No More Micromanagement, But Also – No More Pajamas, Please

By: Meet in Place content team.

Psychologist Maurits Kalff, expert of work culture, sheds light on the largest scale experiment in occupational psychology 

The phrase ‘work from home coronavirus’ has reached its peak on google search in Mid March as companies like Google, Amazon, Linkedin and Facebook encouraged their employees to stop coming into the office. Soon after, online searches for desks, keyboards, microphones and other home office supplies spiked as this suggestion became mandatory, sending most employees to work from home.

“This whole ‘work from home’ thing is done on such an enormous scale”, says psychologist Maurits Kalff, “This is the largest scale experiment in occupational psychology. There was no negotiation, no consultations with the unions, we all just have to make it work”.

How do you think this will affect our work habits?

“We can learn a lot about ourselves in the process and maybe even improve our overall well being. The more autonomy, freedom and self governance a worker has, the happier they are with their work. It’s very possible that many people will find that working from home actually worked really well for them. After this crisis, many workers may say to their employer ‘look, working from home went so well for me that I want to keep doing it, and I can come in for meetings twice a week“.

If a lot of employees find that work from home works for them, companies may see this as an opportunity as well. The price of office space in London, or any other major city is so high, they may see this as an opportunity to cut back on office space and pay less rent. Who knows we may see all the office buildings in Canary Wharf turn into council housing”.

How will this experiment change the way we consider our daily tasks?

“Interestingly, now that we are all working from home, it becomes impossible to be micromanaged, we all have more autonomy in our work and may feel more empowered and actually enjoy our work better. We can show our boss and colleagues that we are in control by using this opportunity to claim more autonomy and take liberty in our decisions. You can give substance to this situation by taking more freedom in your work and seeing it as a way to improve yourself”.
Psychologist and Coach Maurits Kalff: “The more autonomy, freedom and self governance a worker has, the happier they are with their work”

The new balance

Our concept of work-life balance is shifting. In a time when work has taken possession of our home, it’s getting increasingly harder to set clear boundaries let alone achieve balance between the two.

“We need to redefine what working from home means, this used to be a guilty pleasure, you would stay in your pajamas all day, sit on the couch and get a lot done, without interruption you could answer emails and work on presentations or spreadsheets while raiding the fridge. We need to redefine work from home, right now it is the new reality, and it often comes with isolation or irritation since we are often not working from home by ourselves. It is testing us in many different ways.”

Kalff suggest a few simple methods to try and reclaim balance in your life:

Work on a new routine

“Work from home can be challenging at first, you get up 45 min later than normal because you can, and there is no commute, you have breakfast, and slowly you get on with what you have to do. Try to develop a routine that artificially separates your home from your work life. Get up at the same time as you usually would, eat, maybe exercise, shower, get dressed then go outside – even if you don’t have a dog, just take a walk, playfully tell yourself ‘I am now going to work’, this is your commute. During the day try to separate your work from your home a little bit more deliberately, on your breaks you can go back ‘home’, but when you work, try and replicate the habits you used to have in the office”.

Write down 3 good things

“American psychologist Martin Seligman suggests writing down 3 good things that worked for you that day and why. This doesn’t have to be a big achievement, it can be something small that made you feel good like the sun coming out or talking to your mom. Over time you will be better at recognising what works for you and makes you happier and can use these as a guide, especially in difficult times.

Turn routines into rituals

“Israeli researcher Tal Ben Shahar found that turning routines into rituals can help make people happy. When routines are well embedded, you can turn them into rituals, this way they are easier to stick with. If you turn your walks, your breaks, or paying special attention when making your lunch into a ritual, it will be easier to stick with”.

Maurits Kalff is a psychologist and coach in central London. He is interested in the relationship between psychology and work. He also helps startups and small companies implement a mental health strategy and make that part of their company culture.

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