With the latest developments of Corona Virus (COVID-19) and many companies offering the possibility for their employees to work from home, i decided it’s time to leave some of my inputs regarding the home office regime.
Working remotely for more than half a decade, i am writing this to help you get used, improve and balance your work at home schedule.
Think of this as a few tricks & tips.
1. Don’t shut yourself in
The key of success in any job and organization is communication. With a permanent office presence, people are used to communicate over the desk, at the cafeteria, in the yard at a smoke and so on.
At home, you should always be available for any interaction that is needed with colleagues, and also everybody should talk as much as possible. Use the company messaging app of choice (skype for business, slack, google meet) or, if it’s easier, use any other free conference service that is out there.
In large companies, possibility of messaging app downtime because of overload is possible, but this shouldn’t stop you in an age with so many free alternatives.
2. Create your ideal workspace
Working at home should be even more enjoyable than the normal office job. Sit in your pajamas, grab your favorite coffee mug, put on some music and enjoy the ambiance.
Be creative with your workspace and create it as you desire. Comfort and a nice setup (yes, those LED’s placed strategically to make it look cool) will make a huge impact on your whole mental state. It will be a pleasure to stay at the desk and work as usual.
As a suggestion, don’t work from your bed or adopt sketchy positions. A good chair and posture is very important for your long term health.
3. Make a few adjustments in the house
Each person is different, some prefer to work with music blasting through their headphones (i know i do), other prefer a quiet environment and opt for some noise canceling headphones.
If you live alone it’s not too hard to make the desired adjustments, but if you live with your spouse and/or a child, then it’s advisable to find a spare room and adjust your environment as you desire.
I do not recommend to work in the same room as your spouse/roommate. Because many people are now working remotely, calls will happen very often, and hearing the other person talk constantly while you are trying to focus to finish your assignment will led to frustration and anger in the long run.
If separate rooms are not a possibility, i recommend the path I’ve chosen. In the biggest room available in the house, place your desk in one corner and your spouse/roommate in the opposite one. Buy two sets of noise canceling headphones that are comfortable and try to stay with them on as much as possible. This will minimize the noise from the other person and eventually, you can have as close as your perfect environment as possible.
4. Take breaks
It seems funny that i mention this, but as you will notice, you will forget to take breaks.
Being at home gives your the possibility to get a quick coffee from the kitchen, make a quick meal and smoke whenever desired.
All sounds nice, but if you can do all the things you were previously doing only on breaks in the yard at the office, how will you know when to take a brake?
In an office, breaks are usually taken in groups. A colleague wants a smoke, another wants a coffee, another one wants something sweet from the shop and so on during the day. Twelve o’clock comes and everybody goes to lunch. You had a long call with a customer and want a small break and go out for one. Examples are a lot.
At home, you don’t have somebody to go out for a quick break. So my recommendation would be to put hourly (or two hours at max) alerts on your phone.
Walk in the house for 5 minutes, take your eyes off the monitor, look out the window, water the plants, put some clothes in the washer, or any other activity that you consider a break.
If you feel the need to talk to somebody, call your friends for 15-20 minutes, or a colleague.
Failing to take constant breaks will result in overwork and exhaustion on the long term, so be careful.
5. Know your work schedule
At the office, when 5 o’clock comes, everybody raises up and leaves home, leaving all the topics behind for the next day.
At home, you might be tempted to spend some extra few minutes to finish a “quick task”. While a few minutes won’t harm you, keep track and don’t fool yourself with “small” tasks that prove themselves to take a few hours.
Yes, you are at home, you have the work laptop and access to all the resources you need to finish your task, but i recommend, if you have a last minute idea to just put it in a sticky note and leave it on the desktop for the next day.
This is not related to “if i ain’t paid i ain’t working” topic. This a topic related to manage your schedule in order to keep the same performances after this crisis is over, and also to don’t overwork yourself. Again, your mental state is very important.
6. Try to keep distractions to a minimum
While at home, you have access to all your entertainment devices. Your TV, your console, your personal computer, maybe a guitar, and so on.
When i was talking about breaks, i was referring to actual breaks from gadgets. Don’t fool yourself that you can quickly finish a level in a game, or watch the news for a while.
When immersed in these side activities, you will loose track of time guaranteed, which leaves behind bad job performance, missed deadlines and so on.
Never go on the route of: “i will play a game until 12 o’clock and finish my tasks tonight”. Don’t destroy your schedule because of distractions. You can play the game or watch the news after the shift is over.
7. When the cat’s away the mice will play
People in general will take advantage when an authority figure is missing, and this might apply to some people that are overwhelmed with the additional freedom presented in the work from home situation.
Yes, you don’t have your boss or manager breathing on your neck all the time like in the office, but that doesn’t mean you should care less about your work, postpone tasks, prolong work time on topics, or miss calls/meetings.
While your manager isn’t actually seeing what you do at home, don’t kid yourself that these behaviors won’t be noticed.
You are only kidding yourself. Don’t be surprised when that performance review comes and it won’t look like you expected.
Good and constant performance is achieved with self-discipline in an absence of an authority figure.
8. Don’t isolate yourself
This is an advice outside of work schedule. When you finish your job and 5 o’clock is there, continue to maintain social interactions even if you can’t go outside.
Talk on the phone, talk on facebook, get on a game online with your friends, or whatever other social activity suits you best.
If you only know “work” in your life, you might end up in some pretty bad shape mentally after a while.
With all of the above said, if i missed any points just understand that you create your own workspace. Just try to keep a balance in life, continue to be productive and social outside of the job area.