Working from Home

Working From Home – What Phase Are You In?

By Tim Sternberg
8 Min Read

The month of March saw LinkedIn populated with photos of zoom meetings, home office arrangements, and Tom Hanks in Castaway, as the vast majority of the population settled into working from home through the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.  A lot of people seemed to be enjoying at least some aspects of this phase.

As one of the minority that has worked from home for over 4 years now, I cheekily laughed at the novelty factor I was witnessing on a mass scale. Having gone through this initial honeymoon period, I knew there was an impending “roller coaster” that most people would not expect – one which many are now riding for the first time.

Flexible working from home arrangements have been adopted by most businesses, seeing employees enjoy a day or two working from home each week already. On average, most people find it the most productive time in their week and it’s a day you typically look forward to. This was certainly my perspective when I left my last corporate role to start my own consulting business.

The Honeymoon Phase

Just like a honeymoon, there is generally very little to dislike as you replace your office work relationship routine with a home office “vacation”. No commuting, few interruptions, just you and the top half looking presentable for the occasional video conference. It takes no time to gain traction on your work to-do list that would ordinarily take a month. In fact, you begin to fit in some cleaning and laundry in between calls.

A whole new level of confidence to tackle the most foreboding of challenges ensues. Combined with the flexibility to work on the couch, bed, or even toilet (not my recommendation) provides a new found freedom and liberation.

Groundhog Day: The Longest “Hump Day” Phase

Have you ever stayed in a holiday resort you couldn’t leave for longer than a month? Imagine being confined to a resort for a year. All of the great novelties you appreciated are normalised and become part of your mundane, daily routine – and lose their value. It begins to feel like Groundhog Day and you feel like Bill Murray.



Most people underestimate the subtle psychological process that dressing for work, leaving home and going to a new environment has on your delineation of routine. This was certainly the case for me and others I spoke to.

The lines between work and life began to blur more than I had expected. My laptop was permanently open, I didn’t change out of my pyjamas some days and there was no sense between when the workday began or finished. Suddenly, all the things I saw as liberating led to mental inertia and my productivity slowed. It becomes apparent that you are not distracted in the office, but it’s actually your mind that finds distraction for some form of variety in your day. This is the key sign you are stuck.

The Tipping Point: Be Like Bill Murray and Find Your Harmony Phase

Admitting that things are not going well is the hardest thing when you have presented externally that you are “living your best life”. I actually needed some intervention from my wife to show me what I couldn’t see for myself. Here are the recommendations I can share with any new business owner or professional now working from home for the long haul:

Create a Work Space: I neglected this and sat on my couch for a year. My osteopath put a stop to this fairly quickly and I eventually found a space to set up an ergonomically sustainable workplace. This helped both my back and blurring my work and life.

Schedule Work Hours: This sounds stupid, but it helped me to avoid working longer hours than necessary. I can now work shorter hours because I know that I get through more in less time than before. That might be 9 – 2pm as an example. It provides focus to get things done, but also increases “work-life harmony” when I can spend from 2 – 4pm with my son and not think about work.

Stop Every 1-2 Hours: Since you have less distractions, you need to have a real break every 1-2 hours and walk around. It’s vital for both your body and your mental freshness.

Vary Your Weekly Routines: This might seem to contradict my first point, but it’s important to also revel in the freedom and novelty that you now have (where you can in these circumstances, of course). Choose a day in advance each week where you block out your diary to go for a long walk, or something that is not your typical routine.

Find at Least 3 Hrs Each Week Just for Yourself: This is something I have recently implemented. It needs to be a deliberately selfish process of giving back to yourself and cannot be doing cleaning or other home duties and tasks like grocery shopping.

Reward Yourself: Seek “work-life harmony” over the longer term – its not a race. You can still work hard and well from home and you should reward yourself for those achievements in equal measure.

Finally, It took me more than 2 years to work all of this out for myself. It remains an ongoing balancing act, especially with a growing business and a young family. So it’s important to have and draw on a support network of others on a similar path, who you can talk to about the highs, lows and learnings of this journey.

Tim Sternberg

Tim Sternberg

Tim is an expert in sales, marketing, recruitment and leadership with a particular flair for helping his SME...

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