As the world starts moving its gears and easing back into the regular day-to-day operations, people are sluggishly dragging themselves back to the office. However, as more businesses switch to working from home (WFH) as the modus operandi, the line between work and personal time has been blurred. This begs the question: Is working from home a valid alternative from sticking to a 9-to-5?\u00a0 What was it like to work from home for two months? \u201cWorking from home is surprisingly okay, and it\u2019s certainly a lot cheaper, as I\u2019m not constantly buying coffee or snacks, or queuing for ages to use the bathroom,\u201d says Anjy, who works at an NGO.\u00a0 Johnathan, who was recently furloughed, says the MCO has led to decreased productivity for him, as work stress was more manageable with the structure of a 9-to-5 in place. \u201cI definitely prefer a structured environment. I tend to get more exercise and also sleep better when I have something to look forward to the next day,\u201d he says. Meanwhile, Adam says he has a built-in alarm clock that wakes him up without fail, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.\u00a0 \u201cIt\u2019s thanks to my cats \u2013 they kick me out of bed at 5:30AM every day, because they want breakfast,\u201d laughed Adam, who has a live-in girlfriend and two cats. What were the upsides & downsides of working from home? \u201cIt\u2019s given me more time to exercise as I don\u2019t need to travel from work; I\u2019m eating healthier since I don\u2019t have access to office snacks,\u201d says Shakti, a teacher. Anjy noticed that she took less breaks, and would often work till dinnertime. But at the same time, her day would start later as well. \u00a0 \u201cI don\u2019t start work until at least 11am, and take a long break to exercise, shower, cook and eat, so I feel like I do less work overall,\u201d admits Anjy. \u201cHonestly, working from home has not been the problem. The problem has been not being able to go out, and do stuff,\u201d says Adam. But despite that inconvenience, he says he is still sitting tight in his apartment because of fears of a more deadly second wave. \u201cEven with the CMCO now in effect I still am not going out. Too many s***shows of what has happened in other countries that ended their lockdowns early,\u201d says Adam. Are workers more likely to slack off when working from home? \u201cI believe that whatever habit they had at the office will carry over to WFH,\u201d Adam shared.\u00a0 It\u2019s not about whether they are in the office \u2014\u00a0 it\u2019s about what kind of office and company culture existed before that. \u201cI have worked in places where people will voluntarily stay late to get things done. And are happy about it. I work in places where the clock chimes quitting time, and the office is empty one minute later,\u201d he says. When the MCO began, there was the fear from employers that employees will shirk their duties if they aren\u2019t in the office. But the reality is that people redoubled their efforts just to keep their jobs. \u201cAlthough my company hasn\u2019t laid anyone off yet, they just canceled the graduate trainee programme,\u201d says Esther, a HR executive. Esther has been spending all her effort to work extra hard to ensure her job is secure. When I spoke to her, she barely had enough energy to talk or do anything after. \u201cI\u2019m very new in the business, so if things get worse, I\u2019ll most likely be next,\u201d Esther replied anxiously. What lessons did you learn from working from home? \u201cI thought it would be more relaxed since I didn\u2019t have to travel to work. But in reality, there was no difference because the workload didn\u2019t change,\u201d Shakti says. \u201cWe still have our KPIs to meet.\u201d\u00a0\u00a0 For most of us, working from home means we are completely dependent on our internet connection and a working laptop to get any work done. Adam says the biggest lesson he learnt is to be very grateful to the IT industry (from IT guys to internet service providers). \u201cShoutout to my IT guy who was literally able to remote repair my work laptop so I could get things done,\u201d says Adam. Working in an office means that files are easily available through company intranet.\u00a0 Losing that access is a game-changer for most. \u201cThey wouldn\u2019t let us take \u201csensitive information\u201d home\u00a0\u2026But if we can\u2019t take the data home, we\u2019re not going to get any work done,\u201d says Adam. What tips do you have to get work done faster and more efficiently? Adam share a few tips for a better and more conducive work environment: Set up a dedicated work space \u2014 A room, table, space on the floor, etc. Make that the work space.\u00a0 \u201cTell yourself that work. Does. NOT. Leave that space,\u201d says Adam. Set up dedicated working hours \u2014 Ideally, match the hours to your pre-MCO office hours; it avoids mental disconnects and dissonance.\u00a0 \u201cI have told my bosses to piss off (politely) when they message and call me outside those office hours. It is work from home, not work round the clock,\u201d says Adam. Pace yourself \u2014 Take breaks, use the toilet. But don\u2019t go overboard.\u00a0 \u201cA 20-minute match of MLBB (Mobile Legends Bang Bang) every hour is excessive. But a two-minute YouTube video is not,\u201d says Adam. Fill the silence \u2014 This depends on you as a person. Can you work in silence? If not, find ASMR\/background audio tracks to help fill that void of silence.\u00a0 Find what works for you. \u00a0 \u201cMy graphic designer uses something called Purli.com \u2013 its constant cat purring,\u201d says Adam. \u201cA programmer I know literally codes everything with the Canadian band Rush in the background. As for me? Silence works best.\u201d Don\u2019t let personal hygiene slip \u2014 it\u2019s tempting to go without a shower for 3 days, or keep an unshaven stubble to see if you can pull off the \u201cWizard's beard\u201d look.\u00a0 \u201cNothing different than tips on how to work faster in general. Create a game you can win \u2014 create a realistic work schedule,\u201d he says. If you manage people, use read notifications \u2014 it\u2019s the best way to make colleagues and bosses accountable for everything. \u201cBecause you can\u2019t see them face to face, use the read notification function on your email. That way, you know when they have received something, and read it,\u201d he explained. \u201cAnd if they don\u2019t do their part, it's easy to prove that they did get it. My bosses and colleagues both hate me for using that function,\u201d says Adam. The future of working from home There is a trend for companies to move towards working contracts with less obligation to the employee. \u201cI foresee more commercial white collar jobs downsizing their in-office presence once they realise how much work can be done remotely,\u201d says Li, a real estate agent.\u00a0 It is true that companies will be able to save a lot more by not renting large commercial spaces.\u00a0 With such a fundamental change in attitudes in the workplace, will regular people want to work from home for the rest of their lives? \u201cYes. Easily,\u201d says Adam, \u201cI would prefer a mix of both if I could.\u201d \u201cNot at all,\u201d said Anjy, who lives with a shouty neighbor who interrupts her workflow with daily phone calls with contractors. \u201cI can\u2019t wait to be able to leave my house regularly, even if it is just to go do work in a cafe.\u201d \u201cPersonally, I\u2019m tired of working from home,\u201d says Shakti, who has found her personal time being swamped by the need to prepare online lessons for her classes. \u201cI miss being at school physically and walking into physical rooms.\u201d The shift to working from home has created opportunities for some, while inconveniencing others mildly. Still more had their livelihoods directly affected. One thing\u2019s for sure. The new normal is here to stay. For more stories like this, read: Are We Overworked? Malaysians Share Their Stories and Working From Home: Ups And Downs Of Remote Working.