Although many of us have worked from home before, no one has been in the situation we find ourselves in. The COVID-19 pandemic throws a huge curveball into the mix when it comes to your run of the mill working from home situation. Self-isolation is the biggest factor that no one in the past working from home has had to deal with, although some may have practised it without even knowing.There is almost a kind of self-isolation when working from home normally, but you have the freedom to go out and do whatever you please whenever you want. Until now not many people have understood how much they take that freedom for granted and doing your own risk assessment for your situation is a worthwhile exercise, or at least putting some measures in place to keep the wellbeing of everyone in your house under control.
I’ve been fortunate enough in my time at Elite Group to be able to work from home on and off, it’s not been easy, and I have learnt a lot of lessons along the way, I’ve also made a lot of mistakes and had a few heated arguments. Some tips may work for you, some may not, but overall it’s about flexibility and adapting to create positive outcomes for everybody.
Are you in the office or are you at home? That is the question!
Making sure you separate work from home is my number one tip. I know it sounds reasonably simple but if you don’t set up in your own mind that there is a difference right from the start, trust me, you will blur the lines.
Making sure you, your family and friends understand that while you’re at work you need to be left undisturbed benefits everyone in the long run. It’s all too easy for ‘just a quick question’ to snowball into constant disturbances leading to conflict. Underlying issues can also come to the fore when you’re in continuous close contact with loved ones.
In many situations leaving home and going to work each day is a good separation allowing some people respite from family pressures. This is one of the reasons there needs to be defined separation of work time and time at home. Having that separation allows for a similar effect as if you were going to work each day.
Take the time to explain why this needs to happen and explain the benefits, especially to your children. All they see is mum or dad are home and can’t differentiate unless they have an understanding of why you are there.
If everyone understands that there is a difference between work and home, even though your home, it helps to maintain healthy relationships. Therefore, you need to draw a line in the sand.
Once you have a line in the sand drawn you still need to juggle the difference between office and family because it’s inevitable when you are physically around, tensions can build.
This is a positive though because you get to spend more time with your family during the day when you would otherwise be away from home at work. This also needs to be well defined, so everyone involved understands what time is social and what is work.
Define an area as your workspace, if you have a room to use perfect, but if you don’t then make sure everyone is aware that when you are in your designated workspace you are at work and shouldn’t be disturbed. There are always exceptions to the rule, and this is part of the juggling act and you will juggle constantly, so patience is always the best way to approach situations that may arise. Once everyone understands where the boundaries are the juggling act becomes much easier.
The cookie monster lurks among us when we move from an office location to home. Generally, when you are at work you are provided with Tea, Coffee and biscuits, maybe more depending on how generous your employer is.
At home, you have an entire kitchen full of goodies! So be careful and try to maintain some distance between you and the fridge otherwise you’ll see what you eat materialising on the bathroom scales.
Only use the breaks you would normally take to unleash the cookie monster and make sure you limit the unhealthy snacks. Sometimes I’ll even make my lunch in the morning as if I were going to work like normal, so I’m not tempted to eat that extra slice of leftover birthday cake.
Now your home there are temptations everywhere!
Don’t be fooled into thinking you can pick up the remote and just watch the last episode of your favourite series or a movie. It rarely ever works in your favour, inevitably the time you thought you had because work was a bit slow will all of a sudden disappear and you’ll find yourself stressing and scrambling, making mistakes under the pressure.
There’s always something to do for work. It may be something as simple as organising what’s in your folders on your laptop or having a cleanout tidying up emails. Being proactive when you work from home needs to be entrenched in your thought process, don’t wait to be told to do something get on the front foot.
Of course, there are times when you have everything totally under control and no one should object to you taking a little bit of time to relax just don’t do it with the TV, that’s for home life – not work life.
In general terms most people travel into the office and start at 9 am, then take a one-hour lunch break and head home about 5.30, meaning they are away from home around a minimum of 9.5 hours a day (allowing for some travel time to and from work)
This can be put to good use at home to even out the daily schedule and spend time with your family or if you’re by yourself, allow you some downtime. Considering, in reality, you only work 7.5 hours a day you can break your day into a few more segments than you otherwise would at work.
If you start at 8.45 and take a 15-minute break every hour and a half and take a 45 min break for lunch, you’ll end up with 3 good 15 min breaks and work in one and a half hour blocks. Or you could even combine your afternoon breaks into a half hour-time out.
8.45 START WORK
10.15 15 MIN BREAK
12.00 45 MIN LUNCH
2.15 15 MIN BREAK
4.00 15 MIN BREAK
5.45 FINISH WORK
Depending on how long it takes you to travel to work each day you will find you actually have more family/home time than you ever did, even though your starting work at 8.45 and finishing at 5.45. So now you’ve effectively only been at work 7.5 hours instead of 9.5 or more!
Taking shorter breaks more often allows for question time from others in the house because they know you’re not working. This also means you can spend time with the kids, dog or even your wife/husband if you have to!
Time really is of the essence for work and home so plan it well and you’ll thrive in both environments.
Let’s face it you should be working to live not living to work.
Social time during work hours with colleagues is something that can be overlooked when everyone is moved to remote working. It’s an important part of work-life that helps us balance out the pressures, alleviating some of the stress. The ability to get things off your chest and discuss problem- solving sometimes gets lost. The advent of collaboration platforms has helped enormously with this so if your company has one use it and if not get one.
Make sure you take the time each day to have a social chat with your workmates either via mobile or my preference would be via video chat. It helps to see someone when you are talking to them, especially if it’s a social chat you’re more inclined to feel less isolated.
Working from home is not the same as working from your physical employment location. There are far too many differences and considering those should be paramount. If you treat your home office like your normal work, you’ll end up climbing the walls and divorcing your wife.
Take the time to step back and look at the way you work from home. Make sure you still maintain your normal social interaction with your work friends even if it is only a virtual one. Understand how those around you view what’s happening and look at it from their point of view. When the kids see you at home, generally, they think it is family time and trust me they will annoy you unless you help them to understand the differences.
Remember just because the boss can’t see you doesn’t mean you can slack off; you still have a job to do and the quality of your work will be reflected in it. You have everything to gain and not a lot to lose if you do this right, don’t squander the opportunity.
At the end of the day, it’s about finding a balance that works for you, of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, and some flexibility is needed occasionally.
Maintain a routine, however you approach it, it’s the best way to keep your sanity and family.