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7 Women On The Highs & Lows Of Working From Home
Words by NATALIE GIL
Illustration by MANSHEN LO
Build
7 Women On The Highs & Lows Of Working From Home
Words by NATALIE GIL
Illustration by MANSHEN LO

COVID-19’s disruption to our lives has meant that many of us are now months into working from home (or 'WFH') – for the first time. Since the beginning of lockdown, a lot of us have adjusted to sharing space with our other halves, looking after kids off school and adapting our homes to our new needs. It can be hard to concentrate at the best of times, but even more so in times of great stress and uncertainty. And then there's the allure of the TV, your bed and the fridge to contend with.

But WFH has its perks too: you can enjoy home comforts on the job, eat lunch in the garden (if you have one), wear your comfiest outfit without judgement and there's no commute. That being said, a routine and boundaries are advisable for the sake of your productivity, mental wellbeing and physical health. Ahead, seven women share how they have adapted to WFH in the time of coronavirus.

Jamelia Donaldson, 28, is the founder and CEO of the natural hair product subscription box company TreasureTress. She has been working from the London home she shares with her mum since March 15th.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned since you started WFH full time? My team are the bomb and are always able to adapt, bend and flex to make things work. We’ve become really creative with content, dealt with admin things we’d pushed to the side, and had really good conversations with our clients on the phone instead of email, which has been refreshing.

What do you like most about WFH? I can deep condition my hair, do facemarks and a manicure at any given moment. Self care while I self isolate.

Is there anything you dislike? My day never officially ends, which takes me back to when I first started the business in my bedroom. Everything took place from there and I worked from the minute I woke up to the minute I fell asleep. It’s an easy trap to fall into.

What's your WFH secret weapon? To-do lists! Typically, I plan ahead for the week but during this current climate I’m taking it day by day. Also daily team calls, so we’re all aligned and aware of the priorities. Plus audiobooks, snacks, fresh juice and water. I’m not great at watching TV and getting work done, but I can listen and digest content audibly while I work.

Lu Li, 36, is an entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Blooming Founders. She has been working from home in Shoreditch, where she lives with her partner, since March 16th.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned since you started WFH? If I make myself too comfortable – by working from the couch, for example – I become less productive and less focused on my tasks. I often drift away and start browsing random things, like I would do at the weekend. 

What do you like most about WFH? I really like the freedom in hours. If I don’t have many calls or Zoom chats, then I can nip out to the supermarket in the middle of the afternoon and go for a walk with my partner. We haven’t been together for long and are still in the honeymoon phase, so it’s nice to be stuck together and spend more time with him. 

Is there anything you dislike? I buy a lot more food and snacks – and end up eating it all. Before the self-isolation period, my kitchen was only half as well stocked as it is now. I typically never eat sweet things, but at the moment I love eclairs or Jaffa Cakes with my afternoon coffee. I also consume a lot of roasted nuts. 

What's your WFH secret weapon? I live by my calendar, so I’ve started putting in to-do’s as meetings with myself. It keeps me focused.

Sally Robinson, 59, is an accounts and administration team leader in Leicestershire. She has been working from home, where she lives alone, since March 24th.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned since you started WFH? How cold my house is! I can't afford to have the heating on all day so thankfully the weather is getting better. I set up my PC in the bedroom originally when lockdown started but it was freezing and I had to get a longer cable and move into the lounge.

What do you like most about WFH? I'm a big music fan so the best thing is being able to have the radio on in the background, usually BBC 6 Music. I also love classical music and am really impressed with Simon Mayo's Scala Radio station. It's helped me immensely this week.

Is there anything you dislike? I miss interaction with my colleagues and I don't have a printer, which has been a pain.

What's your WFH secret weapon? Keeping a routine. I get properly dressed and do full make-up, have a lunch hour and keep my music on in the background. I started meditating using Headspace three years ago and I haven't missed a single day. This keeps my mood calm, rather than up and down. Having a routine helps my anxiety, too, and I even follow one at weekends. I'm much more productive when I plan my days.

Asma Shah, 46, is the founder and CEO of You Make It a charity helping young unemployed women to reach their goals. Since March 23rd she has been working from her one-bedroom flat in Bethnal Green, London, which she shares with her partner who also runs his own business. 

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned since you started WFH? It's easy to let the lines blur between a normal working day and social/home time. I've got experience of how this can mean you have very little leisure time from when I set up in 2009, so I’m careful to stick to my hours, making sure I have coffee and lunch breaks as normal. 

What do you like most about WFH? In the current climate it's hard to really enjoy it because we know we’re doing it for life and death reasons, but it’s been an interesting time for my charity and team to rethink what's possible. We’re having to reinvent how we deliver services remotely to our young female beneficiaries. At first I thought it was impossible, because our impact is so much about human contact, but we're coming up with great ideas to respond to current restrictions and I'm feeling very positive about them. 

Is there anything you dislike? No matter how woke your boyfriend or husband is, and mine is one of the good ones, it's usually left to women to do more around the house, and I find myself constantly pushing back on this. I'm always sounding like a nag, but it's important for me that we both maintain our co-working and living space and keep it clean and tidy together. I also miss seeing my team in person – we banter and work hard. We’re making the most of all the ways we can chat remotely and keep each other's morale up. 

What's your WFH secret weapon? Sticking to routine and getting ready for work in the same way as if I was going to leave the flat – even if it means applying lipstick for no one else to see! 

Ayeasha Cindy, 25, is a secondary school English teacher in Reading. She has been self-isolating with her fiancé and working from home for over two weeks.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned since you started WFH? The importance of enforcing business hours. I'm the kind of teacher who never brings work home and the latest I'll ever stay at work is 4.30pm, so I have to stop myself from replying to emails and marking work into the evening. It's hard but I have to switch off for my mental health.

What do you like most about WFH? I see more daylight and spend more time outside in the garden. I also have more time to spring clean and learn new recipes.

Is there anything you dislike? I find it difficult that students can hand in work at any time. They don't usually throw their exercise book at me past 4.30pm, but now they can email me work whenever they want. I have to keep a strict balance to stay sane.

What's your WFH secret weapon? Netflix! I've been rewatching Crazy Ex Girlfriend, a musical comedy. It’s really lighthearted and funny so it helps me when I need a lift.

Hazel Cottrell, 35, Peterborough, runs the online marketing and digital agency Creative Content Company. She has been self-isolating in Peterborough, where she lives with her partner, and working from home since March 24th.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned since you started WFH? That I’m much better working from the office. The drive to work, although it takes less than 10 minutes, gets me into work mode. I make sure I have a clear start and finish time at work and I don't work into the evenings. When the office door is shut, work is done. Working from the kitchen table isn’t the same. I’m starting later and popping back on the computer in the evening.

What do you like most about WFH? It has improved my quality time with my partner. As we’re both working from the kitchen table, we’ve made a conscious effort not to sit in front of the TV in the evening. We’re playing board games and card games instead, which has been great fun and something we’ve never done at home before.

Is there anything you dislike? I miss my office chair, it’s super comfy.

What's your WFH secret weapon, and why? I’ve been doing a 10 minute workout before I start work, which puts me in the right frame of mind for a day of home working. I'm not sure I’ll keep it up for the full isolation though...

Rachel Hugh, 34, is the co-founder of vegan fast food business The Vurger Co. She has been working from her home in east London with her partner and co-founder, Neil, since March 20th, when pubs and restaurants were forced to close.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned since you started WFH? It’s certainly been a mix of feelings. I’ve learned a lot about myself and how much I thrive when I’m able to focus on my tasks at hand. With our restaurants closed, we have a limited number of team members still able to work from home. I’ve also learned how important it is to focus, plan and communicate with your team because, without face-to-face interaction, you suddenly have no idea if someone is suffering, feeling low or needs extra support.

What do you like most about WFH? I’ve loved being able to give tasks my full attention. The fact that Neil is also working from home and that we’re so used to working with each other anyway, allowed us to get to work from day one. As a result, we’ve been able to activate many big picture ideas during this time, allowing us to focus on the wider goals without any distractions.  

Is there anything you dislike? I’m such a sensitive person. I pick up on potential problems in the business by being around the team, hearing their problems in person and visually seeing potential issues before they happen. I miss face-to-face interaction and the ability to pick up on these things.

What's your WFH secret weapon? I need a routine to stay productive. Get up early, do some exercise, stick as much as possible to your regular routine – this will set you in good stead for when your regular work schedule returns. For day-to-day tasks, it’s crucial to get the most important and difficult task done first, even if it takes all day. You’ll thank yourself tomorrow. Also, lots and lots of tea and a good set of headphones to block out noisy neighbours!

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