For the past week I have been working from home. Following the address by President Ramaphosa, my employer encouraged us to social distance and start working from home. I think this is a good move if we are going to flatten the curve and reduce the number to infections.
I am not new to working from home. I worked from home from March to August 2019 as I was getting my work Visa processed. Difference is home was Harare Zimbabwe and work was in Johannesburg. I joined all meetings virtually via Zoom. This wasn’t without it’s own challenges. I already had a generator as back up power, something that was needed given the load shedding that was happening in Harare at that time. This solution worked for a while until fuel for the generator became an issue and I ended up missing important meetings because I was in a fuel queue. I then moved to option B and installed solar so the power issues would not disrupt my connectivity. This obviously came at a cost but still had to be done.
From this experience I have a few tips to share with you if you are a beginner in this space.
1. In the context of the countries that I have lived in ( Zimbabwe, Kenya and now South Africa) where power cuts happen, in some countries more often than others, the most important thing to work from home effectively is connectivity to a good WiFi and a good power backup in case of power interruptions that impact on the WiFi connection. If living in your own place, its worth investing in backup power and if rented, negotiate with the owner for an alternative power source outside of relying on the local power supplier. Some employers are equipping their staff who are working from home by giving them dongles (3G/4G) to at least ensure they remain connected even when there are power cuts.
2. With your connectivity sorted, the next step is to have your workspace sorted. This might be your dinning room table, kitchen island or your home office if you have one, your veranda or even balcony. What works for me when working from home is to vary my workstation. Sometimes it’s the kitchen island and other times the garden bench.
3. When you wake up, prepare as if you are going to the office. You might not need the heels in this case but make sure you are in appropriate clothes especially if you are going to be having video conferencing. I find the way I am dressed helps me mentally shift into work mode.
4. Remember to take breaks in between all your virtual meetings which I find have increased because anything I need done has to be virtually.
5. During your breaks as you work from home, avoid distractions like trying to sneak in an episode of your favourite Netflix during your lunch break. It could go downhill very fast from there. Get some air, walk around the block but avoid crowded areas. The whole idea of working from home during this period is social distancing so going to the mall or any other place where there are many people defeats the purpose.
6. Keep in touch with your work colleagues even outside of work related matters. Find out how people are holding up. It’s a challenging time for most and it helps to check on each other.
7. Finally even when you can’t see people face to face remain civil and human during virtual interactions. I find face to face meetings are always easier because you can see body language and reactions as you engage. This is not possible when you work from home so its important to remember to still be “human”.
I think when we get through this phase, and trust me we will, the world of work will definitely be different. This might be the thing that disrupts work as we know it. I mean this whole phase has me asking if companies really need to invest in all the office space desks etc.
Please stay safe. Practice good hygiene. I am washing my hands as often as I can and disinfecting door knobs etc. I am still struggling with not touching my face but I will get there. Enjoy your weekend.