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Covid-19: the work from home edition

I've always enjoyed working from home every now and then but as many who work with me know, after a couple of days, the lack of structure and social interaction gets to me. In fact, right before I went on maternity leave, my employer was extremely supportive of me working from home to reduce the stress of travel. However, as my career counselor at the time will tell you, I was stressing out about working from home, even though two-thirds of the people I work with are either in Asia or the US! Why?

Most of us have been brought up with the culture of "getting ready and going to office". And then the social interactions, the meetings in person, the coffee chat with your manager or mentor - it's just so much easier in person. There's a lot of value we attribute to physical presence. After all, isn't that why if they could outsource my job to Poland, they'd pay them less? So, of course, I need to provide the added value! And then Covid-19 happened. And all of us now have to rethink how we work, cancel non-essential meetings, events, travel. Thankfully for me, I had pondered over this list 6 months in advance, and here are some of my thoughts:

1. Have a dedicated work-station

We had the luxury of having a separate study room when either the husband or me worked from home. Now that we both are working from home, there isn't enough space in the study. That practically means either converting the dining table to a study table or working slightly different shifts on the beanbag. Figure out what works for you urgently- your back will thank you later.

2. Switch on the video for calls

I used to be rubbish at this. In fact, I was the sort of a person who'd love to have a laugh when we're in person but only talk about work and get off the call when it came to remote working. But I missed out on the facial cues of the people I was talking to when I did that. These days, it's always video on - at least we know we're not just talking to a voice and then interrupting them five times as they were just about to say something.

3. Put yourself on mute

When you're not contributing, put yourself on mute if you've the family dining or joking around nearby.

4. Speak up - you're on the call for a reason

It's really easy to feel invisible on a call. But if you were not required on it, you wouldn't be on it. Speak up - your opinion matters. If, however, you're someone who generally contributes, ask around for opinions, especially from those who haven't spoken.

5. Get ready for work

For some of us, the act of getting ready puts us in a different space in our head. If that's you, it's definitely worth getting ready, making coffee and putting yourself in that space in your brain which gets you most productive.

6. Set your work hours

I used to rubbish at this. When I worked from home I was online early and then stayed on till late, taking a long lunch break in between. However, I have now figured out that it doesn't do good to anyone, especially because you're not being intentionally focused. When you're working from home, and you're lucky to have the structured office hours still, take advantage of that. If it doesn't work for you, don't be shy to negotiate a slightly different schedule with your manager. After all, you need to work when you're most productive. (E.g. these days my work-hours are 2-6 pm and then 9:30 pm - 2 am. This works for me for now, and you can find your rhythm too).

7. Enforce the closed door policy

Especially with children, I imagine it's hard to do, but there are tons of benefits of enforcing the closed door policy at home. Eventually the rest of the family / whoever you live with, learn that you're not to be disturbed when you're working. This helps you focus and get into a state of flow.

8. Take the lunch-break

Don't eat at your desk. Take the lunch-break and even try going for a 10 minutes walk, especially in the Covid situation. Fresh air and some sun can do tons of good. (But remember social (physical) distancing.

9. Get creative about coffee chats

I always maintain that it's important to have coffee chats with managers and mentors. Just because you're home doesn't mean you can't have a chat. Share a virtual coffee or drink. Book in that meeting.

10. Invest in yourself

In person training is probably not going to happen in a while. But you need to keep learning. Take that course, get on that webinar, read that book. There's no time like the present to sharpen your skills.

11. Watch what you eat (and drink)

Working from home makes my binge eating go through the roof. If that's you, it's best to reassess what you're eating and when. Also keep a bottle of water handy to sip through the day.

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