Working from home has several advantages, in that it allows you more flexibility to manage your time – and even to implement some productivity tips much more easily: would you do jumping jack exercises in the middle of the office to reactivate your body and refresh your mind?
I don’t think so. Now that your home is your office, however, you can.
But there are some very typical mistakes that blur the lines between what is work and what is not; I assume you already know some of them (like not having a specific separate space to work, or not dressing properly) so I will focus on the less obvious ones and pick five of the most important ones.
1] Adaptation and Responsibility
Thinking that it’s the management OR it’s the employees that “need to” take care of the adaptation to the new situation. What happens often is that one group thinks that the responsibility is on the other (and vice versa) and this is a major mistake that creates unresolved tension and conflicts.
It’s a shared goal and endeavour so, whichever group you are in, remember to:
A) observe and listen: understand the needs of the others, especially the unspoken ones.
B) tell and commit: avoid expecting that “the others” read your mind… we all are in an uncommon setting so, now more than ever, speak out politely what are your assumptions, your expectations, and what you need to move forward properly!
2] Technology and Training
At the beginning of the pandemic there was an overabundant share of those videos where someone was doing something weird (with camera and audio on) while being in a videoconference, and that managed to get a laugh out of you. Fast-forward almost one year, many people still struggle with some of the tools that they have to use to interact remotely. And to be fair, some tools don’t help either.
How to solve this?
A) Provide the right tools. Remember point #1 above? Talk together to check that the tools you have are both adequate and fit for purpose when people work from home. Things evolve over time, so let this be a periodic check.
B) Provide the right guidance. Explain (for real) how the technology works and ensure that everyone can work smoothly with it.
3] Emotions and Environment
Working remotely is totally different than working face to face with other people (yes I know this part is obvious); we are “social animals” and, as such, we need energy and interactions to keep our brain stimulated and our emotional part healthy. More than you might realise. And yes, even if you are an introvert (maybe just to a lesser extent).
Remember point #1 above? Check if you (and your colleagues) can work in a proper environment, or at least create some decent space and separation for being full-time at home and work from there. And ensure that your (and your colleagues’) emotions are ok; it’s easy to ask for something when we are at an arm’s length, whereas it might feel frustrating and lonely when bound to the chair and having only virtual contact with the external world.
Remember point #1 above?
Check this. Especially the emotional part. Frequently. And with empathy.
4] Breaks and Planning
Everything now happens in the same space and the same environment, it’s too easy to blur the lines between what is work and what is not work. You find yourself checking Facebook or doing something inside the house just because you saw it, when you should actually be working… and you find yourself working, when it’s already past 8pm.
Plan and Share. Schedule your breaks, especially the main ones (lunch, dinner, mid-morning and mid-afternoon) and then share it with your colleagues, with your managers and, yes, with your household as well!
Remember point #1 above? It’s only by being clear about your needs and open to discussion that you can achieve better performance (which is what the company needs) thanks to your better quality of life (which is what you need and want).
5] Support and Guidance
We are in a very different context, and when you are inside (and part of) a mechanism it’s difficult to have an objective view of that, and even less to initiate a change.
Remember point #1 above? You might not know how to work better, and your managers might not know it either. And this is normal I guess; it’s not your job or what you are expert at. As for everything when you want to master a new area, sport, activity, or skill, you will save yourself a lot of time and stress and gain in the quality of results if you follow a course, a training, an expert, a coaching. There are a number of options on different topics, for different categories and for any range of price – including free.
It’s only by opening up your eyes, your ears and your mind that you can do it for you, and for the people around you.
And after that, it’s only by speaking up for yourself that you can improve the conditions for you and for the people around you – not just your colleagues, but your family as well.