Home. But not alone
| Daniel Anandaraj Garnipudi | - @dodosamuel
So, unless you have been under a rock or at a silent retreat for a while, you do know that the world is going through a medical crisis right? I’m not even going to talk about that.
Rather, I think in the context of the Indian workplace there is a consequence for many companies that needs to be thought about.
WFH / Work From Home!
Sure, you have all heard about it.
Sure, you may have used it occasionally (if you were eligible to or as per your company policies)
Sure, you may have called on that practise when you wanted to play hooky from work, or wait for the plumber or electrician or whoever, or were feeling under the weather.
This time it’s for real isn’t it?
Even governments are asking people to try and work from home, social distancing and all of that. This is not about that.
This is about the fact that tough times call for tough measures and WFH is now a practical reality. Whether you like it or not.
Love the fact that there are so many memes going about that make it a joke - use a fan to move your mouse, run youtube in the background so you seem online, and am sure there are many ways to fool many people in your organisation.
But again, wait. Who exactly are you fooling? Yourself. That’s it. You are employed at a company to do work and you get paid for it. If you don’t do work, the worst that can happen is you get fired and if you are ok with that, stop reading now! :)
However, if you are of the variety that i know there are many of, who actually want to work and make a difference then read on. Sure you can google, and sure you can find lots of stuff, but in the Indian context and the current viral scenario, I thought I should write a few pointers about what I think are good practises.
1. Inform your family and those who live with you
Indian families generally don’t have the infrastructure to actively encourage a work from home culture. So, the moment they see you at home, you are the one who is still doing the dishes, taking the dog out and as the kids are definitely at home right now, you get to take care of them and play and make them study etc.
So, better for you to tell them all that you are actually gonna have to work and that means they should consider you not there for all practical purposes!
2. Get ready for work as you would normally do
Discipline is key.
If you decide to not set an alarm, trust me all hell will break loose soon. So, plan to get ready for work the way you normally do. Ok, you’re at home, technically you have your commute time that you can relax on - use that time to try something new or do the dishes! :) Ideally, you need to be ready to start your work at the normal time you do if you were at work.
Ok, this is gonna be difficult for most. Not many of us actually have a dedicated working space. A call on the bed or in the hall would have worked for small periods of time but not for the entire day. It also becomes uncomfortable. So, find a space that works for you. If you need to hijack the kids table for now, go ahead. Check lighting, check wifi or phone connectivity, check noise levels from the window. You need to be in a place that you can comfortably work as opposed to having to keep moving from one place to another. Remember at least 8 hours a day in this space so make sure you are comfortable.
Just as at work, there will always be distractions. Learn to deal with it. Yes, the door bell will ring, the dog will want to go out, the milk man will come to get paid etc. Rationalise that these will happen and work with it. It’s not that difficult, it’s like that colleague of yours who wants to go have a chai at the exact moment that you are in the middle of an email. You cannot avoid it and therefore no point in getting distracted by it.
Take a break as and when you need it. If you are super disciplined tell the family the times you are going to have lunch. Make it family time. You anyway don’t get home in time for dinner, so here’s an unexpected reason to have time with the family. Just don’t take it to the next level and have a long nap after!!
6. Goals, Task lists and Rewards
This is something that you should do all the time, not just now. But create specific task lists for the day. Try to keep at those specific ones so you don’t get distracted. IF you finish early, reward yourself. Could be a few mins extra in a break or chilling for a bit or just reading and following the next point!
7. Don’t lose your work friends
Talk to them, or plan a break together to just have a chat and figure out what is happening and how they are dealing with it. Many a time they may have an idea or technique on how they cope with WFH that you don’t know about. But just good to remind yourself that everyone is going through the same thing.
8. Communication is key
In office, you could just pop to your manager or colleague and speak to him and whilst conferencing tools and messengers like Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, Telegram, Slack, Whatsapp etc all help, it will never replace face to face meetings. It’s not easy but do-able. This means you have to be a lot more communicative. Proactively inform your leads and managers on what you are focusing on. You may miss something out if you don’t talk. Don’t think it’s the managers role to keep you in check, it’s also yours to inform them.
Remember - for many of the managers and leads also, it is a new thing - this WFH concept. They may be as confused as you are :)
9. Week 1
Your first week of working from home is the most difficult. It’s ok, nobody’s perfect. Learn from your mistakes, learn from your experience, figure out what went wrong and make sure you mitigate that issue the next time around. There is always room for improvement and a way to make it better. So, relax.
10. Managers and Leaders
This is crucial. You play an important part of making this concept work. All of the above is applicable to you too. But there are some that you need to do extra.
Communicate. - Ensure you set up times for all members of your team to communicate together, be it a stand up call or a specific catch up time.
Let your team know when is the best time to catch you. You also have your schedules to follow.
Encourage and Support. - This is a trying time for all of us, so be there for your associates. Be there and try to support them however you can. It is indeed a trying time for them. Be creative with them to solve the problems they may have.
Be a good listener, - The art of listening is a dying art, there are no facial expressions or body language for you to be perceptive with, so listen carefully.
Empathise. - When things go wrong, deal with them differently than you would at work. You don’t know their circumstances at home.
It’s not easy. However, it’s not impossible as well. We can do it, if we plan things out and if we adhere to some basic principles as above.
Good Luck to us all :)