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Work from home - Ground rules, Strategies and Implications

Jitha Sanal
May 29, 2020 3:35:48 PM

We spent most of our careers in office with our colleagues; over the coming months we are going to miss that camaraderie. Work from home (commonly known as telecommuting) was a luxury only a few businesses could afford. But with the corona virus pandemic raging throughout the world most of the businesses have implemented remote-work policies. Google and Facebook are telling employees to work remotely until 2021. Twitter is allowing employees to work from home “forever.”

Work-from-home is here to stay even when the economy reopens, perhaps through the end of the year.  We have seen a surge in the number of employees working from home and many of them have embraced it as the new normal. With this emerge many new challenges in different spheres of life - social, economic, health and well-being. On the other hand, the concept is a viable option for many since it saves commuting costs, time, reduces stress and brings work-life balance.

Let’s explore the areas (or rather problem areas) this new unusual situation has thrown in.

Work from home and Productivity

Whether you’re a newbie or WFH veteran, there are a few work etiquette that can be implemented and followed for efficient working, from setting up an ergonomic workspace, to the way you communicate to your team and manager. You may find it challenging to find yourself working in the same space as your family.  Working from home can feel unstructured and isolating and in turn make people less motivated and less productive. Consider these tips on how to keep your spirits up and continue to do good work and deliver results.

  • Make a tidy workspace- it may not be possible to set up the ideal workstation, keeping in mind that for many of us living in a studio apartment with family/friends chances are your “home office” would really be just a dining table or a corner of your bedroom. However, setting up a workspace which is clean, organized, and free of distractions will give you positive vibes to work efficiently.
  • The key to working from home is clear communication with your manager.  It’s ideal to have a call with your manager to kick off the day and wrap up the day to understand what’s expected of you. Managers should lay down clear objectives, processes, metrics and tracking methods for their team.
  • Stay on your regular schedule as you would at the workplace. Start your day as you normally would, taking shower and getting dressed. Keep times for breakfast and lunch as close to normal. It’s important to have a fixed schedule and stick to it. Avoid sleeping or taking naps. Also, remember, just because you are working from home, doesn’t mean you need to work round the clock.  After a day’s work, put away your electronic devices. This is crucial to your productivity and focus.
  • Move around - Exercise, stretch and go for a walk or just move your muscles.  Muscle immobility is one of the most common reasons for muscle aches we so frequently experience while working at the computer. Be sure to take short breaks throughout the day and also, take your eyes off the screen for at least 5 minutes every hour.
  • Establish some boundaries or expectations with your family members, as it’s normal for your kids and family to get the idea that you are available, with you're present in your room and not expected to go anywhere. 
  • Reach out to co-workers and managers regularly and avoid going stir-crazy through a variety of tools like Zoom, Slack , Jira, Microsoft Teams, Smartsheet etc. Phone calls make collaboration harder, so make use of video calls rather than phone calls while collaborating with your colleagues. Also, a video call ensures that the attendees are paying as much attention as they would in a physical meeting.

Internet Connectivity and Security

A good internet connection is essential for working from home. Ensure your home Wi-Fi is remote work ready. You can boost up your internet connection with a few tricks.

  • Internet rush hour occurs normally between 7am - 11pm. Software updates, large file uploads, game downloads which demands huge bandwidth can be done overnight.
  • Reduce your uploads, meaning data sent out to the internet.
  • Pre-download movies and other video contents rather than streaming in real time.
  • Use video conferencing only when it’s necessary as broadcasting video is more demanding on networks.
  • Consider removing devices connected to your home Wi-Fi that aren't in use. Limiting the number of devices attached to Wi-Fi will conserve the bandwidth.

The following hacks may help keep cyber security in check:

  • Make sure your Wi-Fi is secured and encrypted. Securing your home network is essential in remote-work. Having an unsecured Wi-Fi will give easy access for hackers.
  • Never use your private email or online storage for sensitive work documents; it could lead to a serious data leak. It may not be safe to communicate your work related matters through social media or personal emails, you could use secure messaging platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams.
  • Make sure the website you browse starts with “https” so that the communication between your browser and website is encrypted.
  • Update your software or operating system often, else it can be a security threat.
  • Whether you are working from home or at the office, always lock your computer when not in use. You can never be certain, if your children or anybody might cause some damage to your data by mistake.

Health and Well-being

When your working style  is facing a major transition like this, it’s easy to lose sight of things that ground you. This change of environment is sometimes believed to negatively impact the well-being of a person. The most important thing in the coming months is to keep yourself healthy and safe. 

  • Get plenty of rest, eat well, stay hydrated and practice smart social habits.  You must maintain a balance between personal and professional life. 
  • Isolation and burnout are two of the main causes that may lead to depression, taking a toll on your mental health.  Stay socially connected. Disconnection from work is an also important component to feeling refreshed and motivated. 
  • Exercise and get enough sleep, this is not only good for your physical health, but also your mental health.
  • Limit exposure to news and social media, as it may trigger or elevate anxiety and stress. But stay informed by following genuine resources.
  • Engage in activities that bring you joy and benefit your well-being. Practice yoga or meditation.  You may also enjoy reading, art & crafts, cooking with new recipes and learning something online. Let your creativity blossom, share it with your friends and co-workers and encourage them to do the same.

Family 

Kids being out of school and daycare is one of the biggest challenges of working from home, especially if both parents are working from home. Some say, working from home with your children is a productivity disaster. When children are at home, working parents might struggle to separate responsibilities. Having a few plans will help reduce chaos. 

  • If both parents are working from home, discuss an arrangement where the two of them can switch off between working and spending time with the kids.
  • Engage children in activities like online learning. myTectra is one of the companies offering coding classes to kids.
  • You can’t eliminate interruptions from kids always, so accept and manage.
  • Gently assert your family members, on when you’re not to be disturbed. Keeping the doors closed, when you’re focused on work may help.
  • It may be tempting to cook a hot lunch or do a quick laundry, but this will blur the line between work time and home time. A good rule of thumb is to not do any such tasks. Schedule time for these chores before or after work, or on the weekend.
  • Take annual leaves even if your travel plans have been cancelled, it may help to concentrate on your own health and well being.
  • Stay connected with family and friends, using technology like Skype, Google Hangout and other video-based options. 

This pandemic is a “game changer” for remote work for several reasons. But remember, we are all in this together and also blessed in so many ways (we still have our jobs at least) despite the inconvenience of this major transition.

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