Tuesday, 17 March 2020 00:36

A guide to working from home for employees Featured

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A guide to working from home for employees Black Man Working at his Desk Cartoon Vector.svg from Wikimedia Commons by Videoplasty.com, CC-BY-SA 4.0

Some useful hints for surviving the virus scare as you abandon the office as a safe place to work.

Yesterday's article took a very 'business' view of the whole work from home scenario. Today, we will take a more personal view and offer a few strategies. For many people, the only "work from home" they ever did was to cover for an appointment (plumber, sick child etc.) and an actual working from home stint will be entirely foreign.

Further, the majority of people are extroverts - they need interaction with others, so there is a lot to compensate for when they're the only person to talk to. Some people are strongly self-driven, others prefer a team culture - typically we chose jobs and workplaces that match our preferences. If you need that contact, schedule regular 'shoot the breeze' sessions with similar co-workers over a mid-morning coffee or similar, or get out of the house to run errands or simply sit in the park for some sun and a random chat with a stranger.

So, with all that in mind, here's a plan.

Create a dedicated workspace. Unless you live in a tiny apartment, the end of the dining table won't do! You want to replicate your desk in the office as much as possible with all the equipment you would normally use. If possible, give yourself a tranquil view through a window and try to ensure you won't be disturbed by other family members (as much as possible with a spouse also stuck at home and children unable to attend school!). Hopefully, you won't be able to see the television, even if you can hear 'Days of our Lives' in perpetual binge-watch mode. Noise-cancelling headphones are a great idea, perhaps your employer might buy them for you.

Further, treat this area as your office. Don't use it for other, personal, tasks. When you walk into this area, you are an office worker at work. When you leave, you're back at home.

Don't feel tempted to work in your nightwear. Stick to the rituals you would normally follow if you were still working at the office. Get up at the same time, shower, get dressed, have breakfast etc. The only advantage is that you can skip the commute and save all that time for personal use. By doing this, not only are you mentally getting into work mode, but you'll look (and sound) professional when on the phone or in video conference calls. Also, everyone else in the house will recognise that you are in 'work mode.'

This also means that if you have to go to a face-to-face meeting (that might be rare!), you're ready to leave the house in minutes.

You will want to take the same kinds of breaks that you might have when in the office - perhaps you're used to taking a quick visit to a local coffee shop for a mid-morning or afternoon break or a brisk lunch-time walk. It is important to keep taking the same breaks, although the coffee shop might not be quite the same great idea it used to be.

When you take a break, do something useful around the house - empty the dishwasher, sweep the floors or similar. After sitting at your desk for an hour or two, you could use 15 minutes of physical exercise.

Despite the amount of time spent at one's office desk, most observers suggest that the average person only has around five or six productive hours in the work-day, the rest is filler - chatting, making yet another coffee in the lunch room, dealing with personal emails on one's phone etc.

With that in mind, you should attempt to schedule six hours of in-depth work each day, allowing additional time for the 'fluff' that fills out your office day.

Whether you have six one-hour blocks, four 90-minutes blocks or just three two-hour blocks is entirely up to you, but whatever you decide, stick with it - building a routine is important. If necessary, create a daily timetable and possibly set alarms on your phone to keep track. Remember, this could last for a few weeks, and possibly much longer.

Overall, make sure you get the work done, but also pay attention to your personal health - both physical and mental. Find time for human interaction with co-workers and even with strangers.

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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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