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How to successfully work from home during the coronavirus crisis

With the corona-virus lockdown, homeworking is going to be a different scenario for many (even those who are used to working from home), because it is likely that the whole family will be doing the same. Adults will be vying for workspace while trying to supervise children in their schoolwork too. Here are some useful tips to help make working from home a little easier in the coming months:
  • Be organised and have a work plan for everyone in your home. Make sure that you all know what work needs to be done and what goals need to be achieved each day. It is a good idea to start every morning with a ‘to do’ list of activities.

  • As tempting as it might be to catch up on TV between making phone calls and staying in your pyjamas until lunch time, it is much easier to stay motivated if you stick to a normal working day routine – i.e. get up, get dressed and be ready to get to work at a sensible time.

  • Set aside a work area every day. If you are lucky enough to have a spare room, then set this up as your workspace and at the end of the working day close the door. If you don’t have free space, work at the kitchen table, in your bedroom; or anywhere you have space – but it important for your mental well-being to clear away your work tools at the end of every day (otherwise, it is difficult to mentally switch off and compartmentalise work related issues from everyday life.)

  • If you have school age children at home set up a group working area (maybe at the kitchen or dining room table). This will help to motivate children to do their own work and help them to appreciate and respect the work that you do too.

  • For those with pre-school children, juggling work in the day without childcare is going to be difficult. Flexibility is key and employers need to focus on task completion rather than fixed working hours. It may be easier and less stressful for everyone to work during the evenings when little ones are tucked up in bed.

  • Try to set a ‘finishing time’ each day (depending on workload) as this helps to keep things focused and manageable. Many people working from home find it hard to switch off and as your ‘desk’ is nearby 24 hours a day it’s tempting to keep dipping in and out of work. This is counterproductive as it leaves you feeling stressed and overwhelmed and unable to mentally wind down. It is better to work to your set times – and then go back to anything you missed the next day (after all, this is how it would be if you were in the office).

  • If you have children at home, keep their day structured (to fit in with your own work) but also give them variety and a little light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps no TV in the morning and schoolwork until 1pm and then maybe a fun activity together such as family walk (but avoiding other people), baking a board game or something similar.

  • Firms will certainly want to have regular conference and video calls, however we must be understanding that however much a colleague might want to shut the door on a three-year-old, it’s not always practical or possible. Perhaps conference calls can be videoed and sent out to all so that everyone is always in the loop.

  • Social media, normally frowned on in the workplace, is now a friend and many companies will have already set up Facebook and WhatsApp groups for their teams. Remember that for many people work is not just about income but fulfils their need for social interaction too. Reach out to your team now, not just about work, but with a morning joke or light-hearted banter too.

  • Importantly, make sure you keep in regular contact with your work team to ensure that you are all aware of work commitments and goals. With the coronavirus pandemic and government actions changing daily, it could be that your work goals will change too, so you all need to be singing from the same hymn sheet. Ensure you update everyone in your team if you succumb to illness, so that people are aware and can arrange to cover for you temporarily.

The next few months will be challenging for everyone – employers are worrying about their businesses; employees are worrying about job security – and everyone is worrying about their families, their health and ultimately how what the future will hold.

Self-isolating is a crucial but added challenge and the key word to help get everyone through this situation and hopefully safely out at the other end is communication. We are lucky to have the technology to allow us all to stay in touch, so stay at home, keep well, keep busy and keep talking.

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