Work from Home Life: Expectations vs. Reality

If you've spent the past few months working from home, you can certainly identify with the following reality checks. By Stephannie Reyes

Image by LEEROY Agency from Pixabay
Image by LEEROY Agency from Pixabay

Remember back in 2019 B.C. (Before COVID-19)? We all dreamed of the day when we could enjoy the freedom to work from the comforts of home. Well, we got what we wished for: the quarantine has turned this privilege into the norm.

We all thought working from home meant more freedom and looser monitoring from immediate superiors. However, as the days went by, working from home proved to be more of a challenge than what we expected.

If you’re reading this from your home office right now, you can certainly identify with the following dashed expectations and cold doses of reality:

Home Office Setup

Expectation: Your new home workspace – filled with ergonomically designed office equipment and endless motivational quotes – encourages peak productivity during office hours. This space is tucked away in an area of your house which you deem most conducive for uninterrupted working.

Reality: You find you do most of your work from your balcony, couch, or bed. Your home office just isn’t as comfortable, or as productivity-inducing, as you’d like. Maybe you just haven’t set it up correctly. ErgonomicsNYC founder Ellen Kolber explains that a home workstation should meet the following basic standards:

  • The keyboard and mouse should be level with your elbows, or below them.
  • Feet should lie flat on the ground or on a footrest.
  • You can see all of your work without moving your neck too much.

Home Office Schedules

Expectation: Working from home will enable you to take frequent breaks to check your social media, take a peek at the latest episode of your favorite Netflix series, or even play with your pet.

Reality: Being able to grab lunch at a leisurely pace seems to be a privilege instead of the norm in a home office. Since all members of the team are working in a different place, conference calls can be more frequent, including meetings which should have been emails. This leads to your daily work piling up more than usual, as you need to catch up on those after your regular meetings.

Instead of playing all loosey-goosey with your time at home, experts suggest setting up a definite schedule that works around home essential periods (like kids’ naps), and structure your meetings and other remote interactions around this schedule.

Teddy Rawpixel
Teddy Rawpixel

Supervision from Bosses

Expectation: There is less pressure from your immediate supervisor and higher ups when working from home, so you can be a little lax on your projects.

Reality: Working from home has made worker supervision far more challenging to executives. These days, companies are stricter in implementing measures that ensure productivity. These might include time and task trackers and scheduling more frequent checkpoint meetings for ongoing projects.

Management consultant May Busch advises that proactive updates to one’s managers can actually help them become your advocates, not your opponents, and raises your own visibility in the organization.

Updating them can take different forms depending on the kind of boss you have: “If they’re a micro-manager, you’re probably better off with more frequent updates and greater detail,” May explains. “If they’re ‘laissez-faire’ or have a short attention span, then a few well-placed bullet points will do.”

Whether you’re updating them via email, verbally over Zoom or on a short private message, May suggests you include the following information in your updates:

  • What you and your team have accomplished since the last update
  • Any challenges you’re facing and how you plan to deal with them
  • Any assistance or input you need from your boss  

Stress Burnout

Expectation: The chance of workers experiencing a burnout is significantly less for employees working from home.

Reality: Burnout can happen to anyone, regardless of whether they’re working in the office or working from home. In reality, employees are more prone to burnout these days, because aside from thinking about work, almost everyone is experiencing anxiety in one way or another due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

You can fend off burnout by setting strong boundaries between work and home life, and cut down on the tasks you’ve assigned yourself. Digital nomad and consultant Kristin Wilson suggests asking two questions: “Which activities (and people) drain your energy the most?” and “Which tasks can you outsource or delegate?”

Working from home is not the walk in the park we all imagined it would be. However, despite the fact that it is more challenging than the usual office routine, working from home also provides a safe and secure environment for employees, especially during this time of crisis.