Working from home (or at least trying)
I’ve worked from home for over 12 years now, which may seem long, but it isn’t, and it certainly has never been as hard as it is now, during the corona-crisis. For those of us who are self-employed or contractors, working from home often means working from home SOMETIMES. Many of us work from coffee shops, client offices and if you’re a mom who carts children around in the afternoon, then it’s your car or the side of a sports field.
I have loved working from home because I’m flexible to actually work from wherever I like, and seldom at my desk. Something I hadn’t consciously realised until we hit the dreaded lockdown, and we all found ourselves very much at home! At home with our pets, spouses, children and that dripping tap! The ease with which I thought I would be able to slot into really working from home, wasn’t actually that easy. For a few days I wandered around my home trying to find a quiet spot – impossible (unless I locked myself in my now pointless vehicle). I then moved my husband to my desk and the children and I moved to the lounge so that I could try and work and guide them in their school studies without constantly saying ‘shush, Dad’s on a call’ – that worked better for everyone except me and my work. Clearly this was going to take a while to figure out. So, I decided to ask a few other work-from-home folks what they have done to make it work and what their successes (and challenges) have been.
Set up your workspace
‘Make sure you have a place to work from that has a good chair and a desk at the right height’ says Jack, owner of a small IT development company who has moved all his staff to their homes, no longer operating from his Westlake office premises.
Most of us won’t have ergonomically designed chairs at home, but it is important for one’s back to ensure you have a chair with a back that you can place a cushion against and ensure you maintain a good posture.
Create a daily plan
Make a list of what you need to achieve, just for the day (not the week/month). Ensure your ‘To do’ list is actually achievable. Consider the needs of your family, any distractions (the courier delivery or a shopping trip) and write up a list that delivers work that cannot be left till the next day. Perhaps even make yourself accountable to others by setting a time when you will send the work to your boss or colleague. By being accountable to others, you will be strongly encouraged to deliver.
Time is on your side – use it wisely
If you’re not travelling to work, why are you only at your desk at 9 or 10am every day? Remember pre-lockdown when you rose to your 6am alarm clock, in the dark, and then commuted for an hour to work? The thought alone probably makes you shiver.
‘I’ve loved the fact that I don’t have to commute to work each day! I’ve saved time and money – in terms of petrol and my billable time too’ says Megan, a consultant.
Now that you have extra time, use it, don’t squander it. Maybe you don’t have to wake at 6am, but perhaps 7am, exercise for an hour and be at your desk by 8:30? This means you can kick off your day on a positive note, and without the interruptions from colleagues wanting to discuss football scores, you can probably stop working earlier too.
Finishing work and closing up for the day, is just as important as starting your day. Set a time by which you need to shut down your laptop/computer. You need to stop your workday so that you can be productive the next day. Don’t just keep on working. Jack quickly realised this was what he was struggling with ‘After a few days of almost continuously working I realised I was probably going to collapse. I became so wrapped up in my work, I just wanted to finish off a project and didn’t realise I wasn’t actually resting. I kept making silly errors’
Stay in touch
Working from home, especially for introverts can result in a complete disconnect from other members of a team. Which may initially feel like just what any introvert may crave but can lead to the breakdown of communication and team cohesion. It’s incredibly important for team leaders and business owners to draw their teams into regular work meetings, as well as social connects. A regular status meeting is an easy place for everyone to connect – give everyone a chance to say how they are doing and then start the work discussion – Elizabeth Weingarten suggests these 11 great questions which go beyond ‘how are you?’
- How are you taking care of yourself today?
- What part of your shelter-in-place residence have you come to appreciate the most?
- What surprising thing have you been stocking up on (that isn’t toilet paper)?
- What’s a story – from a book, a movie, an article, a conversation – that you’ve been gripped by recently? Why did it capture you?
- What habit have you started, or broken, during the lockdown?
- Which specific place in your neighbourhood are you most looking forward to visiting once this is all over?
- What’s the easiest part about the lockdown?
- What are some things you have realized that you don’t really need?
- What’s something you own that feels useful?
- What is your Covid-19 nickname/alter-ego?
- What problem—either yours, or something more global —do you wish you could solve?
Step outside and move
It’s all too easy to fob off exercise, especially if you wake up late and then need to jump onto a Zoom call first thing, but we all know the benefits of exercise. Now more than ever a fresh brisk 30minute walk will help clear the head and get that heart pumping. In fact, it’s important to break up your day with a bit of exercise – whether it be just standing on your balcony, walking in your garden or making sure you march around the house briskly. Your eyes need a break from the screen, your brain needs time to digest that email and your back needs a break from that probably not-great-chair. So, make sure that at least every one or two hours you get up and move.
Last but not least, remember to look around you and be grateful. For your home, job, family and friends. Gratitude is never wasted.
This article first appeared in Billboard Magazine on 03 June 2020