Ten Tips When Working from Home During These COVID-19 Times
During COVID-19, business is no longer as usual. Recently I have had a few contacts ask me for tips on how to work remotely. Why? Well, I have been working from home for ten years now. Working remotely is just one of the perks of being part of Pythian's globally distributed teams. Back in 2010 a remote work set up was not typical in Asia, especially in the fast-paced work culture of Singapore, where long hours and late nights are the norm. Working remotely definitely has its perks and challenges. (This could be a blog topic on its own, I will cover that another time). Right now, a lot of countries have initiated a lockdown of some sort due to the COVID-19 situation. Companies and industries that can afford to let their employees work from home have started to so they can help flatten the curve of the novel coronavirus spread. With so many employees finding themselves in a work-from-home situation now, I have documented my work-from-home tips.
- Have a dedicated workspace - Having a home office would be the best, but there are countries where having that or even a study room is not typical. Having a workspace is essential to be able to work effectively at home. Find a space where you can work. That way, all your work documents will be in one place and within reach. Let your family know that it will be your workspace. This workspace is essential, especially for work-from-home staff that have kids at home. It helps you concentrate on your work. Remind your family of your "workspace" and working hours (a door would be useful, but not always an option). Your family will know where and when not to interrupt you and accidentally join your video conference call :)
- Get a good table (and chair) - This is critical, especially if you are going to work-from-home permanently. The right working table will mean the difference in how long you can be sitting / standing while working and not have back pain later. Some of my colleagues invest in a convertible sitting / standing table that helps to keep them moving. Working on the sofa or the bed sounds nice, but believe me, you won't last a couple of hours without having to reposition yourself because you are aching somewhere.
- Set your schedule - It is enticing to work on your own pace when at home. But when you do that, you are bound to procrastinate, and you will end your day being unproductive. Set your work hours and stick to them if you want to be productive.
- Instant messaging - One of the common questions I get right now "How do you monitor your team's work?" Communication is the key here. Have a tool to communicate instantly with your team apart from phone calls and emails. Have your team sign in to their instant messaging, be it Slack, Teams, Skype, or your own choice. You don't have to micro-manage and check on them every hour. Communication and trust are the keys here. Check in once in a while, reach out and keep in touch with your team when you are working.
- Get good headphones (and mic) - You will be in web meetings a lot in a work-from-home setting. A set of comfortable headphones is a must. The same goes for having a decent microphone. You may get by with your built-in mic / speakers for a few meetings, but when you are working from home, you will have a lot of online meetings. Don't forget to mute when you are not talking. Forgetting this when you are in an office is forgivable, but with work-from-home phone meetings, you don't need someone from across the globe to hear your dog barking.
- Change out of your pyjamas - It is tempting, and I am guilty of this sometimes, to go straight to work when you just woke up, especially when you left something unfinished from the day before. But when I start my day like this, laziness often creeps in. Since you are still in your PJs, you are not in the right headspace to start working. Start your day as if you are going to your regular office to get that extra dose of energy. Also, you'll never know when you will forget to turn off that camera when joining a conference call.
- Take breaks - Make sure to take breaks and avoid having your lunch or coffee / tea break in front of your desk. Stand up, move around. Avoid sitting and working for eight hours straight.
- Backup internet connection - This applies even if you are in a place with high-speed internet like Singapore, and it's a necessity when you are in an area with unreliable connections. Here in Singapore, I have a 1 Gbps fibre connection, but still, there are times when I've had to use my data connection as backup. When you are working from home, staying connected becomes all the more critical, so having a fallback when your primary connectivity doesn't work is essential.
- Keep distractions at a minimum - Notice I didn't say avoid. When you are working from home, distraction is unavoidable. From your kids, pets, your game console, Netflix, social media, friends and family dropping by. There are plenty of things to keep your focus away from work. Keep them at a minimum. See numbers one and three above. Let the people at your home know your schedule so they'll know when they can interrupt you.
- Exercise - When you are working from home, the usual walk to the office or the rush when you commute is gone. If that is your only source of physical activity, getting some exercise is much more critical in keeping yourself healthy.