TT Talk - COVID-19: working from home

As millions of people are now working from home, we thought that a more personal approach might be of value. Here is a personal perspective, providing some key areas to consider when managing your work/life balance effectively.
 

When I first started “homeworking” some six or seven years ago, I thought it was great fun for the first few weeks. I soon learnt the reality, however, that you need discipline and structure to deliver expectations. And the current indefinite experience is quite different from those days when you had to complete a specific task without disruption. Here are some personal observations of how to succeed.
 

Your “new” office

I set up a dedicated area of the house for my office (in my case, with a separate staircase), away from all the distractions - mainly comprising four dogs. I appreciate not everybody is fortunate enough to have this particular facility. Find yourself a suitable workspace; maybe a spare bedroom (you won’t be having visitors to stay for a while), a dining room (nor will you be having guests over for Sunday lunch) or if these aren’t available, a table and chair in a corner that you can use for the duration of the lockdown. For those who prefer or need to stand, a kitchen worktop might be appropriate or an ironing board (but make sure it is stable enough). Regardless of where you work, consider safety – avoid trailing cables (trip hazards) and don’t overload circuits (fire hazard). 

“Regardless of where you work, consider safety – avoid trailing cables (trip hazards) and don’t overload circuits (fire hazard)”
 

Your office hours and all those homely distractions

When you are in the office environment, you work within a certain “structure” defined by management. When at home, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re your own boss; it’s an easy mistake to make and one I learnt in the early days. You still have tasks and deadlines! 

Do not get caught up in home-related tasks that could easily become distractions. Working from home, you can claw back your “commuter” time – but use this time wisely. Household tasks or “forgotten” repairs… do such tasks in your “commuter” time, rather than your working day.

Remember your office routine, albeit that the international nature of this business makes that hugely varied. Wherever demands permit, start work at the same time, take your coffee/lunch/tea breaks at the same time and try to finish work at roughly the same time. I appreciate this is easier said than done as you’ll have new distractions, perhaps children at home, partners also trying to work, and pets…yes they aren’t used to you all being at home… but framing a routine with all of those in lockdown as far as possible will be beneficial.
 

Communication

For many people not being able to walk over to another colleague’s desk and have a general chat about the “task in hand” is a new challenge. Good communication within teams has always been a major factor to success and by nature we are (on the whole) sociable beings. I always try to have a telephone conversation with my colleagues at least once a day and would strongly suggest that teams set up a structured call at least every other day. 

When you have your structured audio/video calls, agree the work expectations as a team and ensure somebody summarises the action points; this might sound very basic but you are hopefully cramming a lot into a short call. 

And note, whilst many of you are locked down with family or friends, some of your colleagues may live alone and now are totally isolated. Talking is food for the soul and you might just be helping their mental wellbeing!

We are all learning (very quickly) the vast amount of video/audio facilities available to us all; Blue Jeans, Microsoft Teams, Webex, Zoom, WhatsApp, WeChat, Skype, Facetime – the list goes on. I am still working my way around these, but suggest most people reach essential competence in just one or two, unless you are responsible to deliver platform experiences! 

“unplugging after work is the biggest struggle that people working at home claim to have”

So, there are many ways of staying in touch but please don’t think you need to be available 24/7. I read with interest this week, psychology experts suggest taking breaks and, in fact, the State of Remote Report 2019 by Buffer reports that “unplugging after work” is the biggest struggle that people working at home claim to have...

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    22/04/2020

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