Most of us have experienced working from home (WFH) by now. Thanks, COVID. Some people love it. (No commute, great! Working in sweatpants, yes!) But some of us aren’t quite sold. (Wait… I feel like I’m living in my office. Oh, and how can I avoid accidental Zoom filters in my client meetings?)
For women, working from home presents its own set of challenges and opportunities, particularly for working moms. (Our hats are off to you amazing ladies!)
So here’s yet another ‘tips for working from home’ article, but written by women for women. Because we see you and your unique struggles.
Let’s dive in.
Why WFH can be challenging
It can be tough for mental health
Plenty of recent studies point to mandated working from home practices having a significant impact on mental health, especially for women. The isolation, lack of support and ambiguity when working remotely can leave you feeling sad, demotivated and unable to focus. In more extreme cases, it can even lead to depression or anxiety.
It can enhance imposter syndrome
Whether you’re new to a role, or in your first job, imposter syndrome hits women hard enough. But when you’re alone in your home, without a team to encourage you, regular meetings and tangible validation, this can be amplified even more.
It can make you feel guilty
Many people feel guilt when they’re not physically at work. You may have thoughts like, “I’m not working hard enough” or, “I should be doing more”.
It can quash career opportunities and development
Working from home can seem to stunt your professional growth. Usually, you’d receive training in person, get a feel for the industry by listening to office discussions, and network with people in other departments. If you’re early in your career, you may feel like you’re missing out on getting real mentorship like you would when working with people face-to-face. In male-dominated industries it’s hard enough to make a name for yourself. Working from home adds to this.
It can make life difficult
Working from home can make life more difficult for women in a variety of ways:
We may work longer hours when WFH
We may juggle family demands
We may struggle to ‘switch off’ from work
We may feel our job security threatened.
How to take care of yourself when WFH
It’s important to nurture your mental health so you build confidence and experience job satisfaction. Here are a few ways to boost your mental health when working from home.
Create a good morning routine
Rather than rolling out of bed at 8.45am and trudging over to your computer, give yourself time to eat a good breakfast, make a cup of coffee, journal, go for a walk, do a workout, meditate, read or do something creative to get you in the zone before work.
Have stretch breaks
Stretching is great for posture, muscle health and mobility. It’s also a good excuse to give your brain a rest. Have an exercise mat on hand, ready to build in 5 to 10-minute stretch breaks every hour or two during your day.
Focus on your personal growth
Remember, we’re all running our own race, both inside and outside of work. Try to prioritize your growth, without comparing yourself to others. Setting yourself achievable goals can be a good start.
Career-building opportunities for WFH women
Invest extra time into yourself
Working from home often cuts out a solid hour or two of commute time. The danger for working mums is the tendency to invest this time into household activities instead, rather than career-building activities. Studies have found that women are more likely to carry out more domestic responsibilities while working flexibly, whereas men are more likely to prioritize and expand their work spheres.
While family and household affairs are important, extra time in your day can be refocused on things like online networking, reading news and articles, or upskilling by completing an online course.
Discover new online communities
A pet peeve of many people when working remotely is the loss of workplace community and socialization. Consider working from home an opportunity to broaden your horizons and join other online communities to fill this social gap. There are lots of online spaces dedicated to celebrating professional women… Girls In Tech is one of them!
You can connect with like-minded professionals, swap stories and tips, and possibly even find yourself a mentor.
Find new ways to be productive, focused and motivated
You might struggle with motivation, focus and productivity when working from home. You’re not alone in this (although… reports have found that productivity has typically increased due to people working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic).
This can be a major challenge. But it’s also a great career-building opportunity. It forces you to be responsible for finding what works for you, and testing new techniques to get a better outcome from your work. (Get started with our practical work tips below.)
Work when you feel your best
Ever feel like you don’t wake up properly before 10am? Or like you do great work in the morning, but experience a post-lunch slump? This could be to do with your body’s circadian rhythm.
The 9-5 work setting has forced us to work during prescribed times, rather than when we feel most alert and capable. Working from home can allow you to manage your time more effectively. This may mean doing your best work at 5am, or having an afternoon nap to recharge – things you can’t usually do in the office! By working when you feel your best, you’re more likely to produce better, more creative work that will speed along your professional development.
Practical tips for working from home
Struggling to stay focused or motivated? Try some of these techniques.
Manage your work time
Only check emails three times a day, for 30 minutes at a time
Turn off desktop notifications
Switch your cell to aeroplane mode
Put the dog outside!
Limit the tabs open on your screen
Keep your desk tidy
Consider having themed work days – i.e. Mondays for admin, Tuesdays for writing, Wednesday for meetings etc.
Spark creative ideas by listening to music, going for a walk, taking a nap or doodling during meetings
Set yourself weekly challenges and give yourself rewards for achieving them. For example, you may set a goal of writing one blog post per day, and if you do that all week you can order takeaway on Friday night!
If you’re working from home, whether by choice or not, know that this doesn’t have to stunt your career. In fact, it might even provide you with opportunities to get ahead and reach new heights.