by TIM WINKLER
The in-house barista is a bit over-familiar, you’ll risk massive issues if anything goes wrong with the computer, because the IT repair guy has low-level competence and the finance team are forever looking stressed, but that’s nothing compared to the struggle of 4-5pm when you are on your knees praying nobody will call because the kids have arrived. There are many hats to wear when you work from home – and all of them are yours.
For those of you who haven’t, as I have, spent the last decade working from home, café tables, or conducting business meetings from the back seat of your car, welcome.
Remote working sounds like a breeze and the first week or two can seem fabulous, but once deadlines crest over the horizon, we’re going to need a good talk about how to get this work-from-home thing under control.
Google searches I have conducted after I knocking off a couple of pressing work tasks between 2 and 4am will tell you to establish a healthy routine, dress up and go to work, blah blah blah. All those whitewashed lives with their photo library pictures don’t have kids who need to go to sport practice, or partners who aren’t in chemo, or conflicting meetings with clients who don’t have any idea that you could be doing more than one task at once. Great if you can ignore the world long enough to gaze wistfully out the window, not so great if you value food on the table.
Ultimately, some people like routine, others like flexibility, some like rap and others have musical taste; so I have put together the potted wisdom that comes from a decade of work in or near home. Feel free to follow or discard – either way take time to consider the issues, so you don’t spend as much time reading aimless blogs as I did.
Tips on working from home / from a remote location.
Find your own rhythm at home. Life without the commute suddenly frees up time, how are you going to use that? The time that you start and stop work may be more flexible – when does it suit you best to work? Adjust to your rhythm and work with that.
Get your seating position right. Ergonomics at work is usually practiced however, ergonomics at home usually aren’t. Invest in yourself and get a better chair, higher desk, separate keyboard and mouse. Your body will thank you for it.
Resilience is important. Who are you going to talk to? How are you going to get the social contact you enjoy at work? Virtual water-cooler conversations can be good, but typing the sorts of things that you say at the water-cooler is often a bad idea.
Make Skype and Zoom your friend. Set them up properly, look at the settings, determine how much you can do for free or if you are going to need a subscription, and test your audio and images before you have to have your meetings.
Use an online project management and planning tool. There are hundreds of project management tools, such as Teamwork, Basecamp, Trello and many of them are free. Try one out to help keep yourself on track – self driven achievement becomes more important
Eat right and Exercise. Ensure you stay hydrate and don’t get stuck in the habit of snacking. Keeping your body and brain fuelled throughout the day is key. Also make sure you move your body! Set an hourly alarm on your computer to stretch and try to get in one – two hours of solid movement in the day.
Prepare for the mental challenge. It can be lonely, anxious and alienating working from home. Some people love it, others hate it. Extraverted people who thrive in an office environment.
Be proactive in communicating and setting up meetings with colleagues. People often forget the niceties of checking in, sharing a story or two about the day and understanding what colleagues are going through is a key facet of a healthy workforce environment. Take time to keep connections with colleagues, even though typing hello to an email is not the same feeling you get as you see the smiling faces of your co-workers in the office in the morning. Scanning other advice stories this seems to be frequently described as ‘overcommunicating’. I would.
Prepare for IT challenges. Computer hardware may be slower to replace, as a result of production delays out of china. If your computer goes down, your primary link with the outside world maybe compromised, so consider your back up options in advance
Be kind to yourself. Just not too kind. This is a new work environment and there is a lot to adapt to. Give yourself credit for trying to adapt and find ways you can build satisfaction and feelings of achievement that you might normally get from interacting with others. At the same time, you haven’t got a free pass to a holiday. Work still needs to be done, don’t spend too many hours doing that cleaning that you never got round to, or seeing the friends who you neglected for years.
Tim Winkler is Director of Twig Marketing.