Help! I’m working from home. Where do I start?

If you’re working from home (as in actually working from home) for the first time, you might be thinking, where do I start? The following has a pretty comprehensive list of things to think about before you start working from home. But if there’s one takeaway that’s more important than any other – it’s over communicate, over communicate, over communicate!!

Things to think about if you’re working from home

Your space

  • Do you have a dedicated space that you can work? Or if you’re sharing it – is it useable or will people be tripping over each other?
  • Is the workspace secure from a privacy perspective? If you’re sharing it with children – how can you protect any vital information or data or equipment.
  • Does it comply with any health and safety requirements your organisation may have? (Think – cords being secured and safe and appropriate chair/desk setup at the minimum).
  • Do you have a computer and access to printing and scanning? If not – what else can you use?
  • How’s your internet connection? Will you need more data?
  • Do you need more data on your phone?

Security / IT

  • Has IT worked out the security and privacy protocols around data when working from home?
  • Are there any changes in IT process needed to facilitate working from home?
  • How will remote teams get hold of IT for help if needed?

Expectations

  • Have you spoken to your boss about what they expect?
  • Will you have children at home too? How will this work? Will you be working early / after hours? Or working with them whilst they are doing their schooling on line?
  • What happens if someone gets sick? How will you manage that?
  • Is it expected that you’re available and at your laptop and/or phone for core hours? Or, so long as you meet certain outputs, that’s all good?
  • How will KPIs operate during this period, if at all?
  • Does HR have any other policies/processes that need to be kept up with this period, or are all bets off? For example – will requirements to track hours still apply during this period?

Your team(s)

  • Will you have a morning/afternoon check in? How will that work?
  • What technology will you be using (zoom/slack/skype/teams etc)? Does everyone have access to it and know how to use it?
  • Can you give people a heads up on things like mic use to avoid unfortunate examples of where people have gone to the toilet not realising they were still mic-ed up.. See the BBC example for when it goes wrong.
  • How can you take this opportunity to build connection? Some examples – a simple icebreaker at the beginning of each meeting (guess the zoom background), or a virtual team bookclub. Or end of week virtual drinks.
  • If teams are being split – how will this work? How will the teams communicate with each other?
  • Remember that it’s not just your team members who are being affected during this period – but also their families. Many families are under enormous financial pressure, with jobs being lost, left, right and centre. It is impossible to understate the potential impact of this stress on team members. Be empathetic to the stresses and strains that your team members are under, which may be very different to what you are personally experiencing. Remember too that these sorts of strains can accelerate other domestic stresses and issues.
  • How can you use this period to build your leadership skills?

Communication

  • However much you’re currently communicating – do it more.. Do it from a factual / process / task perspective and an explicit – how is everyone going perspective. Be human! Share how you’re going. Make it easy for your team to share with you by being appropriately vulnerable.
  • Ask your team how they want to be kept informed of changes that are happening. Everything is happening so quickly –  how will you let them know of changes that have been imposed? What about where someone has made a change within the team that will have an impact.
  • Remember email is notoriously ineffective for communication – so you may need to be a bit innovative about this. Try new things .. if they don’t work – you can always change them.
  • Can you call someone rather than email or message them? Can you zoom them?? Remember there are some absolute design flaws in email – starting with the fact that people tend to read a positively worded email as neutral, and a neutrally worded email as negative.
  • Is there a way that team leaders can quickly communicate with the whole team – WhatsApp group or similar?

Your welfare

  • The absolute best thing you can do is really look after yourself and your family.
  • Body wise – the usual – exercise, eat properly, limit the booze, and get enough sleep.
  • Mentally – meditate/breath as often as possible. If you are experiencing anxiety beyond what you can manage, check in with a professional – your EAP, Beyond Blue or a range of other organisations who are there to support you.
  • Remain connected. As we get further and further locked down, this is hard – but find connections wherever you can – if you’re still allowed out and about – through a smile at the barista, through FaceTime with family and friends, through your street WhatsApp group.
  • Take regular breaks. The workplace allows for lots of breaks – in getting up to go to meetings, in making a coffee, in walking to a colleague’s desk to ask them a question. Make sure you work in blocks of time (then get up and stretch, go for a walk, or have a glass of water at least). There’s a suggestion that blocks of between 20-30 minutes are most effective, with a small break after that. (Makes you realise why we don’t achieve much in long, boring meetings).

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See you soon,

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Tammy Tansley
I am a coffee loving, energetic human who loves words, bright colours and spots, silly t'shirts and good champagne. Mum to two beautiful mischiefs. Long time wanderer around the world. Author. Blogger. Speaker.
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