The times are unprecedented, and we surely don’t need to get into the impact Covid-19 is going to have on everyone’s life. I mean every living soul around you, is affected. Your family, neighbours, your plumber, your favorite coffee-shop and cafe (had to mention cafe as coffee-shop has a completely different meaning in a city like Amsterdam), your favorite restaurant, your hair salon, your favorite clothing store, your favorite book shop and so many more. Did you realize that apart from your family and plumbers, everyone mentioned above represents a business; it could be a small mom-pop store, service, a small business and large corporations. Yes, businesses have been massively affected, and everyone is trying their best to survive, let alone grow, during this time.
Many of the folks reading this post, might be working for one of these small / large companies at a salaried job, and might be enjoying (?) the luxury / convenience of working from home. Yes, it is a luxury / convenience (ask those who still need to use public transport with many folks, and visit their offices simply because they can’t work from home). While many are quite comfortable working from home (ask introverts, they are having a time of their life right now), a lot of us find it challenging to adjust to this new working environment and give their 100% to the job which now needs them more than ever (and honestly, they need to job too, and really need to perform well to keep it). You’ve got family, pets, kids, patchy internet connection, make-shift work desk and chair, AND virtual meetings. It is not easy, we know it, we realize it. However, we’ve got to do it, and below I will try to summarize a few things which worked really well for me while working from home. Let’s face it, there’s no template for this, and depends a lot on individual situation but I do believe that someway these could be applicable to you. Do give these a read and share your comments / suggestions:
The Location : This is important. If you are still trying to find the best location in your house every morning, to set up your laptop and start working, chances are you will never be ‘settled’ in the new working environment. Don’t do that to yourself, find a nice, corner location where you can cut-off from household stuff and tell everyone (including yourself) that once you are there, it will be only work. Do yourself this favour and see how it changes everything.
The right tools : If you don’t have the right laptop, keyboard, display screen (if you need it), and a high-speed internet connection, fix it right away and get rid of this small, yet impactful problem which will not let you work effectively.
The Schedule : Be disciplined. Make a schedule and stick to it. Even if it means waking up and 830AM and being on your work chair by 9. Do it, and stick to it – it’ll give you the regularity you need, and something to already plan for (for the next day) when you go to sleep. You already know you can’t mess with your schedule and it goes a long way to ensure you are able to separate out work and household stuff.
Netflix is a curse in disguise: well, at least for me. When i try to work with my smart TV in the same room, I am never able to focus on my work. I am tempted to play ‘friends’ or some other favorite show on the TV, return to the desk and get on with it. NEVER the same. Do yourself this favor and avoid setting up your desk in the same room where your TV is set-up. It might save you from a lot of distractions.
Kids / Pets: Ok, this one is a tough. If you have young kids at home and / or a pet, life is not going to be easy. For them, mommy and daddy are home a lot more often and it couldn’t get cooler. They get to spend a lot more time with you and can’t leave you alone. What worked the best for me in such a scenario, is to adjust my schedule according to theirs. Yes, that means you may not end up working for just the 8 hours between 9am and 5pm, but 2 hour slots starting at 9am and ending at 9pm. That’s fine; don’t be harsh on yourself if you need to do that. your kids will always have a lunch time, playing time and nap time – that is your dream slot. Schedule your most important calls , meetings during these times when they are busy themselves. Rest of the day, work whenever you get the chance. All the best!
Spouse / Partner: This one could be a cakewalk for some but a real nasty one for others. Totally depending on the resources you have at hand, that includes things like the size of your house, kids / pet situation, internet connection (i have the 500MBPS connection and still struggle sometimes to have a video call at the same time as my spouse), a chair table situation (if you need to share the desk) and many other nuances. The most important piece of all the things is to plan a ‘manage the kids schedule’ amongst yourself – it is practically impossible to take care of your kids together, for the whole day, if both of you are working. Figure out what time slot works best for you, and / or for your partner, and make sure someone is always there for the kids. Or, if it is a possibility, now is the best time to call your / partner’s parents to watch the kids and spend more time with them. More often than not, grandparents just love that kind of an opportunity. If you haven’t already, clear all things out – get an alignment on things like: what are the most important meetings for you and what time do these happen, never stream Netflix or 4K videos on YouTube during office hours, who cooks lunch etc and / or the stepping out of the room situation whenever there’s an urgent call / meeting. Both should be okay doing that, in fact, this is the time to be more supportive (easier said than done, I know) than ever. You’ve overcome the worst of situations together, don’t let this one bog you down.
The Team: Depends on what kind of people you have working on the same team. Many of us have amazing people (in fact, friends now) working with us, but I’ve also heard many stories on how someone is a total douchebag and pollutes the whole working environment. one way or the other, follow the classic team work principles which ensure a great working environment. The most important one being communication – always be patient if people on your team are checking in with you a lot more than usual. They are not necessarily micro-managing. More pings with your team letting them know when you are stepping away for a quick bite, or anything else, does go a long way to ensure everyone knows what you are up to (same thing goes for others too). There is no such thing called over communication, and now is the time to believe in it. Being compassionate with your team members is an important one as well, remember, the times are tough for everyone, and if you aren’t affected that bad, doesn’t mean no one else is. Their situation might be completely different from yours (positive or negative) so always show some empathy, check in with how things are going and be okay with a couple of deadlines being missed. Again, in that case too, check with them if everything is alright and if they need help. Employees are the most valuable asset for any business, and they need to be shown how much you value them.
Common-Sense: Every other day, we are getting bombarded with videos on how someone didn’t mute their mic before screaming, burping, farting or just uttering random stuff, and experienced the embarrassment of their lifetime. I received a video WhatsApp yesterday, where a guy assumed his video was off (Or he forgot to do it) during a zoom meeting with his whole team (at least 12 folks). He gets up from his desk, and he is totally nude. yep, let that sink in. The whole team is closing their eyes in disgust, while he just nonchalantly walks around the room (or his den). I’ve been wondering the small talks / chats afterwards, teammates bringing it up casually mocking him on the calls after that, and what not. Please don’t let that happen to yourself. Wear proper attire while working from home, make sure your family knows you are about to get on a call so they know to ‘behave’ a little bit while walking around in the background (and that they are appropriately dressed too).
I hope these few nuggets are helpful for you guys to cope up better in these business as (un)usual circumstances. If you like the post, do let me know by hitting the thumbs up button or by leaving a comment. Better still, share it on social media. 🙂