Ideas to Manage Work From Home (WFH) Like A Pro
Let’s admit it. The idea of Work from home (WFH) has such an allure. No long commutes, working without a boss and manager hovering over your shoulder, managing your deadlines in your way in your own time. And of course, there’s the wicked lure of working right out of your bed, in your pyjamas! But jokes apart, these are unprecedented times, and the whole world is in a situation where we’re going to be working from home for a while to come; till we’re safe from the deadly Coronavirus.
And working in your pyjamas is exactly what’s not going to work in this situation! Working from home comes with its fair share of challenges. It could mean working round the clock, unending interruptions – kids, pets, doorbell (temptation of Netflix!), technology snafus… Not a cakewalk. There are going to be so many challenges.
There are two main categories of challenges – One is, how do we plan house chores so they get done and out of the way? And the other is how to work collaboratively, especially where teams are concerned when we can’t meet and have to work remotely. Begin with demarcating between your personal and professional work, especially when working from home under such extreme situations as you need to neither work overtime, nor neglect housework.
Here are some tips to ease yourself into the work from home (WFH) mode:
# Tackling the home chores
1. Keep a schedule and prioritise:
There are going to be several demands – maids and house-help are absent. Children have online coursework though they’re not going to school and college. Older relatives have their regular care demands. Designate a time window for this work, and make sure it gets done. Keeping a schedule will ensure you tick chores off your list, and also free your mind to get into work mode. Because your home doesn’t mean you do all the chores either! Delegating is a good way to involve your family members. On the flip side, volunteering to take up some chores will keep nagging and guilt at bay.
2. Decide your work timing:
This could be your regular office hours, for example, 9 am-6 pm. There are some kinds of jobs that require you to be logged in, or signed in specifically even if you’re working from home. Here, it becomes easy to set aside the time because it is mandatory. However, some job roles are more collaborative. You may need to coordinate with different work teams and be on calls with different groups of people at specific times. So then draw up a schedule accordingly, and decide a work window where you can get undistracted time. Even if it means identifying a window of 2 hours without disruption, so be it.
3. Communicate your expectations to those around you:
Make sure any siblings, parents, spouses, housemates and pets respect your space during work hours. Just because you are on work from home mode doesn’t mean you’re home. Especially with children, make time to explain to them the current situation and what you expect from them. I’m sure everyone’s family is supportive at the moment, but from my personal experience of having worked from home since the past 4 years, I have to add that these boundaries need to be set and reestablished often till they become firm boundaries for yourself and those around you.
4. Keep other distractions at bay:
Just the way you set boundaries with other members in your family, you need to set your boundaries as well. It’s very tempting to sneak an episode of your favourite show between work, especially since nobody is keeping check. This kind of distraction just sets you back. Again drawing from personal experience, it does take time to tune your mind into work from home. A home is a place to relax, to do nothing, to binge, and if suddenly you have to work from home, well all distractions do the devils dance in front of you. Even a walk to the kitchen to get water seems more inviting than actually working on drafting a mail. It’s best to tell yourself ‘this is a usual workday’ and do as you would on a regular workday. And go binge after finishing your work!
# Working from home
1. Start your day as you would start any regular working day:
Don’t lounge around in your pyjamas though it’s very tempting. Extreme times call for extreme measures! Yes, you may have to start your day early to accommodate other house chores, but if you want to catch you brain in the right frame of mind, don’t break the cycle of starting at the same time as your regular workday. If it helps, wear something comfortable, as you would for work. Our subconscious mind needs time to adjust to a new routine and when things are already tight, it will help if you stick to your current routine.
2. Identify a designated work spot:
Sitting on the couch, then moving to the bedroom, lying down with your laptop desks, are all doable from home but not recommended. A designated work spot helps you get into the discipline and routine and shuts out other distractions. Find a place where you can sit for long hours without having to shift or move from time to time. Make certain it is a comfortable seating space, with sufficient light, top space (to allow you to keep other things handy like water, notebook, phone, etc.) and closer to a plug point yet in the full range of your home WiFi. If all this is too much to ask for, the least you can do is to ensure you are seated with your back straight and just wear your headphone to reduce ambient noise when you want to focus on a task at hand.
3. Keep track of your break time:
While you work from home, most importantly remember that you don’t use your break to do other chores. In all likelihood, the break will expand and you will be left feeling underproductive, though you may have achieved a lot in a short time. Also, it will take you that much longer to get back into work mode. Yes, you need to take breaks for lunch and coffee, make sure they are for a limited time. Eat at the dining table just as you would have gone to the cafeteria at work, and don’t sneak in other chores and work in that time. Keep some snacks in your work area as you would have done in the office. This also limits your breaks. Another big time-thief is getting distracted by checking social media & WhatsApp. As far as possible limit your time on social media and keep your phone on silent.
4. Make a team time-table:
Everybody is stretched and has similar issues to what you are facing. So if you’re a team leader then use free software like Google calendar to block everybody’s time and plan accordingly. This situation is not likely to be one-off and is new for everyone. While we think the biggest challenge of work from home is slacking off, it can be quite the opposite as well – overworking. A time-table will ensure you don’t work around the clock or longer as everybody won’t follow the same schedule. This will help you avoid taking a 10 pm call unless super urgent.
5. Be prepared for a drop in productivity:
It always takes time to re-adjust to new schedules and new ways of working. Also, not everybody has the same pace of getting used to things. Some of your teammates may be on step with you while others may need some time. It will take time to have a well-oiled machine in place. Focus your energies on reorganising your work and deadlines (sometimes, some unforeseen situations may arise and work won’t go according to plan). In these times, self-vigilance is important to ensure the team stays productive and healthy.
6. Use technology support:
Several tech platforms are available for collaborative work like Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype. Companies are offering their premium conferencing services free as well during these challenging times. Microsoft Teams and Google’s Hangouts Meet are available for free the next few months to enable organisations to transition to work from home. You can take advantage of that. Don’t hesitate to engage on a new platform, yes there will be teething issues, call drops, distractions; but once you get the hang of it, it will seem like a piece of cake.
You can find yourself facing all sorts of hurdles in this process of getting used to working from home. You may also feel a range of emotions from guilt, to being overwhelmed, to finding things chaotic. The key is to take it one task at a time and finish up what you can when you can. Give yourself the time to sink into the new routine.
When you exclusively work from home, physical boundaries between work and your personal life can blur. Even if you’re organised, it can still be difficult to successfully manage your career and a household in the same space, especially if you’re raising a family, too.
This is a clear litmus test for work-life balance. Everybody wants it but find it hard to create it or don’t know where to start. Balance doesn’t come overnight. Sticking to simple things will help it become a part of your schedule. Work within your routines as much as possible and keep making small adjustments to improve. Eventually, each habit will become natural, and you can even see the change in other aspects of your life. It begins with discipline!
I want to close with a quote ‘change is the only constant’ and today we are living it. Hang in there, be safe, keep your and your teams’ spirits up and you will see there is nothing that we can’t achieve with a little positivity and persistence!
Yellow Spark is available throughout the week (even Weekends) to discuss approaches to streamline work in the current WFH scenario. Reach out to us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get in touch with you swiftly.
Author Profile: Aparna Joshi Khandwala is a passionate HR professional. She co-founded Yellow Spark to work with like-minded people who believe in the power of leadership, which is the only business differentiator in today’s time.