How to build a career you love when you’re not in the office
Working from home has become the ‘new normal’ for a great many of us and, despite restrictions easing, it looks set to continue – with many companies selling office space and employees WFH for at least part, if not all, of the week, becoming a long-term reality. So how do we thrive and excel in this environment?
Harriet Minter is a journalist and speaker whose has written WFH (Working from Home): How To Build A Career You Love When You’re Not In The Office. It’s a no bullsh*t guide to getting your work and life on track in the new flexible workplace and was written not as a book for the pandemic, but as a book to support the rest of your working life.
It all began when Harriet was working in an office 5 days a week, 9am to 5pm, and realising she was more productive working from home, less distracted and could escape a chatty colleague when she needed to focus and concentrate on detailed tasks. Not only that, she found she actually enjoyed it. Over the years, Harriet has built a career where she works in multiple locations, including coffee shops, co-workspaces, at clients and her own home.
Since the pandemic started, Harriet has observed different trends emerging from those who WFH. “Some people who have never worked outside of the office have found themselves completely lost as to how to do it. Other people have found themselves so much more productive and happier, with a better work/life blend, embracing the opportunity to spend time with their families. They never want to go back,” she says. “Organisations have the opportunity to be proactive and to collectively change the outdated model of how we work – which was originally laid out by Henry Ford for workers on his production lines,” says Harriet. In the past it was freelancers and the self-employed who were most likely to work flexibly. Yet the impact of the pandemic has seen more corporations creating these hybrid work opportunities.
How do you craft a career you love from home?
Harriet suggests stripping back to the basic questions about what drives you when it comes to what you do.
How can you work out what you love about your job and how do you do more of that?
What is the best way for you to work to be your most productive?
If you are a people manager, how do you find the best way to manage a team, even if you cannot see them?
How do we best communicate with people at work when working remotely?
“Pre-pandemic only 6% of individuals worked from home, now it is approximately 55%, a huge shift. There needs to be a mental switch so we start to become more intuitive and thoughtful about our unique working styles. Asking yourself when do you find yourself at your best, for example – the best time to be creative, or the best time to focus on writing a report?” says Harriet. “t is still important we have work structures but not necessarily the structures set out by Henry Ford. Our working patterns and energy also change as we move throughout life, how we approach work in our 30s or 40s is very different to how we found ourselves when we started work in our 20s.”
Remember, working from home in a pandemic is not the same as working from home when we are not in a crisis, as we would not be stuck at home all of the time. Finding your new normal as we shift into a hybrid workplace may create more feelings of unease with adapting to another new structure, but try to position this as exciting and get curious as to how this could best work for you.
Harriet’s top tips
Build a career that works for you: Take time to understand yourself. Take time to understand what you value, what you love about the working experience and how you work best. Once you understand how you work you can then find/create a role that fits you, rather than trying to fit inside an organisation.
Design a career you love: Map your energy – what gives you energy and what takes it away, then design your career around that. For example, get into the habit of having meetings first thing if you’re an early bird, and if you’re susceptible to the ‘Friday feeling’ get your difficult tasks completed early on in the week.
Set boundaries: Be clear about what your boundaries are, be open and communicate them, such as including them in your email signature, or being clear with colleagues who work in different time zones from you when you won’t be available for meetings.
Create your workspace at home: Even if you don’t have a separate office and your office is the kitchen table – change where you sit from meals, put on a tablecloth when you’re not working, clear away the dishes before work. Create a space purely for work.
Make the effort to communicate more than you naturally would with colleagues and team buddies: Be conscious, consistent and build time in your diary to communicate, know this is part of your job. Harriet says that, each week, she makes sure to have one conscious communication with someone she works for, one conscious communication with someone she works with and one conscious communication with someone she doesn’t know yet.