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Working from home – insights and tips

words by Camille Benard

April 1, 2020

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Working from home has become the new norm for many during this virus outbreak. Whether you are working alone or alongside a team, working from home is necessary in these times of quarantining. However, it might be new to many, and it might seem overwhelming. How do you separate work and leisure when they all happen in the same place? How and when can you take breaks? And where should you be working? Mehdi, our CTO and co-founder has shared with us some of his insights and tips. He’s “been working from home regularly for the last 6 years and had to manage remote teams in all (my) jobs”

Setting up a routine for yourself can help you organise your day and avoid working too much. “You don’t have to do the same routine as a regular week but do create your own working from home routine,” Mehdi says. Whether it’s waking up early and exercising, or spending time with family/housemates for breakfast, and then changing out of your pyjamas and getting ready for the day. Whatever feels right! But don’t reach for your laptop first thing in the morning, and don’t check emails and work-related things when you are having your breaks.

Before you start to work, it’s important to set up an area that is dedicated just for that. Finding a well-lit space in your living area, with a table and a chair. Mehdi says to “avoid the kitchen table if you can (to avoid snacking and breaking your back!) and invest in a good chair”. But if it is the best place for you to work from, maybe set up your table in a different way, put a plant nearby, bring your notebook and planner and make the space feel more like a home office. We also don’t recommend working from your bed or from your sofa, as they are places where you relax and unwind. This will help you get into the right mindset for work and productivity. 

When it’s time for a break, make sure you disconnect from your laptop, and move to another area of your living space. “In the kitchen with a coffee to catch up with personal stuff or with colleagues to catch up on life stuff”. Make sure to get up and move a bit, as sitting in a chair all day can make you feel sluggish and unproductive. Take the time to cook fresh food during your lunch break, and unwind. You can catch up on a TV series, or call your friends and family. If you live alone, you can schedule a video chat with your friends and eat together!

If your work allows it, you can take phone calls that don’t require a laptop while you go on a walk. “You will feel re-energise when you come back to your desk”. It might also help you think outside the box and feel more creative. Working from home doesn’t have to mean sitting in a chair from 9 to 5! If you work with colleagues who are also working from home, you can walk while catching up with them – checking up on them, making sure to take some time for them, as well as for work. If you have a busy schedule, maybe block some time for “drop-in sessions” that anyone can book to chat with you.

Working in a big team while being at home might seem daunting to start with. But some simple little things can help the whole team. Using collaboration platforms is a must. Slack, Hangouts, Jira or Zoom will help you communicate, call and send documents between each other. These apps can take some getting used to, and Mehdi suggests to “take the time to test them first all by yourself to make sure you become an expert at muting your mic while snacking or switching the camera off when the kids’ race in your room.” Once you are up to date with the way they work, checking in and out with your manager or your whole team every day is a good habit to take on. It lets them know when you start working, and until what time they can contact you. “You can also use the “status” feature so they know you are having a break, lunch or you have switched off the day”. Mehdi also recommends giving a brief summary of your day’s work to your managers or to your team – telling them what work you’ve managed to do, what you haven’t had the time to do and what you struggled with. This can help you better communicate with your team, and maybe innovate in the way you deal with things while setting up this new way of work. 

Your team might not be used to working from home, and it might be a big change for you. For example, the manager that micromanaged you back at the office can’t continue to do so while remote. It would be too much! What works in an office doesn’t always work online. It’s the time to develop quick and effective communication skills with your team. It is also a great way to be proactive about the work you do, and checking up with yourself and looking at what you’ve done. Figure out what works and what doesn’t work for you in order to be fully productive. Maybe your workspace needs to change a bit, or maybe your routine needs updating. Don’t be too rigid with yourself and remember to take care of yourself before anything else.

“At the end of the day, sign off properly. Close your laptop, change your clothes and change room or area”. Mehdi encourages you to take the time to fully unwind. This is your leisure time, and putting your work aside is necessary. Don’t forget that it’s the best time to catch up with books, articles or series that you’ve been meaning to continue. It’s also the time for you to cultivate your hobbies and interests during your time “out of office”. Remember that taking time for yourself is necessary, and it will make you more productive during the hours you are actually working! 

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