Working from home

Louisa Nana, General Manager: Risk and Resilience Advisory, Protean Business Solutions

Those of you working from will be familiar with some of the arguments for and against this work strategy. One of the arguments against it is that employees tend to take advantage of their employers and do not honour their obligations.

Working from home should not fundamentally change your moral values, however. If you are honest, you will be honest in any environment. If you tend to arrive at work on time, or even earlier, is there any reason why you would not stick to your morning routine at home? A morning routine that may include meditation or prayer, exercise, a shower and getting dressed to go to work should continue in a home setting. The added benefit is that you may set your alarm to go off a little bit later as there is no school run or traffic to contend with. Why not take advantage of a more flexible schedule to catch up on extra sleep, read a book, walk in your garden or do some yoga before sitting down at your desk and putting in the necessary hours?

A morning routine is essential to starting your day and making sure you are mentally ready to switch from sleep mode to work mode. Always dress for work – working in your pyjamas will keep your mind firmly in sleep mode. Wear something comfortable and presentable in case you have virtual meetings or video calls with your clients, colleagues or even friends (you are still allowed a lunch hour!).

Set up an office space separate from other spaces in your home where you typically relax, prepare food, watch TV and so on. Set up a work station consisting of a desk and comfortable chair allowing you to maintain a healthy posture. If possible choose a space that receives natural light and open your window for fresh air. If you are not fortunate enough to have such a space, make sure you can at least control the temperature in a room, so you can remain awake and energised.

You need to set some boundaries, which is easier if you plan your day the night before. Schedule time for meetings or calls, morning and afternoon tea breaks, as well as a lunch break. It is very important to set a time to stop working for the day. It is so easy just to continue working, or read or respond to just one more email. You can easily find yourself working more than 10 hours a day, and this will lead you to become less productive and eventually burn out.

Now that you are home, recognise the importance of breakfast and make a healthy, hearty breakfast, which you may otherwise have skipped had you been rushing to get the kids ready for school. You will feel more productive and energetic, and less inclined to reach for those unhealthy mid-morning snacks.

Drink lots of water during the day to remain hydrated and focused. You will also want to schedule your tea or coffee breaks, giving you the opportunity to stretch, get away from your desk, check on your family and your pets. By scheduling your mid-morning and afternoon tea or coffee breaks (with healthy snack), you won’t get distracted and leave your desk every five minutes to look in the fridge or cupboard for something to eat.

Lunch time is very important, too. Plan and make a light, healthy lunch for you and your family. Sit at the table and chat. If you are alone, set up a virtual lunch with a family member or friends, and spend the time socialising and talking about your day.

Setting up time to virtually connect with others is vitally important for your emotional state. Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Skype are easy to use with your manager and colleagues. Share what you are doing and celebrate accomplishments while strategising how to overcome challenges. This will help everyone feel like they are part of the team and still working towards a common goal or objective.

If you are using company laptops, desktops, printers, scanners, WiFi devices, data and so on, take care of everything entrusted to you and use it for company business only. Don’t eat or drink at your desk, or let your spouse or children use the equipment for their own purposes, like school projects or watching movies. Set some ground rules and prohibit others from using the equipment you are ultimately responsible for. Comply with your company’s IT policies, too.

Working from home will be more challenging for some than others – however, we need to remember that this is new to everyone. It’s important to have empathy for one another’s situations.

If you’re a manager and unsure as to whether your employees are working efficiently, schedule a chat with them and talk about realistic expectations. Perhaps they are having connectivity issues or are looking after a family member who is ill. We need to realise that working from home under current conditions has never been done before. Give yourself and others a break! As the weeks go by, we will all get better at it.