Petra Lindfors. Foto: Jens Lasthein
Petra Lindfors has long been researching remote working. Photo: Jens Lasthein

One colleague sits in the bedroom and works, right next to the bed, while another sits at the kitchen table – as long as nobody else in the household is going to cook or eat a meal. With the coronavirus outbreak, many people have the opportune time to try out what it can be like to work from home, with everything that this entails.

New challenges arise

“Many people’s job tasks are not really adaptable to working at home all the time. In the past, we may have worked at home from time to time, however in this situation when many of us will do this for a very long period of time, new challenges arise,” observes Petra Lindfors, who is a Professor at the Department of Psychology and who has been researching remote working, often referred to as telecommuting, and what it means for health and well-being.
A clear risk is that the boundary between work and leisure is blurred during working at home,” she notes.
“It is fully possible today to be working constantly, completely reverse the clock, and obviously that is not an optimal situation. Anyone who has a partner or family needs to show more consideration and agree on what the boundaries will be, which can be good; while someone who lives alone can be more isolated and vulnerable in a different way.”

Better focus at certain tasks at home

Petra Lindfors earned her doctorate in 2002 within the framework of the project “Limitless Work” and has been interested in telecommuting and flexible work for a long time. One of the studies followed 26 people who alternately worked from home and at their office. Many people perceived the shifting back and forth between the working in the office and working at home as something positive.
“They thought that there was a good balance between being physically present in the office and being able to stay at home and work undisturbed with certain tasks.”
The study showed that those who worked at home sometimes established their own personal routines and felt that they could have a better focus on certain work tasks, they were not disturbed in the same manner.
“They felt they ended up having more control over their work.”


What does one need to keep in mind when working at home?

Petra Lindfors offers the following good advice:

  • Try to maintain your daily work routine, the one you have while working in the office. For example, if you normally start at eight in the morning, you should continue to do so even when working from home.
  •  It can be useful to draw a clear boundary between the working day and free time. One good bit of advice is to take a short walk around the neighbourhood in the morning, as a way to “go” to your job. When the workday is over – go out again.
  • Remember to move about. To be regularly reminded, for instance by using a reminder app on your smartphone, when it’s time to take a break and move about, so that you won’t be sitting at the computer for hours on end. 
  • Set up a well-functioning workplace if possible, and if you have a good office chair, use it. If you can borrow a larger monitor from work, do that. If you only have a small monitor at home, you can view the document at 125 percent instead of 100 percent.
  • In order to maintain discipline: When the day is over, make a bulleted list of what to do the following day so you can get started right away the next day. Start with a work task that doesn’t feel so burdensome. Break down the tasks into smaller parts.
  • If you start to feel lonely or that you are working all alone, maintain regular contact with colleagues via Zoom. An entire office or Department can be difficult, however smaller groups are practical, where you can vent various problems and check on the situation with others.
  • Avoid scheduling too many digital meetings for the same day; these meetings require focused attention, especially by beginners, and with too many meetings one becomes bound to one place and has less time for movement. 
  • It is even more important for those supervising others to lead and distribute the work, and to pose other requirements for follow-up, so that everyone in a working group is actively involved. It makes the work each is doing more visible and everyone knows if they are doing the right things.

The article is published in the staff magazine Universitetsnytt nr 2, 2020.