recently.*)

Face it. You’re not getting more work done because you’re working from home, you’re getting more done because you’re working more. You could do that anywhere, if you chose to. The fact you’re choosing to do it from home is, in my opinion, an awfully sad thing. I find it totally bizarre when I hear this sort of thing said in a enthusiastic “isn’t it great?!” tone. No, no it’s not.

You’re voluntariliy adding a couple of hours to each working day, right? So you’re now working 6 days a week, across 5 days. Has your salary gone up by 20% to account for all this? Hm?

*In a recent chat with my grandad, he quite rightly said to me, “Jobs were made for people, not the other way around.” He was actually telling me a story about how he’d given this reminder to someone else, who was sick of working for their not-so-good boss. It served as a bloody good reason for them to leave and go and find a job elsewhere. So I’m not saying you should just leave your job, but I am saying if you feel obliged to work lots of extra hours simply because you’re doing it at home, ya might wanna look at that!

Like I said, I’m all for putting in the work required even if it means doing extra sometimes. Certainly in many cases, going above and beyond the call of duty can have really positive impacts on your career progression. I get it. The pressure, if we can call it that, to work extra hours, show up even when you’re ill, obsessively check/respond to emails all weekend and so on, does not always come from the employer either. This is an important point… You’ll need to figure out what/who compells you to consistently do unpaid work before you can really begin to fix it.

Whoever is responsible, it’s important to keep in mind that you were never paid for your time spent commuting (despite some calls for it in the UK, it’s not a thing yet) so now that you have it back, use it wisely. Why not create some healthy morning routines now that you have more time? Go to the kitchen and make yourself a nutritious breakfast to replace that piece of shit sugary bar that you used to eat on your way out of the door. Give yoga a go, work on your side hustle, journal, listen to music, go for a walk, chat to your kids! Whatever it may be, pick something that truly gives you a good personal reason to slide your feet out from the warm comfort of the duvet in the morning. Then, start work when you would normally start work. Not before.

Take your lunch break; get away from the screen for just a little while. Break up the day. I like to use my lunch break to get naff chores out of the way, like putting on a load of laundry, running the hoover round etc. It ends up being like it never happened!

Then (aside from the odd bastard of a day) finish when you normally would. Make a nice dinner. Help your kids with their homework. Go to the gym. Surprise them with a romantic date night. Make some progress on that looming DIY project that’s sat unfinished for months. Or don’t, that can probably wait to be fair.

The point is, if you’re working from home for the foreseeable future, maybe even for good, it has created a beautiful opportunity for so many things. Additional free time (probably some money saved, too!) that could have a profound impact on your life and relationships. Don’t waste it by just doing more work. Eurgh.

What’s that other old saying, about no one on their deathbed saying they wish they’d worked more? Something like that, I think!

I decided to write this because I saw a tweet earlier where someone asked if anyone thinks this new widespread working-from-home lifestyle will bring about an end to the typical working week. I think it could, and in some ways it could be very positive. I made a point in a previous post about how strange it is for so many different tasks from a variety of industries to all take exactly 8 hours a day, 5 days a week to complete… *eyeroll*

However, what we mustn’t allow is the breakdown of the typical working week to also mean a breakdown of work/life balance and separation. This will be different in practice for people who are self-employed, or for the relative handful of people who are lucky enough to do their dream job. But for the rest of us, who simply have bills to pay and mouths to feed, it is crucial that we remember to maintain a healthy approach towards our duties as an employee (which should be detailed in a contract and in exchange for money), and our responsibilities for ourselves/our loved ones at home.

Out of the two, only one is replaceable. Don’t let it spoil the one that’s not.

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