So here we are … most all of us … working to accept and then adapt to the havoc that the Coronavirus has brought to our doorsteps. Of course, we didn’t order this and yet the delivery has tested us all in many, many ways. We transitioned from this is happening elsewhere …
to … could it be happening here?
to … it’s real and here
to … it won’t last long and changes I need to make will be short-lived
to … are they serious … that this can really go on for weeks or months?
to … how do I do my job from home while surrounded by my family 24/7?
In the overall, we’ve all been forced to alter and vary the ways in which we live our lives to methods that enable us to be effective in all aspects of them. Perhaps the biggest issue that I hear as it pertains to work and business is “how I can be expected to do excellent work when I am confined to my residence and its’ distractions without the tools and camaraderie that working in the office environment provides? I mean, come on and get real.”
Today, well into April 2020 we have had to get real and all that this means. Given that we are in the midst of a critical and threatening situation that has no end in sight, it seems that each day and certainly each week brings with it the need to develop both creative and innovative ways as we discover how to operate. I know that many of us are looking for ways to feel and be productive. I want to pass along some practices for working at home that make sense today and may even make sense when we are able to make COVID-19 a part of our history.
- Create a specific workspace. Having an area within your residence that you can dedicate to ‘the office’ area is a true value. It provides you with the place to which you go when in the office. If it’s not in a separate room it’s pretty easy to create your home office using a screen that keeps the kitchen, the TV or even the kids out of sight and allows you to be more focused as you are when you go to your regular office. Creating a workspace also means making it appear as your office. Maybe it means using a real desk-like piece of furniture. Maybe it means having the stapler and paper clips and pens you may need. The more you can provide yourself with the look and feel of your office the easier it will be to treat it as such.
- Create a specific daily plan. When we work in our regular office we arise, get dressed for work, have breakfast and arrive at a certain time. We do our work, take breaks, we go to lunch and at day’s end go home. Taking this same structured approach in a home office is especially important as there are many things that can be distractions and impact the productivity we are expected to achieve. The leaders of our organization, team or department are not inclined to lower their expectations of us because we are working from home.
- Create and maintain a schedule with others at home
Having a Monday thru Friday work schedule that is communicated to all others who may be in your residence is especially important. Then, you and others know when you are at work and not to be disturbed … something that isn’t possible when you go to the actual office every day. Even putting a sign on the door or partition to your work area saying ‘in meeting’ or ‘off limits’ helps to remind others that someone is at their job and can’t be disturbed. If communicating with the person ‘at work’ is important there is always email or texting.
- Maintain a routine with co-workers as if in the real office
Have conversations as you normally would. Schedule meetings using technology that allows all to come together as if sitting in a regular conference room. The more of your normal routine you can adapt to working from home the more normal working from home will seem.
- Obtain and create ways to gain access to technology and documents that you need to do your job
In some situations I’m aware that this has been easy as some already have access to all company tools via their own laptops or computers. However, if this is not the case for you, you need to count on your organization to work quickly to make needed tools available asap. Their motivation is wanting to equip you with everything you need to maintain productivity that is expected. Ask for what you need. Be it a laptop stand, a great webcam or noise cancelling headphones, these things can contribute positively to your experience and productivity of working at home.
- Set limits to your workday When we leave the office we go home or to dinner or something that represents a true break between work and personal time. When at home this is a bigger challenge just because getting out one more memo or having one more conversation is ‘there’ so why not. Why not is because it is important that we discipline ourselves to separate our work time from other time. It’s important for our own effectiveness in the overall … as worker, family member or friend.
Running your job from home is the ultimate in taking control of your career, time and life. And remembering that you do work for another person and an organization, it can be a challenge to make the adjustment from a job to also becoming your own boss in one sense. Certainly exercising your ability to truly set your own schedule and approach as you deliver what is expected of you are on the plus side. Still, working from home can get tedious and more of a challenge when there are others under the same roof … all day. It isn’t until you recall what the likes of having to commute and deal with difficult colleagues that you realize how nice this could be. Creating the ‘office’ setup and having the access and tools you need to succeed, as long as you get your work done, you can enjoy the freedom and perks that working from home offers.
I expect and frankly hope that some of the ways we are learning to function in our lives under these COVID-19 conditions will, in fact remain when this has passed. Some of our changes we’re learning and being forced to make might actually be good.