Expert offers advice for adjusting to working from home

Updated: Apr. 15, 2020 at 5:49 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - If you’re working from home, you know it takes some adjustments and can pose some challenges.

What you may find is there are some benefits.

“I ran a virtual organization before it was even popular,” said Dr. Tracey Wilen, a former visiting scholar at Stanford University, who has held leadership positions at Apple, HP, Cisco Systems and the Apollo Group. “We measured the benefits to the company in terms of the real estate savings, utility savings, services, state savings, and supply savings. We found that we were saving the company $5,000 per employee per year.”

Not just at the corporate level, employees also saw big personal savings in Wilen’s experience.

“On average, they were saving two hours a day, some four hours a day in time. They were saving on average $700 a month in expenses because they weren’t paying for gas or public transportation, or parking or clothes or dry cleaning, or take out or going out to lunch or cafeteria employees.”

Still, Wilen admits working from home comes with challenges, and knows it’s sometimes tough to avoid distractions while we’re working in areas where we’re used to relaxing or eating or visiting.

“I recommend that you have zones and spaces so that the two don’t blend,” she offered. “So my office has become also my workout room, my yoga room, but when that’s the space, that’s not going to be where my husband and I go and socialize, that’s my closed-door office and he has his closed-door office. We try to find spaces that will remain social spaces and relaxation spaces, so that we can you know, partition and I know it’s really hard to partition, but that might be a benefit.”

During this coronavirus pandemic, working from home while everyone else is working from home can be a difficult dynamic to navigate.

“I recommend keeping independent lifestyles,” Wilen advised about working at home alongside your spouse.

“Just because you’re all at home doesn’t mean you have to eat breakfast together and lunch together, and snacks together if that’s not what you used to do. So keep your separate routines. We even organize that I’m in the kitchen first in the morning to get my coffee and he doesn’t go near it and then when he hears my door officer closes, he goes to the kitchen. So really trying to think through how not to see each other all day.”

Managing the extra household chores that come with children doing school from home, may take the whole family’s cooperation.

“This is where the kids come in handy,” Wilen laughed. “Most families and couples tell me with kids, that they really have reorganized the work, given people a piece of a job, whether that’s emptying the dishwasher or helping with the laundry or doing different tasks. Spouses are splitting the times figuring out flexible schedules so that they can have more time actually with the children and at the same time be able to do work.”

Wilen believes this moment in time will leave us with some personal benefits that will last beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

"I have sent so many Easter cards this year. More than ever. So people, text people, phoning people, connecting with family, particularly people who are by themselves. I, you know, I always encourage people to reach out because some people are isolated and need that extra reach out and touch someone. So you can make a lot of friends and keep up relationships."

Wilen is a researcher and speaker on the impact of technology on society, work, and careers. She’s also written a blog about the new normal of working from home.

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