The move to work from home during the COVID-19 lockdown may seem ideal, but it comes with its own set of challenges. Unlike the office, your home is not designed solely for work and doing so requires a special approach to ensure you remain productive. Known as telecommuting, the idea is to treat your work as a physical place you still “commute” to using your digital devices rather than your car, and create a space at home you can dedicate solely to work.
The first step is to establish a time and space for your work. Prepare for each day as you would any other office day and keep your routine. Following the same morning routine will help mentally prepare for switching to work mode even though you are still at home. Make sure you have a dedicated work space away from the TV, kids, cooking, or any other distractions around your home. Finally, let the people you are living with know your work schedule to avoid interruption. Putting a sign on your door with “on a call/in a meeting, do not disturb” is a great way to ensure that nobody knocks on the door, plays loud music, etc. during critical moments of your day.
Once you have established a solid working space, the next step is to make sure your digital devices are properly functional and secure. Test your main communication program – Skype for Business, Zoom, WhatsApp – regularly making sure to check the quality of the audio, visuals, and its security. Some programs are encrypted, offering more security than others; refer to your IT services at work if you need the extra safety. In the same way, there is always a risk of sending documents to the wrong recipient. To avoid such incidents, double check the email you are sending it to and encode any critical documents. If you are holding a conference call, agree ahead of time and delegate someone to take the minutes of the meeting. Internet connectivity being what it is, there is always the risk that some things can be misunderstood when on a call which might result in duplication of work or unnecessary tasks. Keeping minutes of your meetings helps ensure clear and specific courses of action and dispersion of responsibilities.
Finally, take adequate breaks to move around and clear your head. When the work day is over, shut down your equipment and move to a different space. Small cues letting your brain and body know you have moved from “work-mode” to “family time” or “personal time” can help prevent burnout and feeling overwhelmed. Remember to look after your physical health too by getting enough exercise, having healthy snacks at your disposal, and avoiding unnecessary visits to the kitchen. Putting all these different elements into practice will allow you to remain productive while you stay home and stay safe, and will also allow you to better adjust back to a normal work schedule when lockdown is over.
Dr. Jennifer Abou Hamad
Assistant Professor, Department of Management and Marketing, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics and Director of Human Resources