As increasing numbers of people work from home because of the Coronavirus, MPMIT provides top tips to help you maintain your professional poise and manage your time so you can keep your balance and avoid burning out.
Will it be tea (or coffee) and biscuits, the sofa and Netflix or fevered squirrelling away at the computer? Clearly, there are distractions at home but many people actually tend to work harder than when in the office, simply because there are fewer interruptions.
You don’t have to travel, which can save a few hours, and you don’t have the distractions of office life such as loud co-workers, endless meetings, chatter, answering the phone for colleagues and so on. As a result, you can concentrate solely on work if you can successfully navigate the pitfalls of working from home.
So how can you best manage your workload, maintain your professional poise and still work like a champion from home?
Your very own space
If you’ve got a dedicated workspace at home, that’s great. You can use it as an office. If you don’t you need to carve out a workspace that’s off-limits to other family members. You don’t have to set landmines and roll out barbed wire but there need to be some clear boundaries. There’s nothing worse than being on a work call, in a virtual meeting or trying to get something finished than being plagued by children’s endless waves of screaming, a yapping dog, mewing cat or doorbell ringing.
Be responsive. Get in the habit of sending a prompt reply whenever you get an email, even if it’s just to say, “Got it,” or, “I’ll get back to soon.” If you don’t, your colleagues might assume that you’re slumped on the sofa, tea and biscuits in hand, and binge-watching Netflix. And it goes without saying that you need to do your best to be available for conference calls or other collaborations, even if you don’t have strict work hours and other participants are in a time zone from hell.
Virtual dress code
Virtual meetings will surely play a part in your home-based work and may even require your video presence. Is there a dress code for video calls? Common sense dictates that you look reasonably polished, from the waist up at least. Pyjamas, vests and bed hair are probably best avoided.
Present and able
When your presence is required in a virtual work meeting but you don’t need to speak, it’s a good idea to be present rather than doing the ironing, putting the kettle on or tickling the baby, even if you are on mute. You never know when somebody is going to say; “What do you think…?” and you suddenly have to be ‘creative’ because while you were listening in you were also not listening at all.
Who was it who said, “Be Prepared”? It doesn’t really matter but it’s a handy motto for working from home. In practical terms, this means ensuring your computing equipment is in tip top shape and loaded with the latest in protection and privacy. Working from home sometimes translates to working where ever you are, which sometimes may not necessarily be at home. It goes without saying that antivirus protection is essential but have you ever considered a VPN (virtual private network)? A VPN keeps all your communications with the office private, whether you’re at home, visiting a client or travelling. For secure communications between you and your clients, colleagues, boss it’s just as essential as antivirus software.
Sharing docs and backing up
You may have some monster-sized docs to work on from home which are too heavy for email even when compressed. Or there might just be a lot of docs flying back and forth. As such it’s a good idea to have cloud-based storage service that can be shared between colleagues. It’s simpler than sending and receiving docs and makes it easier to work on documents that other people are contributing to, so you’re always working from the latest version. And of course, it goes without saying that back-ups at the end of the day are essential to safeguard against loss.
Keep it clean
Here’s an odd thought; every minute of the day we lose about 30,000 to 40,000 dead skin cells from the surface of our skin. In practice, this means lots and lots of dust on your computers on top of the accrued detritus that’s already there. Cleaning your computers, including your smartphone, is important so it’s a good idea to use a proper cleansing agent. Computers are generally not amenable to water. Alcohol wipes are a good alternative and also keep your devices free of bugs when you’re out and about.
Nail down time management
When working from home time can blur and it’s easy to find yourself working without taking a break, which of course, will backfire at some point with mistakes, over tiredness and a creeping reluctance to drag yourself back to the computer. This is why breaks are important. Think of your work from home as a day in the office and don’t deprive yourself of breaks. You’ll find that you can work consistently well rather than go through the peaks and troughs of unstructured working days.
The MPMIT Team, offering local IT support in byte sized chunks to Micro businesses and Sole Traders in the Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Stowmarket and the surrounding areas.