Now that so many people are working from their basements or spare bedrooms, or like me have a rickety desk setup off to the side in the living room, I want to say: Welcome.
Working from home has its advantages and drawbacks, and its own abbreviation, WFH. I have worked at home for more than eight years in my role at MiBiz. While I surely would never pass myself off as an expert, I do know a thing or two about how to make it work.
So here’s my quick advice for people who are now required to work at home:
- You will need to develop the discipline and routine required to avoid easy distractions so you can focus on your work and stay productive. For some of you, that requires figuring out activities for the kids who are no longer going to school. (I love empty nest-hood!)
- Set up a designated spot in the house for your workspace.
- Separate your work time from your family time.
- Step away occasionally for household chores. Take 10 minutes or so every now and then to take care of the laundry, empty the dishwasher, do a little cleaning and so on. Your spouse will love you even more for it.
- The flexibility is great, but do not attempt for a second to exploit the situation. Act like a pro, do your job and handle your business. Remember: This is a time to shine, demonstrate value and show the bosses how well you can step up and respond in crisis. You better believe they are thinking the same way.
- Likewise, for employers: Give people a little slack. All of us are in this situation together and people are learning to adapt on the fly. They are bound to have a little difficulty adjusting. Now is not the time for rigidity and inflexibility. Presume people are professional, earnest and trying to do their best at a difficult time.
- You will not miss, even for a nano-second, rush-hour traffic.
- Taking a walk in the middle of a gorgeous spring day is a beautiful thing. So is quietly sitting at your desk on a warm, sunny morning as a cool breeze drifts through the windows and the birds are chirping away.
- Dress code? Sweat pants and old, torn T-shirts are perfectly appropriate attire for your home office. There are, of course, some exceptions.
- Keep a hat within arm’s reach at all times in case of that unexpected Skype call or knock at the door.
- Routine is good, although there is no longer a formally designated lunch hour or break time.
- Not showering until 3 p.m. is absolutely fine.
- You will need to develop tactics to avoid developing a daily sense of isolation. Talking to people on the phone, communicating with supervisors and co-workers through email, texts and DMs, or engaging in thoughtful conversation with the pets or the house plants may not completely cut it.
- Supervisors take note: Sometimes a DM is just not a good way to communicate or provide direction. Human interaction still works effectively in the Digital Age. Bottom line: This is a time for clarity, not to make people read your mind. Pick up the phone and have a conversation to make sure everyone is on the same wavelength.
- Try to avoid scheduling telephone and conference calls at the same time garbage trucks are pounding down the street for weekly pickup. Street sweepers are even worse.
- The cat(s) will require your immediate, full and undivided attention at least once a day, probably more. Accommodate them. They will not go away easily, and resistance is futile.
- Yes, your neighbor is a tad crazy and you will wonder how you never noticed it before. Learn to ignore it.
- You will come to quickly have bad thoughts about people who insist on mowing their lawns, using leaf blowers or operating snow blowers during the day as you are trying to concentrate and get work done. Learn to cope and adjust accordingly.
- And, finally, stay safe, stay healthy, and wash your hands.