COVID-19: How to work from home safely and successfully
The world has changed, and all of us are having to adapt and readjust to new ways of living and working now we are faced with COVID-19 reality. It’s likely that increasing numbers will be working from home (WFH), so this will challenge business leaders and managers in new ways too.
At Riskex, we have set up systems in preparation to help our team continue to be productive and empowered when they are WFH. Our clients will still need our services, AssessNET will still function 24/7, and we are grateful for our team pulling together to do whatever it takes.
We realise that there are some job functions that cannot be done anywhere other than on-site. Also, everyone’s home circumstances and challenges will vary, particularly if you have young children around. Fortunately, many people will be able to continue their job, so here are some tips for successful WFH – feel free to share and help us all keep the business community wheels turning.
Claim a space
Just as you have a designated area at work, find somewhere at home where you can set up an efficient flowing workspace. Psychologically, this will be very important, and you might want to choose somewhere that you can close a door on the rest of your family or housemates. Avoid using your bed, instead try to find a table where you can create a desk area that you keep tidy and clear away as you finish, so that it is fresh and inviting the next day.
Watch your posture
Health and safety matters everywhere, even at home. Ideally, to comply with DSE (Display Screen Equipment) guidance, your desk should have a monitor connected to your laptop, a keyboard and mouse – rather than using your laptop screen.
If you don’t have a monitor, then you could use your laptop screen raised up to the correct height on a pile of books, with a keyboard and mouse attached.
Your posture and DSE use are important wherever you work, so if you are able to, invest in a good office chair. If you can’t do this, an upright chair will help you have the right mindset. Make sure you are sitting back in it, fully supported, and be aware of your spine’s posture. If it has a wooden back and it’s uncomfortable, drape a soft folded blanket over the back to make it easier to sit for long periods.
If you don’t have access to a table and chair, then choose a space (other than your bed, which is very poor for posture) and try using a food tray, or padded lap desk to support your laptop on your knees.
Stick to a routine
This is really important for successful WFH. You might find it helpful to start with fresh air, by having a “commute” – take a short brisk walk early in the day, as if you have gone to work, and feel invigorated when you sit down to start work. Bear in mind that if the Coronavirus crisis deepens, you may be confined to your home, as we have seen in Spain.
Make sure you start your day early and stick to a schedule. It’s important to tell everyone in your household to leave you alone. This might be challenging with children around, so accept that there will be distractions. Try to minimise these and design a timetable where you can dedicate chunks of time to others but focus the majority on your work. Focus on urgent tasks first, knowing that distractions may happen later in the day.
This is a challenging time for anyone who has not worked from home before, and it can feel isolating not being able to interact around the office. Find ways of keeping your communication channels open and inclusive. Design reporting documents that can be updated in real-time, so that everyone knows the status of projects.
Organise online meetings for key team members. At Riskex, we “meet” online at the start and end of each day, as well as any other times that might be necessary. Make sure all members of your team know they are supported and being heard, to keep the motivation going.
Regarding your schedule and avoiding interruptions from people at home, if you have an important online call coming up, let everyone know in advance, and make sure you have a quiet space to do this. Noise-cancelling headphones can be invaluable.
Have regular breaks
Productivity levels and your health and safety are both priorities, and short breaks will help your mental wellbeing. During your breaks, avoid the temptation to check social media or TV as these can quickly spiral into much longer times away from work.
Set an alarm on your phone – try working for 25 minutes and then having a 5-minute break to stretch, do some deep breathing, arm circling etc. Another format is to work for 60-90 minutes and then have a 15-minute break, take some fresh air, or make a hot drink and use the time for “brain-space”.
Schedule a proper lunch break
Just as you would do at work, make a scheduled break away from your work to eat a healthy and nutritious meal, and focus on enjoying it. If there are others at home with you, enjoy the social interaction, and give your brain and eyes time away from computers and devices. If it’s possible, go for a walk and get some fresh air, while observing hygiene and social distancing advice while you are out.
If you’re on your own, now is a good time to call family or friends. Make sure you focus on your wellbeing and mental health and take steps to avoid feeling disconnected or lonely. Working at home alone can feel isolated, so you might find a radio station playing quietly in the background very helpful to break the silence.
Accept that distractions may happen
When working from home, particularly when there are others home too, it can be easy to be distracted, and this will be unavoidable – but you can set boundaries to limit it. Young children can be kept within your eye-line, maybe in a play pen or in front of the TV. Older children should be taught that there is a “no-interruption rule” and agree under what circumstances this can be broken.
As for the temptation to catch up with chores while you are WFH, you’ll need the self-discipline to stick to your work schedule. Agree with yourself that if you were at work you wouldn’t be able to do them, so they will have to wait until you have finished your workday.
Make sure you stop
The temptation can be to carry on working into the evening, and this may not be good for your mental wellbeing in the long term. Decide on a time to finish work and stick to it – find a convenient place to pause in a task so that you can easily pick it up again the next day. Make a definite disconnect from your work, tidy your work area and leave it behind until tomorrow.
And just as you started with an invigorating walk in the morning, if it’s possible, have another walk to finish your day, clear your head and plan what you will do to relax in the evening. Switch off your work devices, unless there are operational reasons for you to be “on-call”, and focus your mind on other things.
To sum it all up
The business challenges the world is facing mean we all have to adapt and be creative. The pandemic doesn’t mean that life has to grind to a halt. With the right mindset, and taking sensible steps to maintain health, safety and wellbeing, working from home means businesses can support one another. We need to pull together to survive this, so please share this page to help others meet the challenge.