The global coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we live and work.
For some, this has meant working on the frontline against the virus, for others, it has sadly meant no work. But for those of us lucky enough to be able to work from home, the new reality is presenting a whole set of new challenges.
The pros and cons of working from home are well documented. On one side, you enjoy a great deal more freedom over your day and the way you work. On the other hand, it requires enormous amounts of self-discipline.
This can be a big culture shock if you’re not used to working from home. And in today’s worrying and socially isolating world, we’re already grappling with the culture shock that a more isolated life brings.
More than ever, it’s important to stay connected and have processes in place to make working from home as productive and rewarding as possible.
The first thing to say is that there is no magic bullet. You’ll need to experiment with approaches and timetables until you find an approach and rhythm that works for you.
However, there are a few things that you can do that will help to ease the transition to working from home.
Creating a clear delineation between your work life and home life is vital, especially at a time when both are being conducted within the confines of your own home.
Ideally, create a workspace that is separate from where you relax. If space constraints mean this is impossible, be sure to pack your work away at the end of the day.
Creating a ritual of packing away work things at the end of the day will help you to tell your mind it’s time to switch off from work.
It’s a great idea to bookend your working day with some exercise or meditation to create a clear mental delineation. If you can go outside to exercise, this is a positive way to reset. If you can’t, there are plenty of yoga and meditation apps available that will help you create that clear boundary and let your mind and body know it’s time to switch off from work mode.
In the morning, when it’s time to start work again, pay attention to the old adage and get dressed for success. As well as helping you get in the right frame of mind for work, the ubiquity of video conferencing today means you’re not going to get away with lounging around in your pajamas for too long anyway!
Making clear boundaries between your working day and your home life and downtime in this way will help you to switch off at the end of the day and avoid problems of burnout and overwork.
We all need to be being kind to our immune system at the moment, and sleep is a great way to give it a natural boost.
Sleep has also been shown to boost productivity and performance, so learning how to switch off is good for your work too!
Working from home presents further challenges if you’re tasked with managing a team.
Luckily, technology is on our side. Video conferencing tools such as Skype and Microsoft Teams make it easy to stay in touch with distributed teams.
Take a leaf out of agile methodology and schedule morning scrum meetings; daily check-ins as a team to ensure everyone understands their daily tasks, shares learnings, and stays motivated.
You can catch up with each team member throughout the day on a one-to-one basis to ensure they are coping and give them space to raise concerns they might not want to share with the whole team.
These are worrying times for us all and offering team members a space to talk through concerns is important for their wellbeing and, ultimately, productivity.
Remember, too, that being busy isn’t the same as being productive. More than ever, it’s important to be able to prioritize, to understand which tasks are important and which are urgent, and which can be delegated.
One urgent and important task we all need to prioritize, if we haven’t already, is reviewing all our apps and documents and making sure that we have appropriate backup plans in place. If you can access corporate Sharepoint and Teams sites remotely, you’ll be able to achieve this quite easily. But leaving work on a laptop at home that isn’t being backed up could be a huge productivity killer if something were to happen to that laptop!
Finally, be kind to yourself. These are strange and unusual times. Reach out to others online and share positive ideas and strategies; the things that work for you. In this Internet age, we’re lucky to be able to collaborate and share ideas remotely. Together, we can all make the new WFH reality work.