As the world comes to a screeching halt due to the pandemic, there is a growing concern about managing work remotely. If the negative news weren’t enough, professionals are lamenting about being locked up at home. Whether you have a desk job or you’re out & about, the biggest impact on individuals is the daily routine. This phase is teaching us survival instincts and ways to work around with what we have.
Being a writer, isolation is second nature to me. Writers are known to living in a dreamy world they’ve created with no distractions, just words floating around like atoms.
I never took a sabbath to write. Writing was left for nights & weekends, as a pastime. So it was always a happy phase, an ideal world. Never did I realize what would happen if I really was left to write (or work, rather) for days locked-up in a room. It is my dream to have a house by the sea or in mountains overlooking a river, leading a secluded life spent only on writing my novel(s). It was a concluding ‘one-day-some-day’ statement to my friends who’d ask me what’s my future plan.
But ‘work’ is a different thing. It’s not a hobby. It’s a responsibility. Even though I love what I do, still, it cannot substitute the ‘writing desk in the mountains’ dream. And working from home isolated is a different challenge.
I have approached Work From Home with some basic principles that has helped me not just cope, but conquer the regime. Below are few pointers which anybody can instill in their schedule and see positive results.
Treat home as office – The biggest change we all experience is treating home as home and going off the regular routine. If you’re working actively from home, then pretend you’re in office. Get up at the same time as on official days, exercise, take a shower and enjoy a hearty, slow breakfast. This mimics the official routine and tricks your brain into thinking you’re at work.
Dress up Formal – It gives you a feeling of being at work and doesn’t tempt you to laze off on sofa or bed. And this way, when you log-off in the evening, you look forward to change into house clothes. That happy feeling to be in lounge wear, comfortably tucked into the corner of sofa watching Netflix and…you guessed it right, chill.
Utilize the extra time in morning – With the time saved on commuting in the morning; spend it on reading news, listening to podcasts, honing your skills (writing, learning musical instrument, cooking, working on your social media strategy), or just about anything that makes you more productive and ticks off your ‘I-always-wanted-to-do-but-no-time’. You’ve earned this extra time, spend judiciously and wisely.
Don’t get comfortable – Working from home can tempt you to lie on bed with laptop perched on your legs. That’s a wrong practice. Ditch the lethargy. Use a table-chair (can also use dining table chair if you don’t have a dedicated working desk at home). This keeps your back straight, makes you more active and more productive.
Increase interactions and conclusions – When there is no real human interaction, let there be virtual interactions. Our team was found to be more productive working on virtual calls and brainstorming. Because we take these calls more seriously (and punctually) than the office brainstorming sessions, as everyone comes prepared with ideas, concepts and references. There is conclusion to our calls as we know the objectives and understand these are time-bound. Having multiple calls a day also keeps a tab on productivity and progress, which is especially helpful in creative fields.
Use productivity tools – It’s not easy to replicate the same routine from home. But we can take help from so many productivity tools to make life easy. Use task manager apps to help you regulate your tasks systematically (I love Microsoft’s OneNote, Google’s Keep Notes & GTasks, and Evernote). Utilize apps for managing team’s workload and project management with tools like Asana, Microsoft’s Planner, Trello, Zoho etc. Don’t interact with your teams on WhatsApp, but use professional team collaboration apps like Slack, Microsoft’s Teams, Monday.com etc.
Talk about positive news, not positive cases – Try not to share negative news, people are already wary of them anyway reading day & night, and it mars the flow of a working day.
Take breaks – The official hours tend to dilute when you’re working from home, especially around lunch time or evening. Maintain a strict routine. Take regular breaks for stretching, drinking water, coffee, having fruits, talk to family or just a small walk in the house. Eat lunch at regular time and take a small break thereafter to relax a bit.
Waste the golden hour – There should be a clear transition from working to getting back home. In the evening, pretend you’re going back home to complete the chores, cook, skype with family & friends or watch TV. This is the time to pause. Watch the sunset and golden hour, listen to music, explore social media…indulge in wasting time and rewarding yourself for a productive day.
Log-off – In the evening, just shut down your system so that there is no further distractions. Initially, I had my system on up till late at night, so that I could tend to emails or any pending work that was on my mind. And that’s the trick. If you have the system on, something would still be on your mind. So log-off, shut off, relax.
P.S. – This article is written post work hours. Because that’s still how my brain works, compartmentalizing the pastime writing into off-hours.