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Working from Home

24 April 2020

The world is going through a bizarre time, much of the globe is under lockdown. In the midst of the pandemic, except for essential services, many companies are practicing voluntary or mandatory working-from-home. That means, to a lot of us, an unusual challenge. SumProduct has been a very agile firm where we have been working remotely from all sorts of different locations for quite some time, be it at airports, hotel rooms, airplanes and home. We thought that it would be useful to share some habits and tips that we have adopted to ensure productivity and, in the meantime, personal well-being.

1: Location, location, location!

The surroundings can shape the way we think and feel, hence, setting up a proper work station at home should be at first priority. You should have a designated place with a decent desk and chair, all machines connected, well-lit, and maybe, a touch of green, so that you can feel focused and comfortable at the same time (so psychologists tell me). Also, you need to make sure this workstation is the space just for yourself, not an area to share with anyone you are sharing the house with, and most important, not to get any distractions from your family when you are working.

Working from home does not mean staying at home and working, lying on the bed with the computer on your lap. There may be no one watching you, but at the end of the day, your work output and the fulfillment feeling is what makes it all meaningful.

Work station at home

2: Don’t lose touch

Let’s make self-isolation physical only. More and more companies are moving online, hosting virtual conferences. Our company SumProduct has offices in Sydney, Melbourne, London and New York, and we work with clients around the globe. Hence, smooth and effective communication is one thing we must always make sure of. As we move to work remotely, everyone in the team needs to stay connected. It is important to keep the team informed about the working progress and potential issues in relation to daily tasks.

Microsoft Teams is the primary tool that we use. There are others (e.g. Zoom). Teams has conference and chat tools, and is connected to our emails and calendar. The Teams channel makes it easier to work together. For example, our team is working together on a project, so we create a channel to keep everything on track, raising ideas and helping out each other. We can also schedule and invite people to join a meeting. This is then notified through your calendar, so everyone knows when to not bother you.

Microsoft Teams

3: Home office style

Wake up early. Yes, it may be very tempting to get up at 8:55am (if you start at 9am), walk over and turn on your laptop and start to work. However, you may still be suffering from sleep inertia making you inherently slow. What some of our staff like to do is get up early, say, at least one hour before, so that your body has time to adjust. You will also have enough time in an hour to get some morning fresh air and make yourself an amazing home cooked breakfast that will fuel you for the day!

Getting dressed when working from home

It’s also a good idea to get dressed, not necessarily as formally as when you need to go to the office, but ditch those pyjamas, put on neat clothes and maybe even brush your hair. This helps setting a working day mood and drawing a line between being at work and being at home, and especially, staying ready if you need to show up on a video conference with your team or clients.

4: Structure the day as you would in the office

When working from home, you are your own personal manager. You may see that work may creep into your personal time. Set clear times for when you are working and when you are not and stick to them. This will help curb burnout and will allow you to have personal time and rest before the next workday. Write down clear guidelines for each individual task and finish each step on time to meet the normal deadline as usual. The best practice here is to create an automatic time-tracking model or application, which allows you to check whether you are sticking to the schedule.

Nine to Five

More importantly, working from home may get us mixed up between work life and home life. If you have other family members or friends living in the same house, they may disturb your work unintentionally. This is especially apparent if you have young children or pets that may be constantly seeking your attention. Although it may be hard to say no to those cute little eyes, you have to set clear boundaries so that you can get your work done. Also, try to agree with your family members that you are working from home, so you need to avoid doing household tasks during the day. However, we can afford the exception of cooking a quick, fresh lunch, rather than a prepared lunch box, and this is one of the perks of working from home!

5: Ensure your personal well-being

Being connected with nature

While ensuring work productivity, mental health and personal well-being are also important. Follow the company's policy on break times and take them. Proper rest would guarantee working efficiency. A simple method here is to setup a clock or timer on the screen when you take a break.

Try to get some exercise into your daily schedule as well. Since all the gyms and indoor sport venues are closed presently, home workouts or sometimes, taking a walk in a green park can keep you stay sane. And always remember to keep to those social distancing rules.

As one who enjoys office life, staying at home all day long, all week long is quite a strange experience. Since we cannot change it, I shall embrace it. There’s likelihood that this may change the future dynamics of business and how people work. Though being a challenge, working from home gives you the independence of managing your own self, saves hours on commuting, and gives time for self-reflection of what is important.

Hopefully, this may help you be successful at home and keep calm. It is important for everyone to do their part now for the good of the population. In the meantime, let’s keep our fingers crossed for the storm to pass.