Mrs Jones worked from home for the first time yesterday. It’s something that she, and her key worker employer, have been resisting for years. Now’s that coronavirus is upon us, the time to give it a try has finally come.
From the employer’s point of view their reluctance is, I suspect, about control, from hers it’s about routine and social interaction. She also feared there’d be too many distractions at home and she wouldn’t have the discipline for it. Strange, I thought, as she’s just about the most disciplined person I know.
So how did it go? She disappeared into my home office – I leant it to her for the day – bang on 7.30am and barely emerged again until way past her normal finish time. I helped keep her going with a couple of cups of tea and she did ask at one point what food there was as if I was responsible for organising the office canteen! Thankfully there was a half-empty – or full! – bag of dorritos and some sour cream dip.
At the end of this first day, I think it’s fair to say she was a bit of a convert. Free of interruptions she’d been highly productive, had enjoyed the extra hour in bed and didn’t miss the daily hour-long commute.
None of this surprised me. I’ve been home-working successfully for a couple of decades now and am quite an advocate. Here are my ten tips for successful home working:
- Be prepared – get your office ready for the big day, notepads, pens, bin all need to be in place.
- Get the IT sorted – make sure you can connect your work laptop to the wifi, access the shared drive, work the printer. As with any new environment this can take days to properly sort and can be very frustrating when things don’t work.
- Set up a WhatsApp group which is purely for office banter – this gives you the all-important social interaction that can help make work fun. Be careful what you say though, your employer may be able to read what you’re typing.
- Give yourself a break – resist the temptation to stay in your office all day. Go elsewhere in the house or nip out for a coffee or a bite to eat.
- Try to avoid snacking – you have a fully stocked fridge and kitchen a short walk away. Resist the temptation to pick. Best tip is don’t have any snacks in the house at all.
- Vary the routine – don’t be afraid to take your laptop and smartphone and work in another room just for a change of scene.
- Make use of the extra time – you’ll be saving hours a day getting ready for work and commuting. Use some of that time, before or after your work day, to exercise or take up a new hobby.
- Know when to stop – it’s so easy once you’re all set up to carry on working. You have to discipline yourself to stop at a certain time or else work can take over everything.
- Lock the door when you have to – other family members need to know when to leave you alone. You don’t want a Professor Robert Kelly moment happening to you – see picture above – when you’re talking to the boss!
- Focus on output – this is when home-working gets really addictive. Over time increased productivity will mean you can get the same work done in less time. You can spend less time working and achieve just as much!
From my perspective the extra hour in bed was nice, so was the lack of noisy hair-related devices that marks the start of everyday. It was also good having Mrs Jones at home, even though we had little to do with each other it was just nice to know she was nearby.
She was pleasantly surprised about how it went, saw it as something to try again and felt that, in the future, it might help in her retirement transition journey.