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Working from home: our experience and advice

More than two years ago, we at HansaWorld made the decision to leave our beautiful worldwide offices and switch to a 100% work-from-home model. Of course, this is not a new concept, nor are we the only company to recently adopt it. In fact, the amount of worldwide Google search queries relating to working from home has doubled since 2019. Thank you, COVID-19, for bringing people home. In the past couple of years, we have learned a lot about remote working, our colleagues, and ourselves. We believe this experience is worth sharing.

The new reality of work was not actually new for everyone in our company. Our CEO, Karl Bohlin, has been working this way for more than 25 years. While being a record-holder in this regard, Karl is not the only one in our company with working from home experience, managers and non customer-facing roles have enjoyed working from home for three decades.

Innovative concepts, backed up by some solid experience, brings us to where we are at the moment: flexible work arrangements. Not only has where we work changed, but also how and when we work. Most of our offices are gone, so now we work from where and when we want to. While some employees prefer to stick to more or less stable business hours, others like to take long breaks in the middle of the day, work in the evenings or on weekends. As a result, many of our colleagues share that their work-life balance has improved significantly.

“As a mum, I have the luxury of not missing my child growing up. I don’t think I would choose to go back to an office in the future”, says Brittany McGrath, International Service Manager.

“I really enjoy being flexible and not desk-bound. I have so much more time for my family and myself”, says Briana McGuinness, International Assistant HR Manager.

“I found working from home to be the best quality work time. I get more done while getting an extra two to three hours of free time every day”, says Ludvig Norin, Chief Programmer.

We remain a global team with staff in several time zones around the world. There is a sort of mutual respect and understanding between the company and the employees, with the company is being so flexible, the employees give equal flexibility in return.

If you think that we are living the dream, remember that everything comes at a price. Despite the obvious benefits, working from home is not a constant holiday, no matter how good it sounds. We asked our colleagues about the challenges of working from home and how they overcome them. Here are the top five:

1. Working around the clock

Despite first impressions, working from home does not actually reduce the amount of time people spend working; in fact, it does the opposite. A number of studies indicate that home-based employees tend to work longer hours than they used to in an office. HansaWorld’s experience also proves that. Working around the clock was named one of our employees biggest challenges.

How to overcome this issue:

  • Organize your day. Schedule your work hours and breaks and stick to it.
  • Prioritize. You cannot do everything in one day. If you have several tasks, prioritize them based on what needs to be done today, and what can be done later.
  • Allow enough time to sleep. Working from home is not a reason for not getting enough rest.

2. Family disturbances

Office work is gone, along with coffee breaks and water cooler chat, so no more distractions, right? That is until you realize how distracting it can be working from home. It gets worse if you have a big family, young children, or if your partner also stays at home.

How to overcome this issue:

  • Set rules. Your family should know when you do not want to be disturbed (for example, when your office door is closed).
  • Be flexible. It might be a good idea to stop thinking nine-to-five and start being flexible with your work and family time. For example, if you are a young parent, you might want to try working while your baby is asleep.
  • Find a balance. This one applies particularly to around the clock workers. One easy solution to not being disturbed by your family is to actually spend time with them. Working from home is not an excuse for not doing your chores.

3. Eating habits

This unexpected challenge was labelled a big one by several of our colleagues. Let’s be honest, we all love our fridges, but being so close to them every day can be really difficult and lead to overeating, constant snacking, and unpleasant consequences.

How to overcome this issue:

  • Maintain a healthy eating routine. It is important that you have proper meals instead of snacking whenever you feel hungry.
  • Snacks can be healthy. Not all snacks are made equal. If you feel like snacking, make sure to have something healthy. Carrots, for example, are a great option.
  • Stock up on quality food. We often end up eating junk food when there’s nothing better in the fridge. Make sure you always have quality food at home as it helps to maintain a healthy diet.

4. Lack of physical activity

No matter how much we all hate commuting to the office in the morning, it has one obvious benefit—it makes us go out. Take this away, and there is a big likelihood that you will stay home all day, sitting at your desk. Combined with unhealthy eating habits, this becomes a really serious issue.

How to overcome this issue:

  • Walk. It is easy and effective. The possibilities are endless: walk during your breaks or your calls; alone, with your family, or your dog; in the park, your neighborhood, or even inside.
  • Exercise. The obvious advice here would be to start jogging or join a fitness program (there are several available online these days). There are several reasons to keep fit, and for many of us, the same amount of excuses not to. Try to at least do a few quick one to five minute activities during the day (for example, while your software is updating, while your waiting for a colleague to reply to your message, or whenever you feel stuck).
  • Standing desks. Several of our staff use them and find them very productive. If you have the option, try it, you might like it. HansaWorld strongly believes in our company’s responsibility to provide our employees with the necessary equipment to make working from home a healthy, comfortable, and productive experience.

5. Poor quality office space

No matter how comfortable your office space is, you wouldn’t live there, would you? It simply isn’t meant for this. Similarly, our homes are often not suitable for working at, but this can be far less obvious. Working in an environment with a lack of air conditioning and ventilation, poor quality chairs, desks, and other furniture leads to low productivity and health problems.

We take this issue very seriously. HansaWorld sponsors healthy home office environments for all our employees, and believe that other employers should too. Apart from that, we also offer some good advice:

  • Keep it clean. Clean surroundings positively affect our mood and wellbeing. We don’t often think about it, but we make more mess when working from home which means more cleaning. It doesn’t sound too exhausting, but it makes a difference.
  • Measure CO2 levels. High concentrations of CO2 in a room can have huge effects on your productivity. The problem is that it is really difficult to notice unless you measure it, therefore, having a CO2 monitor makes a huge difference. HansaWorld provides such monitors to employees for their home offices.
  • Sit properly. Working at the dining table often seems like a good idea, but it is not. In fact, this is one of the worst places to work from. Dining chairs are not meant to be sat on for an extended period of time as this will inevitably lead to back problems. Try sitting on a proper office chair at a proper desk, or working from your couch with the laptop on your lap.

Of course this list of challenges is not exhaustive, but the point is, they can all be solved. If your company has not tried working from home yet, go for it, its worth it.