Virtual reality, IRL, working from home—what’s the difference? Should you look for a CPA job with the ability to work from home, or do you find yourself more focused when you’re in the office? Maybe you don’t know what you prefer yet.
Here are the key elements of working from home vs. working in the office as well as tips on work-life balance when you’re WFH.
How Does Working from Home… Work?
If you’re thinking about working from home, but you haven’t yet tried this mode of work, how does it work? One essential part of the job is to keep track of your time.
WFH: Grabbing something to eat, making tea and going to the bathroom are tasks made that much easier by working from home. Setting boundaries, i.e., scheduling work time, break time and clock-out time will help keep you focused and allow you ample time needed to give your eyes a rest from the screen.
In-Office: When you’re paid a salary and you’re working in the office, you rely on the body language and verbal cues of your peers and managers to help you decide when to eat lunch and when to get back to work. When you’re working from home, you have to create your own environment, and add your own structure to your work day.
But how does it work? Where do you start?
If you’ve fully embraced working from home, you have your favorite place to work picked out. This could be the lounge chair in the living room that you used pre-COVID to veg out and look at your phone after a long day at the office. Or, it could be your kitchen counter which is at the perfect height for a nice, sturdy standing desk.
Make sure your WFH space is well-lit for video meetings and comfortable, so you can focus on work for hours at a stretch, without being bothered by the occasional shooting pain that decides to creep into your neck after you’ve been sitting in the wrong chair for too long. Setting up your camera well before meetings is also imperative. No one wants to watch you fumble with the camera during the meeting; trust us, we’ve been there.
Make a habit of not working in bed. Disassociating work from the creature comforts provided by your bed will actually help you in the long run. When you work from your bed, it’s hard to disconnect from work once you get into bed after a long day. Try to maintain a mental segregation of spaces, if possible.
If you need to work from your room, put up a wall divider or some manner of desk/chair arrangement in a sunny corner of the room, if you can. Pro tip: Vitamin D does wonders to keep the spirits up!
How do you disconnect from work when you’re done with work?
WFH: “It’s 5 a.m., I can’t sleep, maybe I should work?!” Does this happen to you? If you wake up with a jolt of can-do energy, and actually are able to put thought and accuracy into your work, good for you. Learn to recognize what times work best for you. You could be more productive in the afternoon. You could work faster in the morning. Knowing what works best for you is the key to success when working from home.
Now, how do you disconnect when your work is done? If you are in control of the number of meetings you take on in any given week, set a benchmark for how many you want to take. How many assignments does it take for you to reach that feeling of “Ahh… I did a lot of work, today.” If you have a daily planner, you can use this as a to-do list to check off deadlines, independent tasks, dependencies and stretch breaks. Once you’ve hit your milestones, literally unplug the computer. Read a book. Check to see if your local library currently carries Daniel Pink’s When.
In-Office: This is a little easier to do when you’re working in an office, unless you’re the type of person who brings work home with them and/or works on the weekends. When you leave the office for the day, having clocked in eight, nine or 12 hours, it’s enough to say your “Goodbye”s and close the door. The car (bike, or bus,) for you, is your buffer between work and home.
So, what is your preference? Should you take the remote CPA job or should you do what your ancestors did and hoof it to the office? It’s all about your situation, and what works best for you. If you have kids at home and you want to give them ample attention, you might want to find a babysitter then drive to work.
If you have an extra room, a nice office chair and great lighting, try working from home. You can actually deduct home office expenses on your taxes, if you meet certain requirements.
The key insight here is what works best for you, works best for the firm. So, make sure the job you sign up for will actually work for you. If you’re still unsure, ask around. Chances are, your friend, your cousin or your dad has either worked from home or has worked out of an office for a substantial portion of their lives. You can collate that data, draw out a pros and cons list and go from there. Maybe a hybrid work environment is what you need to keep your family-to-work ratio balanced, and if that works for you, at the end of the day you can keep your sanity, too.