7 Tips for Working from Home
As the coronavirus crisis cranks up, self-isolation and working from home are the order of the day. To do this effectively requires some necessary adjustments.
As someone who has been working from home on and off since technology made it possible in the mid 1990s and socially acceptable in the mid 2010’s, let me share some tips for success.
Discipline, Organisation & Education
Be disciplined. As an office worker you travel to work at set times. You therefore get transition time from your business time and your social time. This applies even if you’ve normally brought work home. You now need the discipline of shutting work out and turning off. Or the reverse of travelling to work so you’re ready to work undistracted. Set your ‘commute time’ and stick to it.
Get organised. Set out the space and area in which you intend to work. You could work anywhere at home, but the obvious places aren’t necessarily the best. The kitchen table is used for meals and moving everything to bring the family together is a distraction. The alternative of the laptop sitting on the end of the table surrounded by papers impacts massively on social time.
Educate the family. If you live alone skip this one. But with school closures those with children need to pay attention. If there’s another person in their life now is the time to educate them on your workspace and habits. So Dad is not available to mend a broken bike, but will come if there’s blood. A phone to Mum’s ear means no interruptions whatsoever.
I’m sometimes asked why I wear headphones and a mic for video-conferences. I say it’s for sound quality with a bad internet; really it’s so Dad is not seen talking to his screen again and definitely can’t be disturbed directly or by music practice. Set the ground rules for the internet so that it doesn’t slow unexpectedly through a youthful upload, download or need for game latency.
Communicate and Celebrate
Business is by its nature a social activity. Working in teams we fall into habits and practices which we do unthinkingly. Working from home changes that dynamic. The quiet word or check on someone is not easy to do remotely. While typing a moan is always dangerous as well as lengthy, but the need to let off steam and have a shared laugh is real.
Communicate by phone and videoconference. Both enable a better understanding of the tone of words and are less likely to be misread. Email is fine, but can easily become a tit for tat that kills time. Recognise this and set an explicit communication hierarchy so the tools of communication are effectively used.
Celebrate together. We all need the psychological strokes that come with success. You need to celebrate with work colleagues but also by communicating with those around you. If Dad is whooping and hollering because he’s won a big order during the agreed quiet time, then he might have some explaining to do as to why it’s ok!
Exercise and Enjoy Working from Home
Exercise out of the house. If you are working at home and living in the same space; you have to get out. With the restrictions on social contact, exercise outdoors is good. It can be a walk, run or cycle in the park, up the road or around the back garden. Now is a great time to explore somewhere new locally. The variety is proven to be good for the mind as well as the soul.
Enjoyment is the hardest balance. Working from home is significantly different than the workplace. It gives you the opportunity to look at things anew and develop effective working habits. One of these is staying positive, not hidden away. It’s funny how sometimes the most hard-bitten goal focused manager suddenly remembers small talk when working mainly alone. So, stay positive and enjoy whatever 2020 throws at you.
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