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 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.
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 another stint of 2pm – 6pm and I’ve had a pretty good day.
5. Set boundries
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. 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 tricky 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.
Author: Maggie Procopi, co-founder and Director at Workplace Trends