When I first saw the acronym 'WFH' a year ago on the staff computer, it took me a while to work out what it meant. Then I congratulated myself in my head when I realised it meant 'working from home'.
Before 2020, working from home was not commonplace enough for it to warrant having its own well known acronym.
I began my new job in February 2021, in the middle of lockdown three, which meant joining a new team without having physically met them. Even during the pandemic I had only ever worked in the office, so I was a little late joining the WFH club.
Working from home can be strange enough to get used to, but working from home when you're joining a new company with new faces is even more strange.
Everyone has had their own experience of what it's like to work from home, and it's completely dependent on your surroundings, who you live with, if you have children, and who you are as a person.
For myself, as someone who lives with a boyfriend and housemate but spends the entire working day alone, I'd say it took me around two months to get to the positive mental place I am in now. Having an overwhelmingly friendly and upbeat team at work, and a supportive family who regularly checked in, gave me much-needed boosts when I was initially struggling with this new lifestyle. But there's only so much other people can do to help you, and for all the moments in between when it's just you and your computer, there are tactics you can learn to stay focused and fulfilled.
To skip ahead to the solutions that made me love working from home, click here.
If you want to take pleasure in reading about the journey I went on before I reached contentment, read on...
The first week of working from home I was buzzing. There was no irritating early alarm; no stressful commute leaving a sweat on the back of my neck when a broken down car or train meant I'd have to run the rest of the way to the office to make it in on time; and financially I'd be saving at least £200 a month on travel expenses, not to mention the money saved on random coffee and expensive lunch purchases that inevitably occur when you get home late, too tired to prepare a packed lunch for the next day.
I told myself I would still behave as though I was going into an office - that meant wearing smart clothes and putting on makeup, even though my new office was a three metre walk to the living room where I'd be sat by myself.
"This is amazing!" I told my housemate when he got home from a meeting. I was sat with my feet on the sofa using my laptop, excited about my new job, and amazed at the comfort of actually working from home.
"It won't last long," my housemate told me. "That feeling soon gets old and you'll be wishing you were back in the office." My housemate, who's in the food industry, had found himself working from home for the first time a year ago due to the pandemic, but was now out again all day every day for client meetings.
I refused to believe him, and I certainly wasn't jealous of my partner, who as a personal trainer was having to meet clients during dark and snowy mornings in the park.
By the second week I was still overwhelmingly happy, though I hadn't sorted a proper desk space before my new job began. My back was starting to hurt from sitting on either the sofa, kitchen bar stool or bed, playing musical chairs each time I became uncomfortable. I was kicking myself for not being more organised and sorting this out before I started my new job, but working from home was totally new to me, and my joints and posture just hadn't been at the top of my list.
WEEK THREE AND FOUR
When my new desk, chair and computer arrived, my minor back ache went away.
However, I was experiencing a new dilemma - I was incapable of mentally separating the feeling of being at home and being at work. I had also grown tiresome of the morning makeup routine, and felt I was wasting valuable products on my face which no one would be seeing.
As soon as my alarm went off at 7.30am, I strolled straight from my bed to my desk, starting work 90 minutes earlier than I was expected to. I was so grateful for the fact that I had work to keep me busy during the lockdown, when so many other people were furloughed or unemployed and didn't have anything to focus on. But this meant I was exhausting my eyes and my mind staring at a computer screen for up to twelve hours a day. 'Down time' went out the window, and I instead became completely enthralled with work.
In turn, this also meant I wasn't taking care of myself. I snacked constantly, sometimes didn't leave the house, and felt grumpy and irritable at the end of each day. Over time I watched my face slowly swell up like a balloon, feeling ashamed each time I caught sight of myself on a zoom meeting.