13th March 2020
With the latest international developments having a direct impact on workers, many will be facing the prospect of working from home for the first time to minimise virus spread.
While working from home (WFH) has been common, and increasingly more popular, within digital industries for many years, there will be a large number of people who will be completely new to the concept.
Working from Home offers many benefits, including extra flexibility, reduced carbon footprint and increased free time thanks to cutting out the commute. However, there are some things you should bear in mind in order not skew your work / (home) life balance.
Finding Focus Whilst Working at Home
Up to now your home was for personal needs and work was for… work. Physically separating the two has been relatively easy (even if you’re one of those who are permanently on call via their mobile phone).
Physical separation is important for focus; letting one thing bleed into the other can have knock on effects which make it harder to commit focus to either (worried about work events at home/ personal events while working). When the line between work and home life becomes muddied it’s easy to lose focus, which is why a few of these following tips could help you towards finding a balance.
Changing your Mentality – The Relationship Between Work and Time
Many jobs are considered to be time-centric; you’re at the office from 9 to 5 and you deal with tasks as they come. And while you can replicate this technique at home (there is a wide range of time tracking software to help you), you may want to rethink your approach.
Why is that you ask? Well firstly your set hours become more fuzzy than they used to. You no longer have a commute, saving yourself potentially several hours per day. Rather than sticking to your usual office hours why not use some of this reclaimed commute time to unlock a key benefit of working from home – flexibility. You can put the time that was previously commuting time ‘in the middle of the day’ and use it to great effect.
This added flexibility allows you to fit in personal tasks and chores around your work schedule. Where before, doing tasks such as going to the bank, squeezing in gym time or doing a weekly shop would have to be done outside of work hours, when it is more busy as others have to do the same around work hours, you can now fit this in around your schedule at quieter times. So with the perk of being able to complete your necessities outside of busy peak times, you avoid long queues and waits as well as take advantage of quieter public transport.
Just bear in mind that you still have to work – you are just more responsible for your timetable. If your performance / availability is affected by your midday jaunts you will have to reevaluate your planning. Or, you could move your mindset to…
Becoming Goal Centric
Now that you’re getting into the mindset that it’s not all about punching in and out everyday, one of the best ways to adapt to home working is becoming goal centric.
This is where you focus on what tasks need to be done and when. The best way to make this shift is through time management. This can be achieved with two steps:
Listing your up & coming and scheduled tasks
Pen and paper
Despite being marketing manager of an automation SaaS business – surprisingly my primary method of keeping on top of my tasks is through a good old fashioned notebook and pen.
Each week (or at the end of the previous week) I make a list of everything I need to progress to complete in the upcoming week. You can roll forward any tasks not crossed out from the previous week get rolled forward, along with any tasks performed on a regular basis (eg: create report for x, update social media schedule). Also add in any conversations you need to have with colleagues as well.
You can then go through and prioritise them if necessary; a simple numbering system is usually good enough.
On top of my notebook I also keep an ongoing online task list for any correspondences I need to keep track of. This is great for linking to previous conversations or future actions that need to be completed. Just remember, when creating a task, always include:
- A deadline date and time
- An estimate to how much time it will take to complete
- A brief note of what you’re expected to do
- Links to anything you feel would be useful to complete the task
Also, depending on what task management platform you use, you can add or tag colleagues into a task. This is a great way to foster teamwork while not being physically together. And if you’re in a management role then you can directly assign tasks to members of your team.
My personal platform of choice for task management is through our CRM, Pipedrive. This allows me to link any task I have to clients, as well as linking to my calendar to help with schedule management (more on this in a minute).
If you don’t currently have a task management app there are wide range available, just find one that works best for you and is compatible with your company’s recommendations.
Time Management Through Scheduling
Prepare for your calendar to be your best friend. Now that work times are more fluid your calendar, even more than before, is the best way to organize your days – with both work related and personal tasks.
By committing tasks, as well as meetings and events, into your calendar you get a great short, medium and long term perspective of your schedule.
When using a calendar such as Google Calendar, it’s possible to have multiple calendars viewable at once (colour coded to stand out). You can optimise multiple calendars for your own time management; for example, have one for personal use, one for work and another for availability. Fill these out, ensuring that you set your availability to “busy” to block out that time for a single task from your “availability” calendar.
Teamwork and Calendars
Sharing calendars with team members is a great way to fit collaborative tasks around each other’s schedules. You can directly book in time with them if necessary. However, if you find that a bit too invasive then consider getting a calendar application.
There are a wide variety of scheduling and calendar apps available, each of which should connect to your calendar and give you a shareable calendar you can send out to allow customers or colleagues alike to book available time with you.
Remember, the purpose of these tools is to help you manage and check off those tasks. If they’re not working for you, or are too much of a time boon, try another solution. Or, per earlier, just go back to trusty pen and notepad – I’ve never really found anything better to be honest.
Your Home Workstation
As tempting as it may seem, working on your laptop whilst wrapped in your duvet in bed is not the best way to go. Yes it’s novel and may sound like a good idea, but believe me, your posture will pay for it in the end.
If you can create a space that you can dedicate just to work you’ll adapt in no time. Call it your mini-commute to mentally move you from your home space to your work space.
The work space itself doesn’t have to be big; a chair at a dining table would be fine. The key is finding somewhere you can work consistently, so you know that when you sit down and open your laptop you are in “work mode”. This change in mindset is extremely important for getting into the groove in the morning; it helps you ignore the distractions around you and get your focus for the day ahead.
If work from home becomes a more regular arrangement, try to find somewhere you can make your own. You can have a small spotless deskspace in a corner of the house somewhere, or dedicate a bit more space to somewhere you can cover in sticky notes like a Jackson Pollock. Basically make your space into an area that brings out the best of you and helps you with work, not hinders it.
Oh, and posture! Be careful with your back, it’s easy to fall into bad habits, so avoid some pain and start by setting yourself up in the right way.