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Opinion: So, you're working from home for now. How do you manage?

Barbara Edwards offers advice to workers who now find themselves signing in remotely, during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Image: Shutterstock/Kaspars Grinvalds

THE PAST WEEK here in Ireland and across the world has been surreal, to say the least. We’ve seen an unprecedented global effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus, Covid-19. Our own government, last week, closed schools and colleges, in the hope this would assist the operation.

This move means that many employees are now working from home if they are lucky enough to have working broadband and a computer. While it sounds like a simple solution, on one hand, this shift to remote working, particularly when it comes in such a hurry, can bring challenges. Many of us will be at home with our children in tow, for starters.

Getting used to a new environment if you change jobs can be difficult. New procedures, new faces, new office layouts etc. but you know it doesn’t last forever. For the majority, once those nail-biting first few days are over, you start to settle into the new routines that evolve with your role and environment.

shutterstock_608959670 Source: Shutterstock/Evgeny Atamanenko

But what if you’re not actually changing job just the environment in which you do it?

Because of the unknowns that we are facing with the current situation, some organisations are considering letting employees work from home.

“Yayyyyy”, I hear you say, but do you think you’re cut out for it? Do you think it would suit you as a person?

Working from home is not new to many self-employed people, and there is also the growing sector of the remote worker – those who work outside the geographic location of the organisation. This has grown with the emergence of the tech sector.

What self-employed and tech remote workers have in common is the individual has opted to work in this way, it suits their lifestyle. They do that for a number of reasons:

  • The flexibility and ability to juggle time

  • Childcare issues

  • No dress code

  • It suits their work e.g. artists/creatives

  • No transport costs

  • Improved work/life balance

In this case, this week, many people will find themselves catapulted into the remote working setup, through no choice of their own. So how can you make it work if it’s not what you bought into?

One key element before you even start thinking of the computer setup, or whether you choose the kitchen table or the coffee table, is motivation. Will you work just as hard at home as at the office? What kind of mindset will you be in at home? If you’ve been out for a late-night and have to get up for work the next morning, will you be as diligent when you have to work from home as you would be if you had to make your way to your normal place of work?

It can be a lonely experience

When I first started working for myself, I felt completely alone. That was a time, too, when there were no online platforms for making video calls. My children were in school and my partner was ‘out’ at work, but I was still at home. And although I was working, I had to stop myself from ‘just loading the washing machine’ or ‘just emptying the dishwasher’ etc. 

Although this adjustment period will be different for each person, what I missed most was the lack of human interaction, something that is taken for granted each day in the workplace. This can take its toll on you if you’re not looking after yourself as you adjust to your ‘new’ surroundings. With that in mind, here are my top 10 tips to help you through this unexpected phase of remote working:

  1. Keep the morning routine that you have established, even though you’re not leaving the house.

  2. Dress as if you are heading out to work, or at least be in smart casual. Staying in your pyjamas or tracksuits is not a good idea for your mood.

  3. If you wear makeup every day or shave every morning, continue to do this. If it made you feel better leaving the house, then there’s no reason why it won’t make you feel better sitting at your home desk!

  4. Working at the kitchen table will suit some, but I’d suggest you try and avoid it if you can.  This way you’ll be able to have lunch away from your desk, and you won’t be constantly clearing away work things so you can have dinner.

  5. Depending on your room size, try to set up your workspace out of your line of site – do you really want to be looking at tomorrow’s paperwork while you’re enjoying something on the tv/Netflix?

  6. Make sure you get some fresh air.

  7. If you’re worried about your time management/productivity, use an app, particularly those based on the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a helpful time management technique. There are many apps that are easy to use. Set the timer, take a five-minute break and walk around, repeat. I still use one every now and then if I feel my productivity waning or I’m trying to meet a deadline.

  8. Switch off all social media notifications. If you weren’t allowed on the various platforms in your place of work, then don’t go on them when you’re trying to work from home.

  9. Arrange with colleagues to have some ‘face time’ – there are so many free platforms that allow for multiple participants to connect via video link.  You still need to connect with other humans, and it’s nicer to talk than to text.

  10. Keep your workspace tidy. A bit of a mess might have been acceptable at the desk in work, but this is now in your home. And just think, it could be a whole new habit you’ll bring back into the workplace when all this is over.

Barbara Edwards is a Coach & Mentor in Co Donegal offering 1-1 and online consultations. Barbara can be contacted at info@becoached.ie or via her site www.becoached.ie.

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