On the day when schools close for what may to working parents, seem like an eternity, I wanted to share with you my experience of 20 years working from home.
Over those years we raised two boys (now 17 and 21) and most of the time I’ve been able to retain my sanity, keep work going and, I like to think, turned out two fairly respectable young men.
So here are just a few things I hope will help.
1. Set aside your work area
Try to find a regular space in the house where you can set up a small work area. If you can’t do this, get a box with your work stuff and move it with you day by day. This keeps papers and laptops tidy and away from sticky fingers.
2. Make lists
Plan ahead what you’ll be doing on a daily basis. Don’t get distracted. If there’s 10 things on your list, choose which one or two things you’d be most pleased to have achieved by the end of the day and focus on those. Anything that takes less than two minutes, just do.
3. Be productive
Away from the disturbances and interruptions of the office, you’ll probably find you can be more productive and streamline your work schedule. Check Tim Ferriss’s work, in particular his first book The 4 Hour Work Week and the video below on ‘batching’.
You might well find you can achieve your 8 hour office day in half the time at home. Whether you choose to divulge that information to your boss is another thing.
Assuming you and your loved ones are keeping well, try looking at the current climate of isolation and Covid lockdown as something of a gift of time. Consider what, when we return to the New Normal, would you kick yourself for not having done during this time? It might be learning a new skill, catching up with paperwork, researching new material. At Workplace Trends we’ve just uploaded our back catalogue of conference video sessions to our new Vimeo channel. With 14 days free trial there’s plenty of time to explore subjects and speakers from most of our 2018 and 2019 conferences.
4. Be flexible with when you work
Bearing in mind that you might not need a full 8 hours to accomplish what you would normally do, choose the times that best suit you to work. Some people are early birds, and some are night owls, so fit your work into the times when the house is less busy and when you do your best work. For me, if I have a deadline, 6am – 10am gets me there, while the house is rising I can be beavering away (albeit in my pyjamas) Getting Stuff Done. Then if there’s more to do, another stint of 2pm – 6pm and I’ve had a pretty good day.
5. Set boundaries
Make it firmly but kindly clear to family that this is your work area / work time, and unless fire or blood are involved, you’re not to be disturbed.
6. Set tasks for family. Ask for help
This is a time when families should pull together. If the burden of family cooking, house cleaning, domestic chores, falls on your shoulders, try to enlist children’s or your partner’s help.
That’s easier said than done of course, and if it’s more trouble than it’s worth to get someone else to unload the dishwasher, be seen to do those things yourself when others are around. They might take the hint, but if they don’t, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not the end of the world.
7. Learn how to use the tech
Online meeting and conference calls will be a requirement. Take some time before a scheduled meeting to set up and test the tech.
Learn where the audio mute and video buttons are and which way around they work. Don’t eat on the call. Chomping biscuits in a meeting at the office is fine, but online the chewing noise is magnified.
Take a minute also to check the light and background where you sit to make a video call. Natural light is best, and avoid having washing drying on the radiator behind you 😉
8. Take useful breaks
Just as you would at the office, take regular breaks. Five minutes every 45 minutes is a good rule of thumb to maintain productivity. Get a coffee, load that dishwasher, check in on the kids, water some plants.
9. Health and Safety
Just because the H&S police aren’t likely to pass by your desk, you owe it to yourself and your family to make sure your environment is safe. Don’t overload plug sockets, watch where the wires trail, you know the drill.
10. Screens as babysitters
Lastly, don’t feel guilty about using screens as baby sitters. A Disney or Star Wars film will be enjoyable for them, and give you a good 2 x 45 minute work slots. X-Box and Playstation are a little more difficult as they’re more of a rabbit warren with no beginning / middle / end. Set time allocations of use for the day and try steer kids away from them before bedtime.
Remember when the screens are off, it’s not a bad thing for children to be bored. It’s the only way they’ll learn to entertain themselves and be independent.
So I hope these pointers are of use for you: many of the tricks can also be applied to working in the office, so don’t forget them when we are all released back into the ‘real’ world!
Author: Maggie Procopi, co-founder and Director at Workplace Trends