Today Learn English Fun Way has got some very common English expressions and idioms to help you talk about working from home, something that many of us have been getting used to lately due to the COVID-19.
Are you working from home? What do you think about it so far? Do you love it? Do you hate it? Do you feel like you’re being very productive?
Let we know about it in the comments.
In the meantime, we have got fifteen English expressions for you to learn to help you talk about working from home and doing things professionally at home. Some of them are informal but you can definitely still use them in a professional context, especially if you’ve got a good relationship with your clients, and your team and your customers. So if you all like to have a laugh together and make each other smile, then these are some really great idioms to use.
So let’s get started!
15 Awesome Idioms About Working From Home
First, we will begin with some really common idioms that talk about learning new things.
1, (To) throw (someone) in/at the deep end
- Anyone feel like they’ve been thrown in the deep end lately?
This is a really common idiom especially in a professional context because it describes that moment when you’re forced to do something unfamiliar or perhaps something that’s quite complex and without much help from anyone else.
You’ve just got to sort of try and work it out on your own, which is why this idiom is so relevant now, because so many of us have been thrown in the deep end recently because working from home is a very new and different experience.
Often at a new job, this happens right? When you’re put in an unfamiliar situation and you’re just expected to work it out or to get good results.
- Your manager might throw you in the deep end to see how you respond under pressure.
Something to note about this idiom is that you’ll often hear it used in the passive voice.
- It’s good to be thrown in the deep end. It’s the fastest way to learn.
But by using the passive voice here, we make the experience the most important part in the sentence. It doesn’t really matter who threw you in the deep end. But that’s why using the passive is a really good option with this idiom.
2, (To) get the hang of something
This is a really great, really common expression and it really just means to learn how to do something, especially when it’s not obvious or it’s not simple.
- Don’t worry, I’ll teach you how to use the software. You’ll get the hang of it soon.
So that just means you’ll learn how to do it soon and then it’s not going to be a problem for you.
Now if you’ve only just recently started working from home, you might still be getting the hang of it but a lot of us have been working from home for a few weeks or a few months. Perhaps you’re getting comfortable with it.
So we want you to think about the tense that you should be using with this expression right? Is it happening now or did it happen in the past?
- It wasn’t easy to sell products to customers on Zoom. It took a while for me to get the hang of it.
- Or eventually, I got the hang of it.
So we want to know, have you been getting the hang of something lately? Definitely share it in the comments. Use it in a sentence!
3, (To) get (one’s) head around (something)
Another idiom with a very similar meaning to the second expression is ‘to get your head around something’, which means to understand something that is challenging or confusing.
So have any of you had to teach your parents or your grandparents how to use Zoom or Skype in the last few weeks?
- It took my grannie a few attempts to get her head around it but now she loves it.
And you can definitely use this expression in all sorts of contexts, anytime that you’re learning something new.
- Bryan ran me through the process yesterday and I think I’ve got my head around it now.
- I think I’ve finally got my head around how this works.
And there’s a couple of variations on this idiom as well:
“To wrap your head around something”, or “To get your mind around something”, which is a bit less common but you’ll hear those different variations from time to time.
4, (To) take a hit
This is an informal expression that’s used to talk about when something suffers damage or loss.
- The hospitality industry right now has taken a huge hit due to the corona virus.
- Some companies may have noticed that employee productivity took a hit over the past few months as everyone adjusted to their new home working environments.
So can you think of a way to use this expression in a sentence? Can you think of something else that has taken a hit over the last few months? So it has been negatively affected or negatively impacted.
5, Smooth sailing
If you’re thinking: “ Surprisingly, this transition of working at home has not been as difficult as I was expecting”, then this expression is the one to use.
- It’s been smooth sailing.
It’s used as an adjective to say that something is easy or manageable, that everything is going according to plan. There’s nothing you need to worry about.
If you’re a school teacher or a university teacher, when you first found out that you needed to take online classes, you were a bit worried. Maybe you were worried about the technology or maybe you were worried if your students would even participate in online classes but hopefully, to your surprise, there haven’t been too many problems at all. So when someone asks you “Hey how’s it going?” You could answer “Surprisingly, it’s all been smooth sailing.”
- “Hey how’s it going?”- “Surprisingly, it’s all been smooth sailing.”
When the schools closed, it was a difficult transition for the kids. But once we got a routine in place, it’s been smooth sailing!
And you can definitely use this same expression in the negative form to express the opposite idea. You can say:
- “It hasn’t been smooth sailing. The team’s found it really hard to collaborate remotely.”
6, (A) madhouse
‘Madhouse’ is a place where there is no order and no control. This expression could be useful to help you humorously talk about your home office. It’s a really funny expression, especially used when you’re trying to make a joke about how crazy and frustrating a situation is.
So if you’ve got your kids, your partner and a dog and you’re all at home, you’re all stuck inside working, studying, eating, cooking, working out in the same space, you could joke with your colleagues about how wild it is:
- “How’s it going over there? How are you coping?”- “Haha, it’s a madhouse! I will be glad when all of this is over!”
Or when you’re on a video call, talking to a colleague, and your kids burst in, you can say:
- “I’m so sorry about the disruption. It’s a madhouse around here!”
However, you should always use the expression with humour, when you’re smiling and you’re making a joke to other people.
7, (To) be cooped up
If you’re cooped up somewhere, you’re in a small closed space, a space that you can’t escape from.
- I hate being cooped up inside working when it’s a sunny day outside.
- There are five of us cooped up inside this one tiny apartment!
8, (To) be sick of something
This is a really great idiom to learn and start using regularly. You can use it to say that you are really annoyed or you’re really frustrated about something and you want it to end or stop.
- I’m sick of my neighbor playing the trumpet all the time.
- Are you sick of being cooped up inside all day?
- If your kids are disrupting you while you’re trying to work, tell them you’re sick of it!
- If you’re frustrated because your internet speed has halved since everyone is now working at home, call the phone company and tell them that you’re sick of it.
So it’s a really good one to use when you are frustrated and you’re annoyed.
Since we’re talking about being so frustrated and annoyed, let’s talk about work meetings by video. There are so many annoying things about online meetings. Mute yourself if your kids are yelling in the background or there’s a dog barking. Everyone else in the meeting can hear it. Or if you’re working a little later in the evening when everyone else is watching Netflix, how annoying are all of the connection problems? It’s like overload, so you will get video and audio problems, which are pretty frustrating when you have an online meeting.
So next we will share with you some expressions to help you talk about that!
9, (To) freeze or (to) be frozen
When your connection is bad, it could be said:
- Hang on, you’re frozen!
- You keep freezing! We can’t hear you!
Another useful one is to say that “there’s a lag or there is a delay”, which is really annoying. So you know when someone’s mouth is moving but the voice is behind it, it’s really frustrating to try and understand what’s going on.
And the last one is to say that “the connection cut out”.
- The connect cut out. I didn’t hear you there, I missed something that you said.
So all of these are really useful expressions when there are connection problems in online meetings.
10, Hit and miss
This idiom is another one that’s really useful in this situation.
So if something is hit and miss, you can’t rely on it. You can’t confidently say that it’s gonna be good quality, and accurate, and perfect. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. So you could say
- “I’m really sorry, my internet connection has been a bit hit and miss today.”
=> Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad.
You can also use this same expression to talk about something else, the quality of something.
- The coffee at my local cafe is a bit hit and miss.
=> Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, depends on who makes it.
Now we want to share a few expressions that will help you during meetings, online meetings or in-person meetings.
11, Hold that thought
‘Hold that thought’ is a good expression. The chances of getting disrupted while you’re working from home are quite high. Your kids might wander into the room. Your dog might stop barking. The postman might ring the doorbell. The phone might ring. So it’s really hard to avoid these distractions when you’re working from home.
So this expression is a really good one to let someone know that you want them to remember what you were talking about and you want to keep talking about it when you come back in a couple of moments, so you’re asking them to hold that thought.
- I’m so sorry my son is calling me from the bathroom. Hold that thought, I’ll be right back.
12, On/ off track
This is a really great set of expressions to learn, given all of the distractions that we’ve been talking about.
When you’re in an online meeting, you want to make sure that you all stay focused. You need to keep focused on what you’re doing, you need to stay on track and try not to get off track.
So, on track is when things are happening as they should be, there’s no problems at all. And if something is not happening as you want it to and you want to change it, that’s when we use the expression ‘to get back on track’. So logically if something is not on track, it’s off track. It’s not happening as it should be.
So I want you to imagine this. You’re meeting some of your colleagues to discuss a project that you’ve been working on but halfway through, someone’s cat walks across the screen, across the keyboard and everyone starts laughing and talking about how hard it is to work from home. They’re talking about their kids and what they had for dinner last night and anything else except what you should be talking about in the meeting. So you might want to just interrupt the conversation and say:
- “Guys we’re getting off track. We’ve only got ten minutes left until the end of the meeting and we haven’t even started talking about the marketing budget yet”.
- “We should have completed the project last week but we got off track with a few technical issues”.
13, (To) earn/ get/ score brownie points
Have you heard this expression before about brownie points?
It’s quite a funny expression, a humorous expression as well just like madhouse. It’s relevant, but you can use it at any time because you earn brownie points by getting praise or approval for something that you’ve done. So if you do something good, you earn or you get brownie points.
Your friend, Kat, overslept and missed a meeting which you weren’t too worried about because she works so hard and you said to her:
- “Don’t worry Kat, you’ve got enough brownie points to sleep in once.”
- “I know, but I don’t want to lose my brownie points”
But the funny thing is that these points are not real, they don’t get you anything except for someone else’s good opinion of you.
However, having brownie points is definitely a good thing. It’s really important to have someone’s good opinion of you, right?
So you would probably earn brownie points with your neighbors if you left a cake on their doorstep for them. Or if your partner cooked a meal and cleaned the whole house for you, you might be a little suspicious and think “Why are you trying to earn brownie points with me?”
Can you think of something that would earn you brownie points with someone in your household at the moment? What could you do to earn some brownie points?
14, Hang in there!
- Hang in there! Everything is gonna be okay. It will become easier, you will get used to it.
So this expression is really useful when you want to tell someone not to give up even though it’s hard, even though it’s difficult.
If you’ve got friends or you’ve got family members, or colleagues who are having a difficult time adjusting to this new situation that we’re in, and they’re sharing their troubles with you about how their kids keep interrupting their online meetings, tell them to hang in there. Or if you know health care workers and they’r exhausted and they’re anxious, tell them hang in there.
- “Hang in there. You know this won’t go on forever.”
15, This is the new norm/ The new normal
- This is the new norm/ the new normal, my friends!
We use this expression to talk about when our circumstances have changed, and we have to get used to a new situation and get comfortable with it.
Obviously, it’s a really relevant expression to use right now but you can also use it in other contexts as well when your life circumstances change.
For example, you had a friend who has just had a baby and you was saying:
- “I just don’t know how you function with only three hours sleep”- “It’s the new norm in our house. We’re just having to get used to it.”
It is the end of our lesson today! We hope that you’re hanging in there and you’re getting used to the new norm. We would love if you can think of any other English idioms that are relevant to working from home. It’s really important right now to find ways to express ourselves to talk about working from home and some of these challenges.
If you can think of some others, definitely add them in the comment session, but what we really would like you to do is to choose a few of the ones we mentioned in the writing today, and practice them by writing your sentences. This really is the best way to try and remember these idioms as well as these new expressions. In order to get further explanation and practice your listening skills also, watch the video below. Thank you for reading and see you in the next writing!
Credit: Youtube Channel “mmmEnglish”