Corona chronicles – Working from home
THAT’S currently one of the trending hashtags in life because, well, let’s face it, COVID-19 with its non-discriminatory widespread nature has dictated that we either self-isolate, practise social distance, or be quarantined! The world as we have known it, whether through social or professional lens, has changed and continues to be changed right before our eyes in a matter of days.
Concern, semi-panic and the feeling of ‘I knew it’ hit on March 10 when our Government confirmed our first case of the novel coronavirus. Literally in 10 days, with 19 confirmed cases and one death due to COVID-19, our interactions in Jamaica have changed drastically. All of a sudden, all the essays I wrote between high school and university that had the topic ‘Globalisation constricts the world. Discuss using examples’ became very relevant.
WE CAN WORK FROM HOME
After I got over the fact that people were walking around with dirty hands (and possibly dirty bodies), and that there is some secret money in circulation why all supermarkets could be so packed for a week with people buying toilet paper over tin food, I realised that, FINALLY, it took a pandemic for my country to realise that WE CAN ACTUALLY WORK FROM HOME!
When Prime Minister Andrew Holness encouraged employers to institute work-from-home measures in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, I shuddered as I wondered if the public sector would opt to throw out the big employee registration book, which is a constant reminder of institutionalised slavery, and realise that, indeed, employees can work from home and be productive.
So as we stay home to help each other to not contract the virus, let me also help those who are new to this mode of work with some useful tips to stay productive as we get through this unprecedented professional occurrence in our history thus far.
- Do not underestimate the importance of the good old ‘to-do list’: A list or schedule of tasks to be completed for the day is always important. I usually type my list for the following day the day before, and I also put timelines to each task to hold myself accountable. There are automatic time-tracking apps available, such as Rescue Time, that allows you to check on your productivity while informing you of your most productive times during the day so that you are able to do high-performance tasks. Remember to keep the list realistic. If there are too many tasks, you are setting yourself up to look inefficient on paper and burn out trying to complete all tasks.
- Working from home is NOT a ‘staycation’: You need to realise that just because you are home, it is not a vacation! Get up, get out of bed, take off your pajamas (sleep clothes), take a shower, and start the day. Ensure you have a routine (whether that is making coffee, prayer/meditating, reviewing your list, making breakfast, or setting the tasks for the day for children, if any) before you delve into your work. This mentally assists you to carry out your work in an organised way.
I have recognised that with my 10-month-old son, I am unable to work from MY home. So I work from my best friend’s home that is close to my house, allowing me to pop in on my son during my breaks. This provides me with the perfect work-life balance in my day (for now). It is not always easy to pop back out, but boundaries are important.
- Dress appropriately for video calls: No one wants to see you in your pajamas, strapless tops or undies for a meeting! Remember that your home is your new office. Many employers have scheduled audio-visual check-ins during the day, and this requires you to look appropriate. Even if you are an entrepreneur, from time to time you may have video calls/face time with clients, and how you present yourself informs how others will analyse and make decisions about doing business with you. A modest shirt/top, groomed hair and clean face is recommended.
- Set boundaries and get all resources needed: You need to set aside a work area in order to stay productive. Have a desk and comfortable chair, along with all the resources that you need. It is wise to have your employer provide you with a separate computer and cell phone for work purposes. Most employers are also ensuring that they use virtual private networks (VPN) to ensure that their employees have access to salient information for maximum efficiency. Ensure that all other inhabitants of your home know and respect your work area.
- Take breaks: Breaks are necessary in any day, but more so when you are working from home. When you are alone at home, sometimes you forget to take a break. Have a scheduled lunch break (you can use an alarm or an app to remind you). In addition to my lunch break, I take two 15-minute breaks to either walk around, check my social media pages for COVID-19 updates, or just to relax my mind and check in with my family. If you are home with your children, you can schedule tasks together with the same break periods so that you can all be on break at the same time and enjoy scheduled family time.
I am very intrigued at how quickly we have adopted this working-from-home measure, because, let us admit it, this pandemic will have us #inside for at least another eight weeks. However, what I am most interested to see is how we will operate after the pandemic. Will it be business as usual with mandatory, daily, physical registrations, or will flexi-time finally be implemented nationally? Either way, use this opportunity to sharpen your professional skills and challenge yourself to be productive as we all get through this together.