Effective remote work during an epidemic. How should a home office be organized?

March 31, 2020 Aneta Stokes

In recent weeks, many of us have faced the challenge of working remotely. Those of us who were not accustomed to this mode of work, while also facing a largely disorganized of home life (the #stayhome campaign, kindergartens and nurseries closed, online schooling) have to face many obstacles on the road to full efficiency.

It is comforting that this experience is shared almost universally: our office colleagues, our bosses and clients work from home as well. Togetherness raises understanding of the complications we have to face. It helps sharing guidelines and advice. We are sharing ours as well.

Rhythm and routine in your schedule

So, you have finally managed to sort out the chaos caused by the uninterrupted presence of all household members under one roof, the struggle for access to the computer, the depression caused by messages that you obsessively check online and your constant wondering if your fridge is full and your stock of toilet paper is sufficient? If you are still in the chaos mode, try to introduce routine and rhythm to your new normal as soon as possible.

  • You can write or discuss a home schedule broken down into shared time and time in which each household member will work.
  • If you have a small child/children, share your time for work and childcare with your spouse/partner. Agree as to the hours each of you will hole up away from others, working on the computer in a secluded place and when you will change your routine.
  • If you have older children, include their duties and chores in the schedule by setting the time they must spend on independent study or play.
  • If you don’t have children in your care, set a schedule for work and time for other activities. Stick to it to develop a routine that will help you find yourself in the new normal.

Logistics and organization

Once you have set your working hours, find a secluded place to do your work. In smaller apartments filled with household members, this is not always easy. If you can’t have a separate desk with a comfortable chair in a separate room (let’s call it the perfect world), look for a quiet place in the bedroom or in the kitchen. It is important that this is the place that you will now treat as your “office”. Clean it up and arrange it to be orderly. Eliminate distractors (especially Facebook notifications or the constant checking of messages). Set yourself a task: now is the time for work and nothing more. If you face multiple and simultaneous household duties, every hour you can spend only on work demands the full use of your time.

Communication with the team and appropriate planning

In addition to the home schedule, set up a company schedule. Did you meet at the office every day at 9 a.m. to have a quick stand-up meeting or delegate tasks? Be sure to continue this habit – except that now, you will do it online. Make sure that everyone uses cams and can see one another. This will keep the team connected, motivate members to work and set the order of tasks. Use messengers, ask yourself questions, use applications to create task lists, set up online meetings: do everything to make each team member feel that the work goes on according to established rules and we do not allow ourselves to let go.

Remote work and healthy habits

Your home schedule can also include elements such as joint exercises (now you can find many videos on Facebook or YouTube, recorded by trainers who encourage regular exercises at home), or meal plans (who is the chef of the day and what’s cooking). Given the current situation, many of us are unable to work 9-5 without breaks – managers should be more understanding and evaluate employees in terms of completed tasks rather than the amount of working time. Most often they do it: after all, even they sometimes have to leave the computer to build a tower of Lego blocks or fix the doll’s hairstyle. Sometimes, we are forced to finish work in the evening and even at night. It is hard to criticize the must-dos in the current situation, but remember that our sleep and well-being are equally important. Let’s learn to prioritize tasks properly and let’s not sit at the computer until late if it is not really necessary.

Data security

A lot of us took company computers back to our homes. We connect to the company network and through it we have access to lots of confidential data where security is our responsibility. Let’s remember this when coming away from the computer to make some soup. Protect your computer, log out of the company network if you don’t need it. Do not share your company computer with other household members. When you brought it home, you took on additional responsibility for your company resources.

Together, we will do it

Remote work is a favorite option to work, often selected by employees. Although many of us have now joined this group because we had no choice, we probably also discover some advantages and nice elements of this mode of work. The circumstances in which this article is created make remote work much more difficult and each of us is trying to develop some rules and principles that will make it easier to function in the new normal. If you have any thoughts that you would like to share – be sure to leave them as a comment. We are in this together and together we will do it.

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