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Tales from a Work from Home Veteran

What to consider as we weather the storms

By Michael Weiskirch

Eight years ago, shortly after forming EmployeeTech, I moved into an office after working from home exclusively for twenty years. Even with my office nearby I still resorted to the flexibility of working from the home if I needed to be available for a sick child, the usual home repair person or a family event. And of course, week-end work was way more convenient staying on the home front. With the pandemic at our door, last week I reverted to the home mode with zero travel.

As we have all gotten swept away with the Covid -19 changes, the biggest difference from my earlier work at home days is the entire family is hunkering down. My wife is home doing her work along with two e-learners, one of which is a college student. A strange and more confining world we are living in. As I look at our current situation, I reflect on some of the old practices that made working form home tolerable and more ideal. Below are my recommendations from my years on the home front:

Family Structure is Important – If you have kids schedule out their activities in advance and make sure they are engaging enough. When my boys were little, we had a gap in our caregiver and one day found myself balancing my work and business calls while simultaneously trying to care for my kids.  I thought I could just get by with putting my 2 and 5-year-old in front of the TV while I got on a conference call. I came back to find that a finger-painting project had ensued in the hallway spilling over onto our carpet. And the paint was all over my boys. I quickly lifted them off the floor them and put them in the tub clothes-and-all.  If you are supervising children of any age you will benefit greatly with advance planning. You can create a calendar of activities combined with schoolwork and other fun and set some strict boundaries. The younger they are the more checking in you will likely need to do.

If you can, separate your workspace from your sleeping and eating space. The physiological benefit of keeping your work space separated from other home activities has been proven to support healthier sleep and productivity. Depending on your set up it may need to get creative. Some have set up makeshift offices in the dining room or basement. I am currently working from a basement. The physical separation of space has been very helpful in making the break between work and your non-work life.

Enforce strict quiet times – if family members are around it is helpful to know you can depend on quiet time to do your work. It may be that you need to eliminate background noise on a conference call. While it’s acceptable hear or possibly see family members on a conference or web conference, it is less distracting for you if it doesn’t happen. Remember the famous BBC interview that was interrupted by his two children? Most of the world was fine and actually amused by this sudden breach and the experts attempt to hold onto his composure but he on the other hand lost his ability to focus.

Make sure your office properly outfitted. In an article in Entrepreneur Magazine titled Establishing Your Home Workspace the author lays out  a blueprint for creating an ideal home office environment from room selection to how to set up the ideal environment. Small changes technical and non-technical changes can make a difference during these times when we are feeling more and more compressed.  

Exercise Exercise Exercise Exercise has been proven time and time again to be vital for daily life whether we are working from home or on the road. In the time of Corona any exercise we can piece together is extremely important to boost productive time at work and better state of mind at home. It doesn’t have to be long or strenuous or involve fancy equipment. Several fitness instructors are also offering online classes that can provide decent substitutes for group classes. Going for a good walk can also provide some benefits. Of course, use necessary precautions if you do.

Get out of your day pajamas I have always found that what you are wearing even on a conference call can set the mood. You certainly do not have to put on a suit, but you should leave your onesie at back in the bedroom an at least put on a pair of pants and a new shirt. Wake up get ready and dress like you might be going to the office on a casual day. You might find it will make all the difference in your general attitude towards work.