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Most office workers have quickly had to adjust to working from home in recent weeks. The pace at which businesses were able to make this happen has been quite extraordinary. Before COVID 19, if you’d told most companies they needed to transition to work from home arrangements, it would have been a 12-month plus planning process. Yet when needed, we all got it done in days.
As you know, Financial Autonomy is about gaining choice. It therefore need not require significant wealth if you’re able to arrange your life so that the choices you seek are attainable. It also need not entail retirement, as advocates of the FIRE movement would espouse.
For many people the choice they’re after is flexibility of working hours, typically for family juggling reasons, but sometimes for other lifestyle reasons. Working from home might provide the flexibility of hours you’ve long targeted.
A work from home arrangement might enable a sea or tree change, another common choice people are looking to gain. For those that can afford it, the future might look like having your main residence in a rural community, and then 2 days per week staying in town for meetings and collaborative work.
Increased flexibility in work arrangements could well result in at least part of the choices in life you are targeting.
Many employers have historically been reluctant to embrace work from home arrangements in the past on concerns their staff would slack off. Managers perhaps worried that they’d be out of work if they didn’t have people to lord over.
Our current experiment will establish whether this is a genuine concern, but from the discussions I’ve had, people are just as productive, if not more so from their new home offices. If employers can get the same amount of work done, without the need for expensive office overheads, why would they want employees to come back?
It’s certainly a live and interesting experiment for employers, but it’s also an interesting experiment for workers. Perhaps you’ve always fancied the idea of working from home but it was a no-go zone with your boss. Now you’ve gotten your wish, is it what you hoped for?
Of the people I’ve canvassed, most can be just as productive, but many aren’t just as happy. Loneliness is a real challenge. We’re social creatures – that’s has been the key to humans dominating our planet. There have been plenty of stronger, bigger, and faster beings on our planet during human history, but our ability to work together and pass learnings from one generation to the next has been what has set us apart. Working from home in isolation goes against thousands of years of human evolution.
Working from home is also currently a lot harder for parents of young children. Home schooling and closed child care, direct results of the current pandemic, make getting the balance right a huge challenge. But if work from home became your new routine once the world returns to normal, school and child care arrangements would also normalise, allowing you to get uninterrupted time whilst in your home office.
So what are the keys to using a work from home arrangement to achieve additional flexibility in your life? Here’s my thoughts:
1. Self-reflection – what will actually make you happy? Is it working from home entirely, or perhaps just 2 or 3 days per week? Do you have the discipline to work from home? Social media and working from home aren’t a good combination.
2. Routine is important – there is the potential to be always at work. Create a routine for yourself. Perhaps it’s sitting down to work at 8.30am and being disciplined about switching off at 5pm. Take a lunch break.
I’ve taken to going for a walk with the dog in place of my normal commute. It clears the head and puts a clear divide between personal time and work time.
3. Plan for exercise and outside time – it’s not a luxury it’s a necessity.
4. Control the cravings – I can’t say I’ve solved this one personally, but the proximity of the fridge and pantry to my home office is certainly a challenge.
5. Invest in a good chair – with the rush to work from home many of us set up at the kitchen table with whatever chair was there at the time. If you’re to spend 8+ hours working from this space, it’s worth investing in an ergonomic chair. If you’re an employee your employer should cover the cost. Maybe it’s as simple as grabbing the chair from your office and bringing it home.
6. Have a To-Do list – whether it’s your Outlook calendar or jotted down on paper, have a list of things to get done. Procrastination is a possibility when working at home by yourself.
7. Work it out with your fellow home users – your household aren’t mind readers. When can and can’t they make noise, have friends over, etc?
I think it’s quite likely that many employers will now embrace work from home arrangements for their employees – the cost savings are too great to ignore. So start planning for whether this is an opportunity you want to embrace. How can you make a work from home arrangement work for you. How can it help you gain the choice in life that you deserve?
Thanks for listening…
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