Are you self-isolating, or out of necessity, now working from a home office? You are not alone. Even before the coronavirus struck, there was a 27.7% increase in the numbers of homeworkers in the last decade. In the US, over 6% of workers are homeworkers. It’s too early to establish figures since the COVID-19 outbreak, but you can be sure that the figure has increased dramatically.
If you’ve started to work from home, you may be encountering some challenges in your day to day work functions. I’ve worked remotely on and off for many years now and there are certain principles which I rigidly stick to, to make it work for me. Here are 10 tips to give you some guidance to get you on track.
This can be difficult to do especially if you work with SAP or in other IT fields, hours can be…shall we say, fluid? However, the danger of not doing this is that you fall into the trap of your laptop always being on and thinking “oh let me just do that” when you walk past it. My working time often has to fit in with other time zones around the world and therefore it is essential that last thing every day, I set my working hours accordingly for the following day. This might mean starting late and finishing late, or starting early and finishing early. It also might mean taking a chunk of time off in the middle of the day due to early and late meetings. Whatever works for your work pattern should be incorporated. And don’t forget to make sure your manager and key stakeholders are aware of your flexible pattern – make use of the various forms of communication which are available and also make use of your email out-of-office message.
Nature therapy is good for you. It can be lonely at home by yourself and it is also very common to get to the end of the day and realize that you haven’t moved from your seat all day. Factor in some daylight, even if it just means a 5 minute wander around the garden, or taking the bins out.
For me, a routine involves a coffee when I start work – this triggers my working day to start. Unlike others who work from home, I ensure I am showered and fully dressed before starting work. In the past, when I didn’t follow this regime, it meant not being dressed still by lunchtime as I got immersed so deeply into something. And be sure to look after your health. Regular breaks are essential in any working environment, but when you are a homeworker, they are especially important as you do not have the social network of the close proximity of colleagues. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of working through lunch and not taking any breaks just because there are no other distractions. Oh and one more thing while we are talking about looking after yourself: Watch out for snacks! There are some tools at your disposal that can help here use MyAnalytics, a part of the Microsoft Office 365 suite of tools.
Being disturbed during conference calls is not the end of the world and can actually be very amusing, which is priceless in our current troubling environment (see this link for a funny example). However, by setting some basic guidelines for your family to follow you can minimize some embarrassing interruptions. This can be as simple as printing out your calendar and leaving it in the kitchen so the rest of your family can see when you are not to be disturbed. I once worked on a very busy SAP Configuration project where we could wear red baseball caps if we did not want to be disturbed – a simple measure like that can be effective too.
Sometimes professional motivation can be difficult when working from home day after day. Find yourself a difficult task and get started on it first thing in the day. I find that if I throw myself into my work from minute one, then not only do I get a lot done, but I also enjoy my work much more.
If you can, get a dedicated desk and a comfortable chair, on wheels with a supportive back to it. In terms of technology, make sure you have the right kit – your business is bound to be supportive in the current climate.
This means attending conference call meetings as well as checking in with your colleagues via instant messaging and phone calls. Be active in doing this as it is vital for your mental health as well as for maintenance of your work profile that you are visible, even if it is virtual visibility.
Treat this time the same as you would if you were not a home-worker. Pack up your desk and laptop to avoid the temptation of checking in. This is all about looking after yourself – take the time you need to rest and recover so you are ready to hit the ground running when you return to work.
You can get deliveries sent direct to your house, you can bake some cookies or some bread. You can work as a digital nomad. You have all that time available when you would normally be commuting. These are real perks – make use of them.
Working from home can, to start with, be a difficult task. Self-motivation, new routines, telephony and technology, working environment, communications – all of these can be challenging. Give yourself a break and remember that your routines will be established in time.
In summary, you should strive to discover what works for you. Tweak your routines and hours so you can settle into a comfortable routine without too much stress. Keep all lines of communication with colleagues open and honest, as you can be sure others are feeling as unsettled as you are.