After the first wave of the pandemic, everyone who started working from home realized that it was not so easy to turn into a working mood at home. As Cyprus has begun to reintroduce restrictive measures, many employees have moved back to their homes.
How to stay productive and not lose your work skills? There are many ways to work effectively from home, organize your and your team’s work, and clearly distinguish between personal and professional rhythms of life.
1. Freelance or Remote Job?
These are two different types of work from home.
- Freelance is when you perform tasks and projects in a free mode. Of course, there are deadlines and planned calls, but in general, the employee decides how to plan his work schedule.
- Remote work is when you work specific time and days of the week. It doesn’t really differ from ordinary office work except the fact the employee stays at home.
Freelancing seems attractive to many as there is an option to plan your time as you wish! But only at first glance.
In fact, freelancing has several significant disadvantages:
- if you are unaccustomed to freelance, it is difficult to organize your life and the work schedule
- if the work requires regular coordination with other employees and bosses, it is better to do this work during working hours
- as a rule, the volume of work that immediately issued is large, which means that it will be difficult for a beginner to distribute efforts.
If this is your first time when you work at home, or you know that self-discipline is not your advantage, choose remote work. Freelancing is convenient, but not for everyone.
2. A clear separation of work and rest
You can be distracted by a cat or a child, drink lots of tea, watch "just one episode” ... And then the day has finished, but your work tasks were only half completed. In order not to be distracted by your favorite and cozy household chores, you need to abstract from them. There are several effective ways to do this.
Create a mini-office: this is a table, a comfortable chair and a warm daylight lamp. The office should be located in the farthest and, if possible, non-walk-through room. The kitchen and living room are not the best options. Choose a bedroom or balcony. There must be a light source nearby - a window.
The living space does not allow you to protect yourself from the bustle of the house? Buy a folding screen and earplugs. Ask family members not to disturb you and do not be distracted by external stimuli.
You can be in a room with other people, but they must be quiet. If your spouse is watching a movie with headphones, they will definitely not bother you.
Print and post your work schedule on the refrigerator so that household members can plan their own activities without interfering with you. Your family members may also need to work remotely, if so - try to combine your schedules. You can work in one "office" if regular negotiations are not expected.
2.2. Work suit
Sometimes, in order to gather strength and force yourself to work, it is enough to change clothes, change your bathrobe for jeans and a shirt. This is a good psychological method if you find it difficult to feel the difference "home - work".
But some people, on the contrary, feel comfortable in home clothes, and this instead increases their efficiency. Test both options. Find out what is right for you. All people are different - someone needs an office and a tie to feel ready to work, while someone is most productive at work lying in bed with a laptop in their arms.
2.3. Working hours
If you have a tight working schedule agreed with the office in Cyprus, there should be no problems with time. Another question if you have to cooperate with people and companies that are located in other time zones.
You may need to build a specific schedule in order to interact with all your colleagues and bosses. In any case, try to capture at least half of the daylight hours - this will significantly affect productivity.
For example in Cyprus many organizations work from the very early morning and close as soon as the sun begins to set. Early dawn and early twilight are typical for southern winters. So the ability to work will clearly be higher in the first half of the day.
2.4. Weekly schedule
If you can build on your working time, set your own framework. Weekly planning is quite effective: you choose two days off, and the rest of the days will be working.
Sometimes you can take a part-time day off, but doing it all the time is a bad idea. The working day should be a working day, and it is better to devote the day off to rest and family.
3. Planning is the foundation of your productivity
It's time to talk about planning in more detail. A plan is what allows you to keep track of your own dynamics and discipline. It's almost impossible to work without a rough schedule, even if your profession is quite creative.
So, the work schedule is drawn up 1-2 weeks in advance. Do not deprive yourself of the weekend as lack of rest is quickly exhausting, and productivity decreases dramatically. Better to consider spreading your 30-40 hours as evenly as possible over all 5 working days.
3.1. Corporate Schedule
Mark in the calendar when you have work calls, conferences, meetings. Mark them with a bright marker as these days can't be your weekend. Make your days off when most (or all) of your colleagues are resting.
Also check, which of the employees you will have to communicate with often as your working days should coincide with their working days. This will allow you to conveniently and quickly coordinate the necessary points.
Spread your tasks evenly for the remaining days. Here's how to do it.
3.2. Rule "9 tasks"
Not a bad option for those who receive tasks daily or weekly, that is, for a relatively short period of time. Make a 9-point to-do list each morning. Among them, sel ect 1 large, 3 medium and 5 small.
It is better to start with the big and important task. This way you will have fresh strength and a sober look. Medium cases can be diluted with small ones. Be sure to tick or cross out what has already been done: this way you will see your movement.
Another option is to schedule each day at the beginning of the week. This is convenient for a larger scope of work.
3.3. Rule of time organizing
It is not always possible to divide your duties into small tasks as sometimes there is a large layer of work, each of the stages of which is impressive. Then you can plan every day for the next 2 weeks in advance, as you know how much time you will need to spend on each task.
Any action takes a certain amount of time. Arrange tasks so that the time to solve them coincides with the duration of the working day (7-10 hours). Divide large tasks (which require 12 hours or more) into parts and stages.
4. The culture of online meetings, conferences and briefings
Remote meeting is one of the most convenient ways of interaction between project employees. During a pandemic, the frequency of working calls increase, and most colleagues communicate using the camera: this sets up the right mood and creates an atmosphere of concentration.
4.1. Light, background, suit
It is very important to choose good lighting and a solid color background against which you will be clearly visible. A wall without cabinets and shelves is ideal for this. A neutral picture is acceptable. You can also choose a curtain that is not too colorful.
It is unacceptable that the house clutter, a working TV and other attributes of everyday life get into the frame. It is also strongly discouraged to hold work meetings in the kitchen, but if this is the only place take a place near a window or wall.
As for clothing, it all depends on the requirements and level of the company. If there is a strict dress code, then you should follow it strictly. And you shouldn't make a common mistake: working "top" and home "bottom". Getting up can add a little awkwardness to the meeting participants.
In other cases, it is enough to put on a clean, ironed, discreet everyday item. A simple plain blouse / shirt plus jeans is the best option.
Of course, you shouldn't appear at any online meeting in your pajamas, dressing gown, or with unkempt hair. Calling directly from bed is also not an acceptable option. You need to be cheerful and feek ready, so you need to prepare for the meeting. At the very least, wash, dress and have a cup of coffee.
4.2. In order not to be interfered with by children and pets, you need...
If you have young children who are still too early to explain that you need to be quiet, be sure to leave them under the care of another person. This can be the other parent, the older child, neighbors, grandparents.
It is better that these were people with whom you see constantly or live in the same house - this way you minimize the risks of contracting coronavirus from the outside. Thus a nanny is not ideal for this difficult period of our life.
If you only have one room, you can send the kids out with the adults if the epidemiological situation is favorable. If it is impossible, use a headset and turn on mute whenever you are not talking, but listening to your interlocutors.
It's a little easier if you have pets that can disturb you: you can close the room from them. If pets cannot be in an enclosed space, ask the family to play with them. No one to ask for? Ask your neighbors to take your cat or dogfor an hour or two.
In any case, if something goes not as you wish and there is a child or pet disturbing the meeting, ask your interlocutors for forgiveness. Be sure that they understand you as everyone stays at home and has exactly the same situation.
5. Recommendations for managers: how to organize the work of an entire department
Of course, the easiest way is to keep all office rules for remote work: schedule, timetable, meetings, etc. This will make the work easier for you and your subordinates.
If the department is small (up to 20 people), you can conduct a survey regarding the start time of the workday, lunch time, after-hours work days and so on. For many families left in isolation, the rhythm of life could have changed because of the children, who now cannot be taken to kindergarten and school. Therefore, it may be convenient for them if the working day starts earlier or later.
If you don't already have daily briefings, create them online: it allows each member of the team to get together and organize themselves. 5-10 minutes of online briefing at the beginning of the day is enough to make the work easier. At the briefing, outline the tasks for the day, summarize the previous day, report all the news. If the team is small and friendly, you can share personal news: "My daughter's tooth got out" or "My wife was also transferred to a remote location."
As a manager, stay connected for a little longer than a work day. It is especially important to do this in the first weeks of remote work, while employees get used to the new regime. Turn on your phone one hour before the official start of the working day and turn it off at least two hours after it ends.
Be clear about your weekend days. Even if it coincides with a team weekend, explain that you can only answer urgent work questions in a short amount of time. For example, from 12:00 to 13:00 on Sunday. Everything else will wait until Monday morning.
If you do not have a deputy yet, appoint one, at least temporarily. It is especially important to have an assistant when leading a large team.
About work chats: instant messengers are very convenient to solve current issues. Usually there is a mess in chats with a large number of participants (more than 10-15 people) and it is very difficult to find the necessary information.
Try to create and organize your chats so that there are up to 10 people interacting with each other regularly. The optimal number of chats is up to five, otherwise the manager himself will get confused.
Remember to turn off notifications for all work conferences, chats, and tabs outside of business hours. Otherwise, your phone and computer will not be silent even at night.
6. Common mistakes when moving to remote work
Go to any internet portal of freelancers and remote workers, and you will surely find here comments like "remote work is not mine, I'd better go to the office." As a rule, this is written by people who find it difficult to work without communication with other staff.
What mistakes are most often made by new remote workers:
- Work seven days a week. Staying at home doesn't mean you have to devote all your time to work. Everyone should have one full day off per week.
- Work at nights. Many "owls" rejoice that they can sleep a little longer and then do things at night. As a result, it turns out that the natural regime finally gets lost, and a person no longer feels like an "owl" and not a "lark", but a real zombie. Want to sleep a little longer? Set the alarm clock not for 6-7 a.m., but for 9-10 a.m. You should not wake up later: this will shorten the daylight hours, on which a person is usually more productive.
- Be in touch 24/7. Turn on all work chats and calls to silent immediately after the end of the work day. Work should take place during working hours, but not in the evening or on weekends. Otherwise, you risk quickly getting a nervous breakdown.
- Have lunch while working. Drinking a mug of coffee or tea is acceptable. But biting and even having lunch in front of a monitor screen is a very bad idea. It harms digestion and decreases productivity.
- Don’t plan. The plan, especially at first, is your main assistant. Without it, it is extremely difficult to calculate your strength and time. Do not be lazy to write down even small work tasks, and then cross them out, this way you will visually represent the scope of work.
- Be distracted by household chores and leisure. "Well, I'll take a look at the episode, and then I'll continue." This is a big mistake! This is how the working spirit gets lost, and it is very difficult to restore it. If you need to do some household chores during the day, include them in your work plan and allocate a certain amount of time for them.
So, these are the simplest tips that will help you painlessly switch to home work. Of course, every job and every team has its own specifics, so it will take you 1-3 weeks to get used to the new rhythm and get on track.
If, after a month, it’s hard for you to work fr om home, think if you need an individual approach? It might be worth taking an unconventional path. For example, divide the working day into 2 parts: in the morning 4 hours and in the evening 4 hours. Move to a more spacious apartment or house, wh ere you can construct an office.
Check out the options on the DOM site and you might really be interested in this solution!
Be healthy and don't get sick! It is the most important thing.