Some years ago, I decided to permanently work from home. Today it is not a problem for me. But I still remember all the challenges I went through. As I can see now more people struggling with new situation, I will share my practical tips:
Phase 1 – routines.
Try to keep your daily routines as much as it is possible. This is not holiday – this is work. You get up as usual (maybe a little later as you do not have to commute). You put on your make up or shave or make your hair, whatever you usually do. Start you work the same time as it was during office times. My friend is so strict with that rule that if he is ready for work at 8.50 a.m., he is watching some additional news for 10 minutes to start 9 a.m. sharp. If you enjoyed every morning jogging – do it. If you walked to the office – you can do a little walk before you start (beware of current local restrictions). Business as usual except – you stay at home. Change from office to your home is already big one. Do not change too much.
Phase 2 – chair.
If you work from your office there are many things you take for granted. For me the most important one was simple chair. Initially you might think that it is good to work from your sofa, but very quickly you back is going to punish you. You are not able to work with your computer from your sofa longer than 1-2 hours. Probably chairs from you dining table are also not as good as you think. Remember this nice adjustable chair from your office – that is your friend. As you are not going to work from home just couple days – make sure your place for work is suitable. That means – get for yourself proper chair. Otherwise you will need medical support, that today might be impossible to find.
Phase 3 – daily schedule.
The most probably you are not the only person at home. There might be your partner also learning how to work from home. There might be your kids. That requires daily planning. This is nothing unusual but this time you do it with different people – with your family. Your calendar is going to look different. You have to coordinate your calls with calls scheduled by your partner. If you have kids – schedule who and when is taking care of them. Instead of many different meetings you will see that you will have you son’s homework at 1pm. But you cannot do many things at the same time. You cannot work while cooking or taking care of kids. I know it is difficult, but you kept this separation of duties going to the office. This time you have to put tasks from different worlds into one calendar. And mutually agree your calendar with your partner!!! This is good exercise how to work as equal parties.
Phase 4 – distractions.
The whole environment at office is created to make you focus on your duties. At home it is opposite. You experience so many distractions that for the first couple of days you will do very little. Your kids probably will not understand that your attention is on something else than their needs. You will test if it is better to work with good music o not. What is good music for work? Your big enemy is your fridge. You no longer need go to canteen as all the snacks are within reach. Here from day one you have to apply strict rule – if I am at work, I do my work as usually. That is why we need routines and daily schedules. Your work might be performed in the phases. You might have 2 hours of work and then 1-hour break for taking care of kids. But while you planned a time for work – you are in “the office”. Locked from outside. If you do not have your music at the office – you work without it. If you do not have snacks on your desk daily – fridge is closed. And tell you parents and friends – I am at home, but I am working. I will call you, have coffee with you, chat with you only when I am done with my work.
Phase 5 – end of day.
Your work is new guest at your home. But make sue that this guest is not going to preoccupy you. Going to office means there is a clean cut when you finish your work. After that sometimes you read e-mail, sometimes answer phone call, but in principle – you do not work. You do other things.
Working from home might make you stay “at work” all the time. To avoid this you must make a clear cut. As in Phase 4 – to avoid distractions you need to make a barrier between your wok and the rest of daily activities, in Phase 5 you need to be able to “put your wok to bed” at fixed time. You should act as you returned from office. Occasional message – yes, maybe one extra call. But no regular work “after hours”.
Phase 6 – communication.
You are not going anywhere but you are still a part of community. Keep contact with everybody. Make every team member, you are working with, feeling that you are still working together. Use different kind of communicators, so you can ask short question without interfering. Say “Good morning” when you start, and “Goodbye” when you finish your work to everybody. Organize discussions and make sure that participants stay active and focus. Contact your customers and check if they are not willing to have discussion on new business concepts. This is opportunity to make better relations, although remotely. Remember – we are social creatures. We must communicate to feel well.
Phase 7 – this is not business as usual.
I can hear this mantra all the time – this is business as usual. This is not business as usual. It is enough to look into your calendar and you can spot the difference. All the previous phases have prepared you for the major change – the way you are making business is no longer the same and probably never going to be the same. So, take this as an opportunity to create your pattern. Influence how you and your team are working. Remove everything you though is redundant in the way you make your business. This is opportunity to create a new environment.