Here's how you can efficiently work from home, during social isolation and always
Updated: Mar 21
Work From Home
The three words have acquired a whole new meaning with governments mandating a shutdown thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. It may very well be the first time that such a large number of people worldwide work from home at the same time. Some reports suggest that it might become the norm rather than the exception in the future.
Even in times other than the pandemic, women form a significant part of the gig economy and thrive. The work from home option has many apparent advantages, including reduced travel, time with family, and being location independent. But this mode of work does come with its set of challenges. Here are some ways that can help you overcome the obstacles and be efficient while you work from home.
1.’Show up' to work at home
The routine of travelling to a place of work automatically prepares you for the day ahead. One of the ways to make working from home as productive is to create a routine and a workspace. Setting up a desk in a quiet place can help. My favourite is to have one near a window - the view makes for instant relaxation.
Another hack that a lot of women practice is to get dressed, complete with work clothes and appropriate make-up. Both these can help you stay in office mode, be prepared for video calls and also switch back to home mode with a change of clothes at the end of the day.
2. Make a schedule
The one thing that you will require when you work from home is discipline. It is what will help you meet deliverables and build credibility. Depending on the nature of your job, requirements of working with a team and your most productive hours, make a work schedule. Have a to-do list every day and communicate this with your team, which will keep you accountable to each other.
At Basis, a tradition that we follow is to have a virtual daily stand-up meeting for 15 minutes every morning. We brief each other about the granular tasks we worked on the previous day and what tasks we have set out for the day. With the social isolation now being mandated, we've added an extra catch up at the end of the day where we all make it a point to 'see' each other.
Customise the schedule that works for you and communicate with the other collaborators for such tasks, in the interest of transparency and increased productivity.
Sreya Bose, a Mumbai-based freelance writer, has a hack to get things done and avoid distractions. Turning her mobile to the 'Zen' mode (a similar feature that exists in most smartphones) that only allows her to receive calls. Going to sleep with tasks pending can be disturbing. Setting deadlines and motivating yourself can be the only solution.
3. Set the ground rules
It is crucial to set the ground rules that will help you work most efficiently. Your housemates, whether they are parents, partners, spouses or children share your workspace. Shilpa Shree, Changemaker and due diligence researcher works from home and conveys her work needs to her two young sons.
"I tell them that it is no disturb zone when I am on calls. Sometimes I sit to work along with my son, who does his homework, and we talk about what we are each doing. I ask him to save questions for later. This way, I can explain the value of my work and make him understand that he has to give me space to work better."
So, have conversations with your housemates, divide responsibilities of home errands and children to help ease the load. It is especially true when there may be multiple people in the house who are working from home now simultaneously, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Chitra Ramdas, a consultant software developer for mobile applications, has a particularly tricky time with with the current situation of isolation. She has a toddler who must be kept safe and engaged at the same time.
"I usually work early mornings when my son is asleep or when he is in pre-school. In times of tight schedules for a release, my husband takes a work from home request and helps take care of our son. Though my husband works from home now, his work pressures are higher, and my son is restricted to home and needs attention. I work late at night or early mornings to make up for it."
Taking care of our health is something we may not give enough importance. Working from home is assumed to be stress-free, which is far from the truth. The lack of a formal location does not stop the nature of work. So it is vital to take care of your physical and mental health. Here are some of the things that can help:
Having a workout routine
Shutting off work at a set time
Having cuddle breaks with your children
Setting alone time/ time for your hobbies
Reaching out for a heart to heart conversations
5. FOMO and other fears
If this is your first time working from home, FOMO from work and team participation can be very real. Problems that get easily resolved with a quick chat in the office may be challenging when you work from home. Voice these concerns at work, get help if you face technical difficulties. There are a whole host of products that help remote teams function efficiently.
These are challenging times and the consolation, if any, is that we are all in this together. If you have questions, or you want to share your work from home experience and hacks, head straight to the Basis community!