The past month of increasing social distancing in response to Covid-19 has seen employees across the world suddenly engaging in a trial run of remote working. Though a lucky few may already be well-versed in the art of working from home, many teams find themselves anxiously adjusting to the joys and challenges of the home workspace.
by Joanna Pienkowska, DAFNE
While the points below are an attempt at offering some guidance and best practice ideas for easing into remote working, it all comes with a big caveat: trial and error is inevitable. We are all going through a period of learning and adjusting, so take the time to figure out what is most conducive to your needs and those of your team members.
- Your mindset
The ease of working in your favourite Christmas pyjamas might at first seem like a comforting perk, but the mental associations we make with our work environment are important in preparing us for a productive day.
This means getting dressed and ready, just as you would on a normal office day. Some even find that putting on shoes or make up around the house helps to get them in a working frame of mind. Personally, I struggle to get behind the idea of trading in my comfortable slippers for my work shoe, but our individual office routines will vary, and you should try find what works for you.
Your working environment is also heavily connected to your working space. It is best to have separate dedicated areas for working and for relaxing. This will allow you to mentally check in at the start of the day and check out once you leave your designated work zone. It also means not eating in front of your screen – separate your daily activities and incorporate some movement into your day.
For those who aren’t able to close their doors to family members coming in and out of their working space, the above demarcation might not be as easy to establish. Make sure to be easy on yourself with the goals you set and realistic with what you can achieve. And if all else fails, investing in some noise cancelling headphones might be a good idea.
- Pomodoro your day
Having structure to your day helps maintain a separation between work and leisure time. It is best to start early in the day, as you would under normal office hours. You might find that sticking to the same routine and incorporating your normal commute hours gives you extra time for a morning walk, meditation, a hearty breakfast, or a chance to listen to that podcast your friend recommended.
Make sure to set aside time in the day for breaks away from your screen. This is important for your wellbeing as well as your eyesight. The breaks that are naturally built into our office jobs – catching up with the person next to you or making cups of tea for the whole team – aren’t so easily come by in the home workspace. Too often we might feel guilty about taking a break when working at home.
Some find it helpful to have short breaks on the hour, while the Pomodoro Technique creates 25-minute work periods followed by a 5 minute break. Others might prefer to block out chunks of their day in their calendar with allocated times for breaks. Of course, those that have childcare and other commitments will require more flexibility in their working day structures.
What is crucial is establishing boundaries for your day. Pick a time to start and a time to finish and stick to it. The blurred lines between work and home can too easy result in working all the time. You might find it helpful to end your working day at a reasonable time if you set aside something to look forward to in the evenings.
Although getting outside is not currently an option for many of us, there are other ways to pass the time. For example, some museums have virtual exhibitions you can explore from home, and Youtube has endless exercise videos to get into. Keeping up a routine means making time for yourself too. Get enough sleep, remember to eat, and take care of yourself.
With face-to-face interactions few and far between, it is especially important to make time to connect with your colleagues and avoid possible feelings of alienation or isolation in these challenging times.
At DAFNE, we have been starting the day with a brief morning check in call for the team, though others might prefer a call at the end of the day. One friend told me her team had a call that lasted hours while they individually worked on their own tasks to recreate an office environment and allow for small talk.
I’m not advising we all live-stream our working days, but video calls are important in uplifting team morale and ensuring team members know what is expected of them. This also requires clearer communication from management, as well as an understanding and flexible approach. Creating a working culture that is accommodating to individual needs is crucial, especially with the extra responsibilities caused by the threat of the virus.
Bear in mind that communication should not be solely work related. It is important to maintain the social aspect of work as best as we can. Whether that be through virtual coffee or tea breaks, or even virtual happy hours. Make space for casual conversation, check in with each other on an individual basis and be kind. We’re all finding our way through this and should support one another in the process.
- Embrace tech
The home relies heavily on the help of technology. In setting up your home workspace, a good screen, decent internet connection and a comfortable chair are a must. But beyond this, there are certain tools and applications that are incredibly useful in easing the transition to remote working.
- Tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams make online communication and collaboration easier. They create a digital workspace that enables instant messaging and sharing files.
- Project management tools like Trello and Asana allow your team to organise and label tasks, allocate roles to specific team members and visually track their status.
- Video calls should become a staple of your working day. Zoom and Skype make it easier to connect and speak with your colleagues face-to-face. Zoom is particularly useful for organising larger conference calls, while Skype is great for one-on-one calls.
- There are many timer applications which can help manage your working day and ensure you make time for scheduled breaks.
Do share your own experiences and any ideas or advice you have on working from home with me at firstname.lastname@example.org