Assuming that your employer has set you up with everything you need to work from home, the most immediate challenge for most people switching from office-based to home-based working is setting the boundaries that define work/life balance. This shouldn’t be such a problem if you are only moving temporarily to home-based, perhaps as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown, as you are most likely going to maintain your usual hours and work to the same routine. But regardless, your pre-work routine will change, starting with a welcome break from the morning commute – no more packed buses, trams, trains or congested A-roads for you!
Creating your new morning routine can ensure the best start to your day and restrict the blurring of home and work life. Are you ready to sit down at your laptop and commit to the morning’s tasks by the required time? You may even be able to do that in your pyjamas (home-based perk #1) but this is not advised for roles with video calls or conferencing on the agenda, and this may be a bad strategy for those of you who want to keep strict work/home boundaries in place.
Similarly, scheduling and taking breaks in line with your employer’s policies is important. You need to keep that grey matter functioning at full capacity! Do something relaxing or cathartic on your breaks – and set a timer to ensure you don’t short-change yourself or diddle your employer! Popping a load in the washing machine whilst you brew-up is fine (home-based perk #2); repainting your skirting boards over a 3-hour lunch break is not.
If you share your living space, setting ground-rules and expectations with your cohabitees is crucial. Children, partners, lodgers and pets need to be aware and respectful of your professional space and time, especially where quiet time is required for concentration or professional calls. This may be tougher than usual if other people in your home are on lock-down too (and you don’t have an east wing at your disposal), but you should try your best to draw those lines! You probably don’t want to recreate this scene when you’re on a group conference call with the whole of your HR & Finance Team!
Communicate, support & recognise
Maintaining meaningful contact with your colleagues, direct reports and managers is more essential than ever when you’re not sharing a building! Try to maintain what went before in terms of catch-ups, one-to-ones and team meetings using your employer’s approved on-line platforms. And whilst some of you will relish the break from water-cooler chat about last night’s Coronation Street, many will miss the social interaction that an office provides, along with the reassurance that talking through tricky tasks, problems and issues can bring.
Perhaps now more than ever, recognition, positive feedback and praise will go such a long way to keep people connected, productive and motivated. A call to say “well done”, a sincere e-mail of thanks and praise, or a nomination through a recognition programme can really buoy the spirits of a colleague struggling to adjust, and reap dividends in continued efforts. A team member achieving great things under their own steam, or a manager or colleague being super-supportive under these new circumstances…? Why not tell them?