I have worked from home for quite a few years. Even though I was qualified and experienced in my field of work, but owing to certain circumstances, I had to work from home. I was often met with many a raised eyebrow from fellow women who went to work on a regular basis and homemakers too! Wait, even the men had opinions too.
I was often met with responses such as – “Work from home is ideal to earn some pocket money!”, “Ismey paisa milta hai?” (does it give you any money?), “Oh, you’re a half-journalist!”, “Timepass ho jata hoga!” “You work from home, so you can manage the housework, cooking and guests”, “Sahi ai yaar, telecalling karti ho?” The best I’ve heard is, “Is your work legal?”
I just couldn’t understand why people couldn’t accept that professionals too work from home! Do I raise eyebrows at women who go to the office daily? No, I don’t. It’s a professional and a personal choice and if your company has the ‘work from home’, ‘telecommuting’ or ‘remote working’ policy, then how should anyone else have a problem?
In a report published in Business Line in June 2018 shares, “58% Indian office-goers work remotely every week. The report also shares that based on a survey conducted by the IWG on flexible working approaches, they interviewed more than 18,000 professionals from various industries across 96 countries. The report said that nearly two-thirds of global employees work remotely every week.”
In another article published by The Hindu in 2016, Most employees in India prefer to work from home shares, that their survey of people above the age of 45 years revealed how a considerable number of employees are keen on working from home. The article in The Hindu further spoke about how “HR services provider Randstad said that almost an equal number of men and women shared that they would like working from home. The report further added, “53 % of the respondents from India said they prefer telecommuting, while 47 % prefer to work from the office every day,” giving workplace flexibility as the reason. These results are based on a survey of around 7,500 employees across India.”
The point here is, that as a professional I didn’t choose to work from home from the day I started working. I did have a regular job just like you, when I started out as a reporter, then I gradually moved into content management, e-learning and now as a full-time writer. It works best for me now as I can be there for my daughter, take care of her studies, and be there for her in the most formative years!
In a recent report published in Quartz India, Indian millennials don’t want the 9-to-5 office day anymore – “A two-year-long Stanford study found that work-from-home boosts productivity in a big way. Earlier, research done at Harvard Business School had displayed half the rate of attrition compared to office goers, while they reported much higher job satisfaction. Moms with flexible work hours and work-from-home options make more money than those who do not, a recent study found. It’s also a more environment-friendly concept as fewer commuters implies lesser pollution.”
Now that the world is grappling with a lockdown, there are tonnes of online courses and professionals and management gurus sharing lectures and gyan on ‘how to work from home’. Suddenly, the world has woken up to the fact of how really challenging ‘work from home” is! But wait, there have been people doing this for years and contributing valuable resources to corporates. Why not ask us! 😉
It is essential to see people who work from home in a positive and a respectful perspective. In a report on ‘Home based Workers’ published in Empowering Informal Workers, Securing Informal Livelihoods, they mention, “Many home-based workers produce under sub-contracts for global value chains. To cut costs and maximize profits, firms outsource production to those who work in their own homes. Advances in technology have also facilitated the outsourcing of production (Chen, Sebstad and O’Connell 1999; Raju 2013). Home-based work represents a significant share of total employment in some countries, especially in Asia, and is a larger share of women’s than men’s employment.”
In fact, the report has also added – “In developed countries especially, clerical work and higher-skilled work in information technology, telecommunication, telemarketing and technical consulting may be home-based. The Informal Economy Monitoring Study (IEMS), coordinated by WIEGO, provides critical insight on home-based workers in Ahmedabad, India; Bangkok, Thailand; and Lahore, Pakistan. It found that home-based workers make significant contributions to their households, society, and the economy.”
Yes, with the lockdown, you may be missing the workspace, your office colleagues, dressing up for working, stepping out from your homes and travelling to work, office meetings, lunches, post-work drinks – the works! But now that we’re confined to the safety of our homes because of a virus creating havoc across the globe, how about making the most of it and maybe a few claps for unsung heroes who have been working (for corporates) from home, providing valuable service and are an important part of the country’s workforce!
Before you embark upon working from home, it is important to understand its challenges first, so you can approach it with the right frame of mind irrespective of whether there’s a lockdown or not.
Understanding Work from Home
1. The mindset
In the initial years, people around me seldom took my work seriously, especially when I freelanced or was working as a consultant. People who hired me on projects often treated me as a “housewife wanting to pass her time and earn pocket money”. Well, that is certainly not and never going to be the case.
How do you tackle it: Let your work speak for itself. Just because some people choose or opt to work from home, it doesn’t mean they’re any less a part of the team or a company.
2. People will expect you to balance everything
Since I worked from home, people around me never took my role seriously as a result, I was expected to host guests at odd hours, go on trips as and when the plans were made. I had a tough time explaining that my work is important, I love my work and I take it very seriously. Most importantly, it helps me to stay financially independent.
How do you tackle it: Now with the lockdown, there would be no outings and no guests dropping by, so you can make the most of it. Also, even after the lockdown period, continue with your routine if you’re still working from home.
There were times, I would often wake up at 4 am in the morning to complete my work before my baby woke up, guests arrived or if there was an outing planned by others in the family. I would be tired at times, and would often be told, “You’re so boring!” I would tell people that I can host or meet people Friday evening onwards and on weekends. Weekdays are strictly for work, but people never understood.
How do you tackle it: If it is possible, wake up earlier than your family members and reply to your emails, write or review your documents, prepare those presentations at a time with minimum distractions. If you haven’t tried it yet, now would be a good time to wake up early and start work. You’ll be able to achieve much more.
4. Self-motivation and self-discipline
Yes, working from home is not a cakewalk at all. Do if you must only if you are self-motivated, driven, loyal, ethical and have immense self-discipline. Work from home is clearly not for the faint-hearted. It calls for a lot of self-discipline and the ability to multi-task.
How do you tackle it: Well yes, there’s no short cut to being self-motivation and self-discipline. I still wake up early mornings and go to bed early, as I used to during the non-lockdown days. Then after my morning exercise, cleaning or cooking and a bath and breakfast, I sit down to work until lunch. A quick lunch and I’m back at my desk until evening. Following this, it is time for my tea, listening to music, cooking or watch our favourite show on Netflix with my daughter!
5. Be mentally prepared
Last-minute things are bound to happen especially when you’re working from home. There’ll be a power outage, or your internet service suddenly drops on the most crucial day. Your house help may suddenly call in sick, worse if your child(ren) is suddenly ill.
How do you tackle it: Nothing can prepare you for such last-minute unwanted surprises. During the lockdown days, you and your family members should ideally share the workload. You and your partner/ spouse could cook or clean on alternate days. Set a time to do your laundry. Give your kids self-study topics which they can do while you’re wrapping up a document at work or attending an online meeting. Set TV time for the kids when you’re going to be on a Skype meeting with your team, that way they won’t disturb you every few minutes.
6. Work smart from home
If the WiFi drops, keep a dongle ready. If one machine doesn’t boot, keep a backup laptop.
How do you tackle it: Over the years of working from home, I realized that there are many factors that are beyond my control – such as electricity supply, internet connection, no system engineer who can attend to my computer if I am facing a challenge, no team member or colleague to ask for help. Initially, it would get very frustrating, then gradually with time, I started preparing myself accordingly. I usually keep my mobile phone on silent during my work hours and since people now know I work from home; they seldom drop by or call during weekdays. I am free to meet my friends over weekends.
7. Work-life balance
If you’re concerned working from home is going to affect your ‘work-life balance’, then the best way to deal with this is to plan your day wisely. Irrespective of whether you have children, wake up early. Get some exercise and start working for a couple of hours before they wake up. If you can wake them up just like the regular school days, it will help them to stay in a routine.
How do you tackle it: Set a timetable for your family members so they can help around in the house, irrespective of whether there’s a lockdown or not. Make sure once you wrap up work you log off from your laptop. Don’t hover around your desk just because you don’t have anything else to do! This would be a good time to have that evening tea with your spouse/ partner, watch a sitcom with your children or read a book over a cup of coffee.
Working from home allows small businesses to thrive
After having interviewed more than 190 entrepreneurs for The Lifestyle Portal and having met tonnes of other entrepreneurs, I have realised that owing to technology and acceptance by consumers and corporates, many small and medium businesses are thriving in spite of being run entirely from home. There are therapists who counsel online, professionals running online English speaking courses from home, tutors who teach online and create worksheets for school students and there are tonnes of other professionals who are running brilliant enterprises – all from home. We may not join the regular workforce of going to work every day, but we do provide a lot of support in those gaps where probably big enterprises may not have a reach.
This lockdown is probably teaching us all that we should hit the pause button and reboot our lives with a fresh new perspective and have respect for those who work from home. Just the way people will now hopefully never question a ‘stay at home mums and dads’, what do you do all day at home, I am optimistic that those who work from home will never be asked, “Is kaam ka paisa milta hai?”
What’s your Work from Home Story?
Share your pun-intended stories of working from home and we’ll be more than happy to publish it (provided it is original content). Send us your original write-ups in MS Word along with your bio and profile picture to firstname.lastname@example.org.