by Pascal Parent (Contributor)
Working from home is now a reality that is inescapable. Many of us are not organized for it and do not know how to handle our new office space.
Our homes are probably not geared towards being a working office, this is why The Great Guide has partnered with TechMages to bring you a series of tips, tricks, and how-tos to make your work life easier at home.
In this first article, we will be discussing some essential items you will need, as well as some house rules to apply to make your new working arrangements easier to live with.
When you are considering the area for your working space you will need to find a comfortable and practical area of the house where there is a table and chair. It does not need to be big, but it will need to be large enough to house your computer and its accessories (or laptop), and any papers you may need without any of it falling off the table.
It is also important to ensure that your workspace is positioned in a quiet place and not in a thoroughfare, which would be distracting and counterproductive. The kitchen, for example, is not the ideal place to work from people will be popping in all day to fetch snacks or make coffee, imagine have a video conference meeting and the kettle is whistling in the background.
If you don’t have a spare room to use, try a corner in the lounge or your bedroom, just make sure you are in a well-lit environment to avoid straining your eyes and getting headaches.
The people you live with
You will need to explain to them that when you are at your desk you are working and should not be interrupted. This will be hard, but it will be necessary to separate your work life and home life more than ever and you may need to gently remind them frequently in the beginning.
Explain that from 8:00 in the morning to 12:00 and 13:00 to 17:00 even though you are at home, you are working. This will be particularly hard for children to understand so if you have space in an isolated room use that room, it will make it easier.
When it comes to pets, discussing it with them may be difficult but generally they are understanding and agreeable, they will force you to have a break which is good. My dogs and cats have always been welcomed in my workplace, which is a dedicated room in my house where both my wife and I work from.
To help create a distraction-free in a home office space, I find that wearing headphones or earphones help, even if there is no music. If you are going to listen to music, try to stick to instrumentals but not radio as the news or discussions may distract you.
This is an important one, the days tend to blur into each other when working from home, you will need to keep to your normal 8:00 to 17:00 work routine. This means separating home and work tasks even though you are at home – your home chores should be done in the time you would have done them if you were at the office.
For example, you remember when you were going to make coffee with a colleague at work? You may not have realized this but it was in between 45 and 75 minutes intervals, this allowed your brain to shut down for 5 to 10 minutes hourly. You need to take breaks, people usually have a concentration span of 25 – 40 minutes (age dependent), so taking a short 5-minute break every so often helps and is a good idea, this is the principles behind a technique called Pomodoro which can considerably increase your production and keep you sane at the same time.
Also, part of your routine should be getting dressed in the morning as if you were off to work at the office because you are off to work at the office. In fact, you may even have a meeting or two in the form of a video conference call. This will keep you from blurring those lines of home and work.
Start and stop working at your usual time, physically start your computer, and answering calls from your normal working hours and switch it off at the end of your normal workday. When you are finished with your workday at 17:00, do not answer calls or check emails, this will only blur the home/work situation and may have other unintended side effects. Make sure your employer understands this, managers will take advantage of you if you do not enforce your rights.
When the new normal comes back into place and your kids are back at school but you are still working from home, which may happen, there is nothing wrong in talking to your employer to have the time to drop and pick up your kids to and from school. This may mean that you may have to work an extra half hour or cut into your lunchtime. If you are going to step out to do some shopping or pick up the kids, let your co-workers and manager know, just as you would if you were at the office.
I expect that companies will gradually adopt work from home policies as a standard, this will also probably mean that you will be monitored on deliverables and not time at work which will allow you to structure your day as you see fit.
It is also important to remember that you should not feel that you have to prove to your company that you are working, just do what was expected of you when you were at the office, which are the deliverables required from you.
You need to move during the day, go make tea or coffee, step outside and enjoy the sky, take 10 minutes to walk in the garden if you have one, spend some time with your pet, it will make you feel better.
And if you can do a little exercise before or after your workday, it will help you to keep a balance.