The coronavirus is taking a toll on our current, daily lives. We’ve been introduced very rapidly to the ideas of self-isolation, social distancing and working from home, in a bid to limit the spread of the virus.
We already understand that the virus spreads rapidly and that it is very important that we limit the spread of the virus so that our medical systems aren’t overwhelmed.
The changes that we’re accommodating, including the opportunity to work from home (even in organisations that never previously allowed it) are vital but will more than likely have the effect of making people feel isolated and alone.
At Cornell Engineers, in the 16 years since we started, we’ve transitioned our business through several phases of working from home. I’d like to share the lessons we’ve learned. Maybe it will help you if you’ve been asked to work from home during this health crisis.
Keep a Routine
The obvious threat to working from home is the distractions in your household. Instead of working you could be doing chores, reading the paper, watching the news and mowing the lawn.
All of those still need to be done, but for your working from home to be effective (ie worthwhile for your boss to be paying you to work from home) you’ll still need to get work done.
Keep your routine intact when you work from home and you’ll find it easier to split your time between home and work.
- Start your work at around the same time you’d normally start at work.
- Get dressed for work. You don’t need to be dressed to the nines, but don’t stay on pajamas all day. Get dressed to go to work.
- Take a minute to get up to speed, check-in on assigned tasks and handle any urgent emails and then get right into your work.
- Keep household distractions at bay as much as possible by closing the door to your work area
- Ask your household to avoid disturbing you during work hours.
- Keep your work area tidy and neat so that it feels like a work environment.
- Take your breaks just like you would when working at work.
- Maintain consistency in your work habits.
Upgrade Your Internet
Working from home implies using your home computer and home computer network to do your office job at home. This is not a time for slow internet.
- Upgrade your internet connection to as fast as you can afford.
- Ask your accountant if the speed increase or the regular internet payments are tax-deductible.
- If feasible, run a wired connection from your modem/router to your computer. It’s more secure than an unsecured wifi connection and also much faster.
Stay In Touch with Workmates
At Cornell Engineers, we use an application called Slack to stay in touch with each other and it works on phones, tablets, and desktop computers.
There are plenty of other communication options available to businesses to allow in-house communication but we like Slack because it is easy to use, the version we use is free and it has channels that allow us to split our communications into ‘rooms’.
Whether we are in the same office or spread out across the state, Slack makes it easy for us to stay in touch with our work and our (less often) private chats.
Ask your boss or your workmates if you can try a program like Slack while you’re working from home. It cuts down on emails, makes you feel like one of the team and reduces home office loneliness!
Get Face to Face or at Least Voice to Voice
Yes, this is going to get harder before it gets easier, but having face to face time with the people you work with or your clients helps reduce the feeling of isolation and loneliness.
If face to face meetings aren’t possible, at the very least pick up the phone and talk to someone.
Phone conversations are already a little more difficult than a face to face conversation because you can’t watch the other person’s face, but a telephone conversation has the benefit over emails in that you can ensure your message has been received and understood.
That’s not always the case with an email.
It’s fine to follow a phone call up with an email if you need to verify your conversation but a phone call reduces loneliness, allows you to engage in two-way communication and is a more effective use of your time than many, miscommunicated ideas by email.
Pick up the phone and make a call.
Finish on Time
It is so super easy to keep working when you work at home. You can stay buried ion your work, ignore the distractions and plow through your work for hours.
For working at home to work – literally work – you need to stop work when it’s time to stop work.
We’ve talked about avoiding distractions – but sometimes working from home so is super-easy you hardly notice that hours have passed. The dog still needs walking. The kids still need to be fed.
Don’t let your work take over your life.
When it’s time to stop working – stop working.
Pack up, close down the computer connection and resume your life.
It is super-critical you do this when you work from home. It is the difference between working from home working for you and your boss and your family and you burning yourself out.
This is as much a message about coronavirus as it is about your daily life.
Try to observe those healthy habits that you have formed while working at work. Still go to the gym. Still walk morning and night. Still enjoy a run or a swim or a hike.
Coronavirus is a virus. It spreads easily. It will have affected most of us by this time next year. Keep healthy. Keep your immune system up. Keep your healthy habits. Look after yourself.
Coronavirus is Not the End of the World
This is a tricky time to be alive. Many social changes will occur. Things may well get worse before they get better. But it is not the end of the world.
- Conserve essentials instead of bulk buying in a panic.
- Look after each other and especially the elderly, the young and those who cannot look after themselves.
- Spread goodwill. Try to do something nice for someone every day.
- Be on the lookout for ways you can make a difference to someone’s day.
- Be kind.
It’s not the end of the world. Stay positive, careful and kind. And enjoy the freedom of working from home. Just remember to control your working from home experience and don’t let it control you.