So, as of the 16th of March it’s officially been one whole year of working from home for me. Oxford University Press actually shut a whole week earlier than the country, we only really expected to be out of the office for a couple of weeks at most, and I haven’t been back to the office since. I then, rather quickly after that, moved back home to Wales and my parents rather than continuing to pay my exorbitant Oxford rent. I got incredibly lucky that my flatmate and I were already planning a move, and so had decided not to renew our lease, but this pandemic has certainly taught me the value of negotiating a break clause! The move home has definitely had its pros and cons, but I’ve surprised myself with the fact that I’m in no real rush to return to Oxford and my commute.
I don’t know if it’s been the same for you but work from home has been a revolutionary experience. It’s highlighted the chasm between entry-level and the upper echelons of publishing in London, but has also opened the industry up to hiring candidates that don’t want to make the overpriced south-east their home. I’m hoping to make the situation a little more permanent post-pandemic, I love the Oxford office and the ducks but not its impact on my wallet and I have very little interest in returning to a house share, so I’m hoping to remote work with just one or two days in the office when we eventually return. Will getting up at 5am to catch a train to work suck? Yes, but it’ll still be cheaper than returning to Oxford full-time and I’ll actually be able to afford my own home some day.
It is important to acknowledge though that I probably would have been singing a different tune if I’d remained in Oxford during the pandemic. So many entry-level workers are currently stuck in their bedrooms in expensive house-shares attempting to make this work from home situation work for them. I know if I’d been stuck in my third floor flat with no garden space it would have had an overwhelmingly negative impact on my mental health, the pandemic hasn’t done me any favours, but being worried about rent and trapped in our tiny two bed would have tipped the scales (and I’m luckier than most). I want more remote opportunities and internships in publishing, but as an industry we need to make sure it’s not at the expense of others mental health.
Anyway my woe is Nia moment is over, and instead let’s talk work from home tips because I feel like I’ve learned so much about how I work in this past year. In the office focus has never been a problem for me, I wear my noise cancelling headphones and get on with it, but at home it’s a lot harder to focus when I’m surrounded by distractions. The temptation to just stay a little later or pick up my laptop on the weekend to get ahead is undeniable, and I’ve definitely done it, but here’s what I’ve been doing to try and put a stop to my overtime habit and stay focused throughout the day.
- Put your laptop away/break-down your work-space: This may sound a little ridiculous but I make a point of putting my laptop somewhere out of sight after work. Whether it’s something basic like sliding it under the sofa or bed, or turning my work set up in the office back into my gaming computer at the end of each day. The saying “out of sight out of mind” really does work for me when it comes to work from home.
- Get dressed: At the start of the first lock-down I thoroughly enjoyed the novelty of wearing my pajamas to work, but I find I get way more done if I’ve put on clothes in the morning. I definitely don’t mean work-wear either, no shirts and skirts here, I just mean something with a bit of structure that isn’t something I’d also wear to sleep in. I’m sure there’s some deep psychological reason behind it, but I wear a bra most days and I do it so that my days off actually feel like I’m out of office.
- Take regular breaks: I have to remind myself quite often that when we were in the office it would take me at least fifteen minutes to make a cup of tea, and even longer if I were to venture downstairs to the coffee shop. Our kitchen was small and you often had to queue outside before being able to get kettle access. So popping out into the garden, having a chat with my dad, or spending ten minutes cuddling my dog outside of my lunch hour should also be fine. I wouldn’t be staring at my computer for eight hours straight in the office, so I’m trying to not do that at home.
- Talk to your colleagues: I’m pretty introverted, and not very good at following this little nugget of advice but checking in with your boss and colleagues can be really reassuring. I’m more used to doing this than most because half my team are located in New York, so even before remote working I couldn’t just pop to their desk and check in. I highly recommend attempting to set up a virtual coffee morning or video chat once a week to talk about non-work related things, it’ll help you feel more comfortable with the people your working with and is especially important if you’ve started a new role in lockdown!
- Use your annual leave: When the pandemic started I was really reluctant to use my paid holiday to “take a day off and do nothing”, but unsurprisingly a break is really important. Right now travel is still a no go, so take a day off to read a book that’s just released, play through a video game, or go on a really long walk but please use your annual leave. I always feel better after stepping away for a long weekend, even if my inbox is a bit of a mess when I return.
Work Experience Diaries:
Work Experience Master Post | Inside Story | Vintage | Seren | University Wales Press
First Month Publishing Update | Three Month Publishing Update
Six Month Publishing Update | One Year Publishing Update
When to Quit: Publishing Update | Two Years in Publishing
Publishing Skills | Dealing with Rejection
Remote Interviews | SYP Podcast ft. Me | Making a Sideways Move
Imposter Syndrome | Q&A video with Me
Work in Publishing Week: Fave Posts | Trade, Impact, and Monograph