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By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather
And autumn’s best of cheer.

Helen Hunt Jackson - September
The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Chrysanthemums.
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze.

John Updike, September
Learn English in September

Working from home

mheredgemheredge Posts: 49,060 ✭✭✭✭
edited March 2020 in Work and Money
Given that maybe a third of the world's population is now being urged to stay at home, many more people are having to work from home. Some of us are used to this or have work that lends itself easily to not having to work in an office, but how do you cope?

Here are some articles you might find interesting to read on the subject.

Suddenly working at home - we've done it for 22 years and have advice
- Your office needs to have a view
- Have an exercise and activity routine
- Have a default activity for when you need a break from work (I make a cup of tea :-) )
- Have a physically separate workspace
https://arstechnica.com/staff/2020/03/suddenly-working-at-home-weve-done-it-for-22-years-and-have-advice/

5 Tools You Need to Become Remote-Work-Ready
Before installing anything, align on communication:
- How to communicate
- What to communicate
Remote-ready tools
https://monday.com/blog/remote-work/5-tools-you-need-to-be-remote-work-ready-2/?utm_source=mb&utm_campaign=pocket_wfh_email_0320

The Tech Headaches of Working From Home and How to Remedy Them
From shoddy Wi-Fi to digital distractions, our tech can make remote work miserable. This article suggests ways to overcome the problems.
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/technology/personaltech/working-from-home-problems-solutions.html

The Two Things Killing Your Ability to Focus

It’s not only the fact that you’re looking at a screen for half the day, but that certainly isn’t helping.
https://getpocket.com/explore/item/the-two-things-killing-your-ability-to-focus

Working from home is awesome. Here’s how to excel at it
https://www.latimes.com/lifestyle/story/2020-03-13/working-from-home-is-awesome-heres-how-to-excel-at-it

So why not share your experiences here? Are you able to work effectively from home? What do you find most challenging? Or do you like it and wish never to have to work in the office again (which is very much my case)?

I think my workplace would be so much nicer though with feline company like in the picture!



In Friday's speaking session (27 March 2020) we will be discussing this topic.
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Comments

  • mheredgemheredge Posts: 49,060 ✭✭✭✭
  • mheredgemheredge Posts: 49,060 ✭✭✭✭

  • mheredgemheredge Posts: 49,060 ✭✭✭✭
    Now that are a lot more people have had to work from home, the question is how far the home will now replace the office.

    And how far work should continue to dominate our lives. Should we all be working fewer hours and enjoying life a lot more?

    The work-life balance - how does this work for you? Do you spend too much time working? Are you so tired by the end of the day or week to be able to go out and enjoy what little free time you have? Or do you work hard and play hard, filling every spare moment you have with leisure activities (and I don't mean sleeping). @Vok, @filauzio, @Practical_Severard what are your thoughts on this?

    https://www.theguardian.com/money/2020/oct/04/blue-sky-thinking-is-it-time-to-stop-work-taking-over-our-lives?utm_term=a92b4d07a791ec918718fc68f68ccce7&utm_campaign=GuardianTodayUK&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&CMP=GTUK_email
  • VokVok Posts: 2,640 ✭✭✭✭
    edited October 2020
    First of all thank you for bringing this topical subject with some good links above @mheredge . I've already mentioned somewhere in the alcoves of this forum that working from home hasn't got off the ground for me. That said, I believe that I can make it work if need be. I'm just lacking privacy at the moment at my place. My kid is running around in circles and it's not easy to concentrate on the task at hand. But I've noticed positive things too. For example, while working remotely I was more open to conversation with my colleagues because small chats you usually hold in the office are almost no existent at home or reduced to the minimum before getting down to the actual business. When I'm in the office I'd rather send an e-mail (if a questing is not needed to be answered asap) than call someone. Working from home renders me more willing to talk to people. I can't keep a work-life balance, though. I felt like working was encrouching on my spare time and taking over my life. And that's the main reservation I have about a home-based work. I don't really know how to manage it. I can't start thinking about my work on cue and switch off once the time is up. The time spent commuting to and fro work is the time spent to rewire my thoughts back and force and when at home I don't have this buffer.
    Post edited by Vok on
  • filauziofilauzio Genoa ( Italy )Posts: 2,129 ✭✭✭✭✭
    My job position requires me to be present in the workplace, so I couldn't take advantage from working remotely, @mheredge.

    My colleagues who experimented working from home said, in the majority of cases, they would possibly never go back to the workplaces though.

    I suppose that part of the favour this new arrangement got comes from the fact you needn't commute anymore, saving both the time and the cost of transportation.

    Then I guess being allowed to work from home can be felt by the employee as though you are being trusted and invested with greater responsability, therefore boosting your mindset and productivity.

    Nevertheless, I'm afraid, smartworking bears downsides as well: it can be a double-edged sword.

    First of all, this way you physically separate employees from one another, which, citing the Latin saying which read ' divide et impera ' is never an optimal solution on the part of a corporate labour force.

    Your superior can more freely harass you, press you to work extra hours without the inconvenience of eyewitnessing colleagues nearby.

    Secondly, if you are the kind of worker who tends to identify with their job, your anxiety and fear not to be producing enough results could worsen your state of perpetual anxiety.

    I think, in fact, that much of the current problem some people have to not be able to get a satisfying work-life balance, comes from the fact they tend to identify with their job.

    I believe the trick is that we should always keep in mind that any jobs, even when your career has led you to an enviable position and status is but a means to earn the money you need to live your life.

    Only if we manage to keep clearly distinct and separate these two plates of the scale, we can say we are successful people who live a worthliving life, not merely productivity-addicts vowed to outstrip themselves for someone else's sake.

  • mohit_singhmohit_singh Posts: 2,182 ✭✭✭✭
    Is it better to work from home or work in the office? What are the pros and cons?


    I think work in office is better option for me. Because I get to meet people and remain active and alive to do my job. I am the person who drives motivation from outside world and people. So, this is the one thing that I miss a lot. Sometimes, a good conversation are the things that helps us get better in what we do.

    The only issue in working in office is the travelling that each person had to undergo. Most of the time, traffic makes it more worst case. Still, I will vote for work in office.
  • mheredgemheredge Posts: 49,060 ✭✭✭✭
    @AmirPelavin this topic is looking at what various members think about working from home. What about you? Do you work from home? Or have you had to study from home?

    @filauzio 'Nevertheless, I'm afraid, smartworking bears downsides as well: it can be a double-edged sword.

    I am not sure smart working and working from home are the same. Smart working seems to me to be more a new model of work that uses the new technologies and the development of existing technologies to improve both the performance and the satisfaction that is obtained from the job. However I suppose this can include working from home.

    I think your points are very relevant, and also the reasons @Vok, why it is not really your cup of tea.

    Obviously there are many 'hands on' types of jobs that do not lend themselves easily to working away from the office. However, there are many jobs that rely on the internet or communication that can be done anywhere.

    We talk about 'digital nomads' who can basically work anywhere as long as they have their internet connection, smart phone and/or laptop. @mohit_singh I have heard many digital nomads complain of exactly the point you make. They miss human contact and the opportunity to easily exchange ideas and discuss things with their work colleagues. The value of this should never be underestimated.

    @Vok mentions a crucial point too, that of privacy and the peace and quiet to effectively work at home. There are increasing numbers of co-working spaces or cafes where you can go, where you meet other digital nomads working together and this can be a good compromise. I know quite a few digital nomads who spend some of their time in these places, as this way they don't feel so isolated.

    For me the absence of commuting is one of the biggest advantages, plus the ability to work flexibly. However, unless you work for yourself, even working from home requires a certain amount of discipline in order not to betray that trust your boss has that you're not skiving.

    I think many employers were afraid of this when staff started working from home, but then I believe many were pleasantly surprised when they found in most cases, productivity went up and that their employees perhaps were doing as you suggest @filauzio, and were working longer hours. My young neighbours are an example. They reckoned they worked far harder during the lockdown than if they had been going to the office or school. One of them is still working from home and I know he's always in, beavering away. But now he doesn't have to commute, he fills the time with work!

    So getting the work-life balance can be an issue here.

    Of course if you happen to live in a nice place where everyone dreams to come for their holidays, it can sometimes be very tough convincing the boss to take you seriously when you're working from home. This is something I have heard many times here, and where possible the digital nomads I know here try to keep it secret that they are working from home on the French Riveria!

  • filauziofilauzio Genoa ( Italy )Posts: 2,129 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I think employers in most cases encourage their employees, when possible, to work remotely @mheredge, even because this way the firms can save on the overhead, related to lighting, heating and space consume.

    I believe the companies were, on the whole, favourably surprised by all the advantages of letting people working from home; so much so that I suspect many of them will move heaven and earth not to get back to a pre-pandemic working arrangement.

    The businesses catering for lunch-break's needs will be the most annoyed and massively impacted by the lack of swarming commuting masses though; bars and restaurants' midday's income from employees has always been pivotal for their susbistence:now they will have to reinvent a new strategy to target new kind of customers in order to survive the shock.

    One problem I happened to think of, when reasoning over the work-life balance issue, is that you usually don't get to enjoy your free time entirely as you would like.

    In fact, much part of your resting time is usually taken up, exactly by the urgent need to rest, which surely refresh your mind and restore your body; nonetheless, I'm afraid, resting has, sometimes, little to do with enjoying yourself doing some leisure activities, because it's a passive activity.

    That's why I'm growing a great supporter of the short workweek, which means five/four-days-week, either in presence or remotely. Nowadays, I suppose, people pretend and have the right to enjoy at least one full day to devote entirely to your interests and hobbies, without feeling the least tired, keeping all your wits about you.

    We are no longer in the early nineteenth century, at the beginning of the industrial revolution. We have progressed since; workers don't have to be equalled to churning out machines anymore.

    We have got technologies, along with autonomous to some degree robots. Let's them do the drudgery once and for all, allowing us to finally enjoy the consequent spare time.
  • VokVok Posts: 2,640 ✭✭✭✭
    @filauzio some catering companies, mainly the small businesses, being unable to adapt during the first wave have gone down, but some, once started feeling the pinch, spotted an opportunity to reinvent themselves and turned towards a delivery segment. I don't think they flourish much either, but at least they have a good chance to ride out the storm. Unlike me, some of my fellow colleagues feeling the need of perking themselves up during the lockdown, took to ordering takeaway weekly.
  • mheredgemheredge Posts: 49,060 ✭✭✭✭
    filauzio said:

    I think employers in most cases encourage their employees, when possible, to work remotely @mheredge, even because this way the firms can save on the overheads, relating to lighting, heating and space consumed.

    I believe the companies were, on the whole, favourably surprised by all the advantages of letting people working from home; so much so that I suspect many of them will move heaven and earth not to get back to a pre-pandemic working arrangement.

    The businesses catering for lunch-break's needs will be the most annoyed and massively impacted by the lack of swarming commuting masses though; bars and restaurants' midday's income from employees has always been pivotal for their subsistence: now they will have to reinvent a new strategy to target new kind of customers in order to survive the shock.

    One problem I happened to think of, when considering the work-life balance issue, is that you usually don't get to enjoy your free time entirely as you would like.

    In fact, much part of your resting time is usually taken up, exactly by the urgent need to rest, which surely refreshes your mind and restores your body. Nonetheless, I'm afraid, resting has, sometimes, little to do with enjoying yourself doing some leisure activities, because it's a passive activity.

    That's why I'm growing to be a great supporter of the short workweek, which means five/four-days a week, either in presence or remotely. Nowadays, I suppose, people pretend ? and have the right to enjoy at least one full day to devote entirely to your interests and hobbies, without feeling the least tired and keeping all your wits about you.

    We are no longer in the early nineteenth century, at the beginning of the industrial revolution. We have progressed since. Workers don't have to be equated to machines churning out products anymore.

    We have got technologies, along with robots that are to some degree autonomous. Let's them do the drudgery once and for all, allowing us to finally enjoy the consequent spare time.

    You're writing very well @filauzio. You are still perhaps using too many commas. It is a very easy mistake to make and I was very guilty of the same problem when I was younger. Usually a sentence might have one or less often two commas. If you feel more is needed, then you should consider chopping the sentence into two. Using a semi-colon might seem to be a good alternative, but you need to be very careful in how you use these as they are a bit complicated. Even I think twice about using them.

    As for the points you've made here, I couldn't agree more. In France there is even a law to protect employees from being continuously 'on duty' via their phone or email and it is not allowed for employers to abuse the fact that their staff are contactable 24/7.
  • mheredgemheredge Posts: 49,060 ✭✭✭✭
    Vok said:

    @filauzio some catering companies, mainly the small businesses, being unable to adapt during the first wave have gone down, but some, once they started feeling the pinch, spotted an opportunity to reinvent themselves and turned towards a delivery segment. I don't think they flourish much either, but at least they have a good chance to ride out the storm. Unlike me, some of my fellow colleagues feeling the need of perking themselves up during the lockdown, took to ordering takeaway weekly.

    I have so far never ordered anything to be delivered @Vok, except a desk from IKEA that I am expecting Tuesday evening. But I can't eat this! But you are right, I have seen a lot of restaurants reinvent themselves and now provide takeaways and delivery. Even restaurants that serve traditional French dishes, that I wouldn't normally associate with providing a takeaway service.

    Here in Nice there is a very strong demand for lunch time meals at cafes and restaurants. As far as I see, this seems to have recovered well but here I think it is a little easier for them, as they are not just catering for the workers on their lunch break. There are many retired people who seems to eat out a lot. That said, I think it is a completely different ball game in Paris. And I can imagine the City of London must be very badly affected as it is a virtual ghost town these days, with many staff working from home.

    Pret a Manger in the UK is closing many of its sandwich shop around the country, laying off thousands of staff.
  • filauziofilauzio Genoa ( Italy )Posts: 2,129 ✭✭✭✭✭
    @Vok you hit the nail on the head, perfectly said. That's true, many restaurants and bars are turning to the delivery segment to keep their businesses afloat. Maybe the downside is that with delivery the proximity isn't the most crucial competitiveness factor anymore. Delivery sector can perhaps level the playfield and bring all competitors back to the starting blocks. Proximity could still play some role in creating customers' loyalty and regularity. However other aspects could factor in: I'm thinking of things such as attention of details, trustworthiness, quality, punctuality, customers' feedback, and so on.

    Thank you @mheredge for your priceless advices. Yes, we in Italy tend to make large use of the commas, to separate different phrases/sentences in the same paragraph. I didn't know that using too many commas could be considered a grammatical mistake in English. You mentioned the semi-colon ';' but how do you call the mark ':' ?

    Mind you: remember to freely use commas and semi-colons when you will do your homework in Italian language though :p
  • mheredgemheredge Posts: 49,060 ✭✭✭✭
    The : is a colon and this is much simpler to use @filauzio. It is useful when you are listing things. For example, today I have a few chores to do: shopping, a lunch appointment, and receiving a delivery.

    Note the use of the comma before the 'and.' This is optional. British English usually does not put a comma before the 'and' but American English always does. You can do as you like with this comma!

    Here in Nice quite a lot of hotels are making available space for co-working. I think it is a very good idea - provided of course that they can offer a spacious working environment. It is a good way for hotels to bring in some much-needed income, at the same time offering people who are 'working from home' an opportunity to get out and see other people, maybe discussing work related matters (as long as these are not confidential) or even socialise.

    I met a British lady who has come to Nice to work as she is a 'digital nomad' and she said she found it much easier here than back in London as the working environment here is so much nicer. She said she found that there was much more going on whereas in London she felt very isolated.
  • VokVok Posts: 2,640 ✭✭✭✭
    It's been the second week since I left the office and started working from home. I'm kind of making it work this time so far. Compared to my previous experience I believe it's down to the following changes:
    1. I try to stick to the same schedule as if I'm still working in the office. I get up at the same time. It try to have a lunch break at usual time, which is not very successful so far because I burn fewer callories staying at home and feel less peckish around that time.
    2. My kid is in the day nursery, which is very helpful.
    3. All our interaction with my wife has been cut to the bone. We're occupying the different rooms and respect each other privacy. I don't disturb her unless it's absolutely necessary. She reciprocates.
    4. I avoid coming up to the fridge during my working hours.
    5. I spend more time outside with my kid in the evening.
    6. I don't use the same desk for any other purposes apart from working.
    7. I keep reminding myself that's not for long...
  • mheredgemheredge Posts: 49,060 ✭✭✭✭
    I can't vote up and say awesome as it's one or the other @Vok, but this sounds like you've really cracked it. I love no 4. I have a good friend who struggles with this but he does start the day by getting up early and going running before he settles down to work.

    I have just got a small desk that I have put in the corner of the living room. Obviously I don't have quite the same problems as you do, balancing family life with work, but at least now my work won't be dominating the dining table and as it is a much smaller desk space, it will force me to be a lot more disciplined and file things away better.
  • JMAROUFJMAROUF Posts: 134 ✭✭
    According to me, i find it difficult to work from home espicially when we have childs, in office we meet some colleagues who give us energy, my be some peaople dislakes their work places because of the poor ambiance they find, however others feel well when they come morning, from another point of view i know many people who like flexibility, so they opt for working at home to manage their time us they want but that depends on the activity.
  • mheredgemheredge Posts: 49,060 ✭✭✭✭
    @JMAROUF I think it must be very tough to work from home if you have children. I was talking to an I.T. colleague yesterday who is working from home and could hear his young child in the background.

    I think also for many people, even if they don't have children to interrupt them all the time, not everyone likes to work in isolation, all alone all the time. Even if you are not discussing work problems in the office with your colleagues, it is sometime just good seeing them around and maybe taking your break chatting with them.

    For me however, working from home is pure joy! I love the flexibility, I like that I can work without any distraction and I am very happy on my own. However the type of work I do is all online, and international, so I can work effectively anywhere I have an internet connection.

    As you say, it depends very much on the activity.
  • VokVok Posts: 2,640 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November 2020
    I think I've got the hang of working from home. I've already mentioned on here that it's important to follow a certain routine. I find it useful to arrange some breaks from work with leaving the desk or even better leaving for a designated for the purpose room. Be careful to chose a kitchen for the recreation. @JMAROUF you're right it's not at all easy to concentrate while your kids constantly vying for your attention. You have to have a myriads of activities on offer to engage them, ideally without involving yourself into it which entails a great deal of resourcefulness. I fall back on cartoons only as a last resort and if I need half an hour of an uninterrupted work that is.
    Post edited by Vok on
  • mheredgemheredge Posts: 49,060 ✭✭✭✭
    Vok said:

    I think I've got the hang of working from home. I've already mentioned on here that it's important to follow a certain routine. I find it useful to arrange some breaks from work by leaving the desk or even better leaving for a designated for the purpose room ???. Be careful to chose a kitchen for the recreation. ???? @JMAROUF you're right, it's not at all easy to concentrate while your kids constantly vye for your attention. You have to have a myriads of activities on offer to engage them, ideally without involving yourself in to it which entails a great deal of resourcefulness. I fall back on cartoons only as a last resort and if I need half an hour of an uninterrupted work that is.

    @Vok I can't begin to imagine how difficult working from home for anyone with kids must be. You're a hero!
  • VokVok Posts: 2,640 ✭✭✭✭
    What I mean is if you take a break, don't go to the kitchen, chose a different place for that @mheredge .
  • mheredgemheredge Posts: 49,060 ✭✭✭✭
    The kitchen is a very dangerous place, especially the refrigerator @Vok. However I like to make a cup of tea from time to time when I'm working, and the act of doing so is usually all the brief break I need.
  • VokVok Posts: 2,640 ✭✭✭✭
    If anything @mheredge , the most difficult thing for me in working from home is to find the middle ground between work and my personal life. I either tend to go all-in or gain a devil-may-care attitude towards my job. The balance is always tipped by either side. I also like going to the kitchen for a top-up of water or tea and use it as a displacement actvivity.
  • mheredgemheredge Posts: 49,060 ✭✭✭✭
    @Vok I know exactly what you mean. I tend to be very bad at getting so engrossed in my work that the whole day can easily slip by without any breaks, leaving me exhausted by the end of day. But it's all or nothing! So getting up from time to time to switch the kettle on or have a few minutes break is very important. But for me, the work I do is part-time and very sporadic, so it isn't as if I have to be juggling work and leisure every day like you do. That would be much tougher.

    Today I think my only 'work' is going to revolve around making a Christmas cake. I haven't done this for years. Yesterday I put over a kilo of mixed dried fruit to soak in some whiskey, so it should be ready now to add to the other ingredients and bake in the oven for about three hours. I then have several weeks to feed it with whiskey until Christmas.




  • JMAROUFJMAROUF Posts: 134 ✭✭
    @Vok i dislike kitchen even in my free time, however i have some other distractions which take time, @mheredge it's difficult to neglect kids but we can deal with,.
  • mheredgemheredge Posts: 49,060 ✭✭✭✭
    The kitchen can be an evil temptation @JMAROUF.

    Today I confess I have been too distracted by things outside my control to get any work done. I am calling it a day and hope that tomorrow will prove to be less stressful.
  • mheredgemheredge Posts: 49,060 ✭✭✭✭
    With covid, a lot more people have had to work from home. Often in the past (and maybe still now), employers don't rust their workers to not take advantage of this.

    But is it true?

    Studies suggest the opposite.

    I know that working from home for me, my productivity is much greater than when working in an office. (I could compare like for like when I used to work in a small NGO and strikes forced me to stay at home and work.)

    For those of you having to work from home, what do you think? Is your productivity greater or do you get more distracted? @Vok? @lisa?

    https://www.thestar.com/business/2020/11/28/are-workers-stealing-time-from-their-companies-when-working-from-home-some-employers-say-yes-but-studies-say-just-the-opposite.html?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=SocialMedia&utm_campaign=Business&utm_content=timetheftworkingfromhome
  • lisalisa Posts: 2,643 ✭✭✭
    @mheredge Working from home is toughly difficult for me because I have two small daughters, can you imagine when you are were trying to concentrate on listening, suddenly your room door was slapped by her small hands or by her with some metal dishes. :'(
  • VokVok Posts: 2,640 ✭✭✭✭
    @mheredge all in all, my efficiency stays relatively consistent. My workload though, is uneven. I can spend all morning completely absorbed in domesticity, only late at the day manage to finish all my work at a rate of knots. Therefore, oscillating between job tasks and errands at home puts an additional strain on me and I feel like I'm about to buckle under the pressure. After working hours I try to spend as much time as I can outside my flat. It helps to clear my mind.

    @lisa do you have anyone to give you a hand with the kids?
  • mheredgemheredge Posts: 49,060 ✭✭✭✭
    I think it must be almost impossible to work with small children unless you have someone to keep an eye on them. And you need also a private corner where you can work undisturbed @lisa.

    My work is also somewhat sporadic @Vok but when I have it, it takes first priority and so chores then only get attention once I've finished the work. I don't try multitasking. I have to concentrate on my work, get it out of the way and then I can switch my mind to other things.
  • lisalisa Posts: 2,643 ✭✭✭
    @Vok My mother does me a favour to take care of them, but mom is more attractive than grandmother, especially when she felt sleepy, mom was prioritized. However, she has changed her addiction to mom since her first birthday because she spent most of the day with her grandmother, she even must have her sleep with my mom, or she couldn't have asleep.

    @mheredge When they were young, mom was their first and best alternative. But now mom has been freedom, grandma has been given priority day and night. During the lockdown period, I usually locked myself inside my bedroom in order to separate my daughters and me. In a word, it was a nightmare, can you imagine? The class was online, suddenly my older daughter slapped loudly on the door to ask for some help, and I had to pretend there was nothing happening and continue our class.
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