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So the UK is heading into week 2 of the COVID 19 lockdown. A whole bunch of people will have been working from home, for the first time, for a few days now.
My life has been hectic for a couple of weeks, getting first time home workers setup with laptops, or showing them how to set up their home computers to safely use the company systems. Looking at the servers, and the support calls it seems that the exercise has been successful.
In fact the helpdesk team suggested that we had achieved this far more easily than most. Pleased with that as I have been planning the work from home approach for a while. As IT Manager / Head of IT for the group that employs me, the brunt of enabling home workers has fallen to me.
But home working is not just about the technology. There are many little actions and activities that mark our daily work activities. Without those some do struggle to keep their work days on track.
For a number of years my home was my office. In my present role I can often find my day starting with a 6:00 a.m system issue, and just continuing, at home, from there. My own systems give me access anytime and anywhere as long as I have an internet connection.
Here are some thoughts on the subject.
Working from Home – Routine
Routine marks most days. We get out of bed, do whatever morning routine, perhaps shower, eat breakfast and then commute.
Keep the routine. Get out of bed, get ready for work. Aim to head to your work space as you would arrive at work. You are probably going to save time on the commute, so relax a bit. But also think about the plan for the day ahead. Exactly as you would on your way to work.
Go To Work
OK, it’s just into your own workspace, but make a point of going there. Do what you would normally do in going to work. Get a cup of tea or coffee. message or phone a colleague for a quick chat before you start.
Maintaining communication is essential to avoiding a feel in of isolation.
I once knew somebody who would get dressed, including tie and jacket, and head for the office. That meant climbing the stairs to his home office in the loft, where he would lose the jacket and get on with a day’s work.
It’s important to mark the change from "home" to "work"
Make a point of taking tea breaks, as you would at work. It is very easy at home to get "in the groove" and ignore your own needs. Set an alarm if you need to.
Stop Work and “Go Home”
Make a point, at the end of the work day, of closing down and stopping. When you are in the office, there are all sorts of prompts which tell you it’s knock off and go home time. You have a life. Just because you are working from home doesn’t change that.
Working from Home-Your Workspace
You do need a comfortable place to work. Some just use a laptop on the dinming room table. That’s my home office in the picture, pretty much in it’s normal state, but in week end "blogging and photo mode". Swop the Chromebook for a work laptop and the work day goes on.
Actually there’s a linux laptop buried underneath (flick a switch and it’s on the main screen), and a test laptop on the side. In reality, I can access the work systems from any one of those machines, but I make a point of switching to the work laptop – it helps me go from "home" to "work".
And The Family
And that’s where it all comes apart. You are at home. Children of any age will take a while to understand that your being at home does not mean you are available all day. For that matter spouses can also have the same view.
Family needs may break your routine, and it will take a while for them to accept the new routine. Just keep your cool and adapt to their wants where necessary. It’s been a long time, but I remember going through just that – trying to get work done, while everyone wants a piece of you.
The Technical Stuff
Most people will be working from home using a computer and mobile phone to get the job done. Your IT support team will have given some sort of guidance, so follow it, don’t try and be an expert in an area where you are not.
Much will depend Some pointers:
- Do as much as you can offline. This keeps the unusual load off your broadband, the networks and your company servers;
- If possible, unload as much as you can from your broadband. You don’t need your kindle, mobile phone, laptop, TV, music system, etc., all connected;
- There’s an old IT comment: “Engage brain before keyboard”, which leads to a common IT problem “Problem between chair and keyboard” (think about it!). Think before calling support, and how you will explain your problem – they are also battling a whole new world. For a whoile bunch of people.
Summing It Up
Working from home sounds great. Until you actually do it. Then you realise that it is not that easy, and does take some adaption. Step back and think through how you will do it or are trying to do it. It is different.
Personally I find myself being more productive at home than in the office.
Hope this helps!
Keep safe and stay well!