Working from home has its benefits, but is it for everyone? The Robb Report Singapore team has some answers

Working from home

Working from home requires just as much discipline, if not more, compared to working in the office. Here’s how you can best adapt and make it work. Welcome to life in the age of the circuit breaker

Last week, Robb Report Singapore’s editorial team debated on how local businesses should promote their items or services to survive the COVID-19 outbreak. With the government’s announcement of the ‘circuit breaker’, the team tackles a different set of questions this week: How does one adjust to work-life at home, has productivity levels dropped and more importantly, is this a viable solution for companies in the long run?

Working from home
“Productivity levels have remained constant – that is, incredibly low,” says Andrew Leci

Andrew Leci, raving reporter

Working from home hasn’t involved too much of an adjustment for me, as I’ve already been doing it for some years now. That’s one of the nice things about being a writer. All you really need is a computer, a desk and an endless supply of coffee – fingers and a brain are optional extras. Being a human being, however, I am sure that I will find something to complain about in the very near future. It’s fine when you’re doing something because it’s your choice and works efficiently. It’s quite another when someone is actually instructing you to do it. Productivity levels have remained constant – that is, incredibly low, because I have cats and a fridge. Both are very distracting and in constant need of attention, and the fridge provides little or no editorial feedback. But then again, the cats are pretty useless when it comes to chilling a nice Sauvignon Blanc. Yes, sometimes I need more than a coffee.

I think we will all discover over the next weeks and months that quite a few of us don’t need to go out as much as we are used to, nor travel to the same extent. While video meetings and conferences are not ideal, they do work and can be effective – as long as participants remember to put clothes on. Those people in countries that are ‘locked down’ will crave human interaction (other than immediate family) after a while, so maybe, just maybe, we will all become better at it when the opportunities present themselves again.

Karishma Tulsidas, editor-in-chief

Working from the comfort of my home, in shorts, a T-shirt, and actually having the time to catch up on Netflix? What’s there not to love about that? Ah yes, the fact that there’s a pandemic brewing outside the window… Look, we can complain, stress out, monitor the Gov SG website for the latest numbers every 20 seconds, or we can thank our stars that we have a roof over our head, our pantries are stocked and we’re still healthy.

My levels of productivity have increased exponentially, thanks to the fact that I don’t have two-hour-long meetings and events to attend, and there’s no one to chat with at the watercooler. But here are the steps I’ve taken to cope.

Embrace the situation. You are what you think, and feeding your mind with negativity isn’t going to help the situation. You’re stuck at home with nothing but your thoughts to keep you company – make sure they’re at least upbeat.

Establish a routine. Not only does it help you stay organised and on top of your tasks but crucially, it helps you demarcate the boundaries between home and work time.

Don’t forget to take a break once in a while. My daily trips for a takeaway coffee have kept me sane (and awake).

Shower at least twice a day. I mean, I don’t even have to explain this one.

Set up a dedicated workspace. It’s tempting to slouch on the couch with your laptop while Tiger King plays in the background. That’s just bad for your posture and even worse, you might start associating your couch with work – and that would just be tragic.

If we’ve learnt anything from this situation, it’s that most meetings could definitely have been an email. As long as you’re disciplined enough to stay away from Netflix during the day, it might be just the solution that working parents need.

Celine Yap, editor-at-large, watches & jewellery

Working remotely comes quite naturally to us writers, whether at home or in a hotel room halfway around the world. It’s great not having to commute between home and office, although funnily enough, I do enjoy those tiny pockets of me-time.

It helps to keep to a regular routine as much as possible, to start early and use a proper workstation. I’m typically in casual wear and no makeup, unless I have a business teleconference scheduled, which is why there is always a jacket behind my chair.

With teleconferencing fast becoming the norm these days, working from home has never been more convenient. The downside to this is reduced interaction with coworkers which dulls the senses a little. At some point, you feel like you’ve forgotten how to talk to people (true story).

That said, working from home definitely could work out in the long run for some people, depending on industry and job function. It’s better for work-life balance and who knows, it might also do wonders for the environment.

Working from home
One highlight of working from home: breakfast

Hannah Choo, senior editor

To be honest, I’m pretty used to the ‘circuit-breaker’ life – I’ve already accomplished two weeks of SHN, which ended two days before we got locked down, lol – but I’m not sure if I’m liking it very much. I hate bringing work home, and I’ve found it much easier to overwork yourself at home than at the office. There’s no clear set boundary and I much prefer communicating with colleagues in person.

On the bright side, the leisurely mornings have been awesome. I get up, shower, have breakfast (which I never have) and get straight to work without the need to doll up. I get to blast my own speakers while writing, and I have a pretty great WFH colleague – my dog. Productivity-wise, it’s been okay. I’m proud to say I haven’t been tempted by the bed yet, but I do get distracted. I mean, sometimes the best time to clean the house is when you’re loaded with work, right?

Working from home
This picture of Charmaine Tai isn’t really accurate. She is far from zen when she exercises

Charmaine Tai, editor / content strategist

I absolutely love working from home. Pros: My commuting time has been cut from 120 minutes each day to just one, it really doesn’t take long to roll down the stairs. I wake up 15 minutes before work officially begins; and still start on time. I get to work out on a daily basis, and if I slept late the night before, there’s the option to skip lunch and nap. I also interact a whole lot more with my family members, even if conversations revolve around what snacks we’re running low on or what documentary we should watch.

Now, the cons. Having the false sense of security that it’s okay to sleep late – I’m no longer a student and my body is extremely vocal about how it feels – and for better or worse, I’m putting in longer hours. I work through lunch on a daily basis and sometimes, dinner.

To ensure I don’t overwork, I make it a point to leave my workstation at 6.30pm to exercise. If there are still things to be done, I’ll get to them after. I also set aside time to continue with French lessons on Duolingo; my commuting time previously ensured I’d get more than an hour of practice each day.

The virus outbreak has really reinforced a few points. Many face-to-face meetings can happen via email, though I miss the spontaneous brainstorms and at times, illogical conversations I have with the team. Having a physical office does help, but if productivity and results don’t decrease or dip, perhaps this is a possible long-term solution for those who do require flexible arrangements.

Working from home
Meet Miko, Allisa Noraini’s WFH colleague

Allisa Noraini, writer

Honestly, the current WFH situation has been nothing but a test of my patience and resilience. Cooping up at home is the best method to feel inspired and motivated, said no one ever. Also, it’s easy for the mind to slip into a pit of mundane, unproductive thoughts if you remain inactive. But I’ve learned to find alternatives to help me stay mentally and physically healthy. That includes working out, reading books that stimulate the brain, checking in on friends to see how they’re coping, and spending much-needed quality time with my family at home (which I haven’t been able to do prior to the lockdown, honestly).

To ensure productivity at work, before checking my emails first thing in the morning, I’d come up with a to-do list for the day. It allows me to set some goals so that I remain motivated throughout the day – although I have to admit, it’s still very easy to be distracted by my pet cat Miko. But most importantly, to keep my mental health in check, I’ve been paying more attention to balancing work and leisure. Socially distancing myself from the laptop after office hours definitely helps.

Daryl Lee, motoring editor

I think the nature of our work is such that it could always have been done from home. The only thing I’m wishing I had right now is a bigger screen to work on. Apparently, a tiny laptop screen isn’t very conducive for work. That being said, I do enjoy coming into work sometimes, the part about getting dressed is actually fairly enjoyable for me. I’m not sure I could do this permanently, however. While I enjoy working from home and from the office equally, I think the key difference here is that choice has been taken away from me, and once I feel I’ve lost agency in something, that becomes a bit of a problem.

Staying home during this period of time isn’t easy, we get it! But we’ll be keeping you company. Subscribe to our digital magazines for free, and check out what ideas we have for you. #StayHomeWithRobb