Home alone...

22 March 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has already cost local jobs. There are businesses under extreme pressure and there will be more of our friends and colleagues who lose employment as a result.

For others, there has been instruction to work from home to "flatten the curve".

Further, and to complicate matters even more, many children are now learning from home with parents acting as tutors. Obviously, not everyone can be at their place of residence.

It is impossible to build a house from home, or care for the sick and elderly in hospitals and high-dependency units, or to work in a café, pub or restaurant, or to teach when schools are open, or to stack the shelves with the groceries that we desperately require to hoard.

For someone like me, having an office based at home was never on the radar.

As a social character who enjoys a chat and listening to stories, the idea of a home-office appears at odds with my personality.

In previous roles, I relied on camaraderie, strategic thinking, and the collective enthusiasm of others, which was borne of daily face-to-face interactions that drove me to be better.

It was an accountability measure where turning up made you available, busy, determined to assist, and driven to complete tasks in support of colleagues.

There is a perception that working from home is bliss.

It certainly can be with efficiency and productivity often increased due to the lack of interruptions.

However, there are several tips which can assist to counter the pitfalls and traps that inevitably eventuate when working from home or from a hotel room.

Create a home office or designated workspace

The dining table may be closer to the kettle and fridge, but it is not a great workspace. An ergonomic chair, an adjustable desk, multiple power points, and good lighting that reduces computer screen glare are crucial. Additionally, a quiet space where noise interruptions can be minimised is preferable.

Start your workday on time

It is important that you begin work in your home office or designated workspace at the same time you would have if you physically went to work. This doesn't mean that you need to wear a suit and tie as I have already heard some are choosing in preparation for a Skype meeting, but it does mean you are punctual; the kids are off to school and you are at your desk.

Your diary is your friend

Scheduling meetings and tasks remains essential. It will keep you accountable and focussed. A sense of accomplishment will also be reward as you tick-off your to-do list. As we have seen on viral social media videos, children will burst in after school or when at home to tell you something, or more frequently, to inform you that they can't find an item required for practice... Set boundaries through communicating expectations and meeting times with your family, and the plumber and the home deliverer of online purchases etc...

Stay in regular contact with colleagues and friends

Although much has changed in recent weeks, regular catch-ups to maintain professional and social contact is crucial. Meeting with others ensures that you will not let them down unless a pressing matter eventuates. It also ensures you leave the house and talk to people without the use of technology. Joint projects using Google Docs, or OneNote, or Zoom is also an excellent way to remain connected and confident that the work you are producing is high quality.

Take regular breaks and go outside

Breaks are even more important when working from home because you can quickly develop a don't worry about it attitude when on your own. Try not to eat your lunch, often a cheese and ham toasted sandwich because the kids have cleared out the interesting food, at your desk. Not only will you leave grease all over your computer, you won't have a break away from the screen and phone. Lunchtime is also perfect to consider dinner requirements. Defrosting meat at the last moment will no longer be the bane of your evening routine.

When weather permits, go outside. The sun has amazing power - it can burn, but also makes you feel good, stimulating the brain to release serotonin, which can boost your mood. Don't allow working at a desk without venturing outside to become your reality. Walk the dog. Hang out that load of washing which has been in the barrel for two-hours longer than it should!

Appreciate your playlists

Depending on your mood, the task, and the way you like to work, music can be important. Quite honestly, I struggle to focus without the tunes. And my go to, at present ...Taylor Swift.

Working from home is a privilege and, in times of a crisis such as COVID-19, a necessity for many. The next number of months will provide a challenge for us all, but if we can help through staying connected and supporting local businesses, the recovery may be somewhat easier.