How I dealt with a work from home month
Stuck working from home? Here’s how you can stay productive
Forced to stay indoors after a recent ligament injury, I convinced myself that getting through the recovery period at home would be a piece of cake. As it turned out, the only piece of cake involved was one I ate every time I wanted to take a break from sitting at my table.
But keeping a check on my calorie intake was not the only challenge. I found myself wasting time, often calling up people to chat, and taking “tea breaks” far too often. So I reached out to a few experts and asked them for advice on how to deal with this. Here’s what I learnt:
No. You cannot take naps
I have a study table in my bedroom that works as my laptop stand. Which means that even when I am working, the bed is never really too far. And it can be quite challenging after a heavy lunch to resist the temptation of a 20-minute snooze. I mean, no one is watching.
Expert-speak: Francis Padamadan, senior director, APAC, KellyOCG, an outsourcing and consulting service provider, suggests creating a schedule to stay on top of things. He adds that having a separate work area—a study room or an office—is ideal. If a separate room is not possible, make sure there is at least a desk which separates your leisure time—television, sleeping, etc.—from your work time. This will reduce chances of distraction or breaks. “There is also a range of communication devices which lets you be in touch with the manager, and it depends on you how you use them,” he adds.
The most important thing is self-discipline. There is always going to be the temptation to do your personal work, maybe heat up the food, or watch a video. “But that is unethical and unacceptable. If you need to do something, schedule it into your day and tell your clients, colleagues, etc. that you will not be reachable for an hour or two, etc.,” says Chandrasekhar Sripada, professor (organizational behaviour and strategic human capital) at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad.
How do I manage my time?
In office, I knew I had to get in by a certain time, take a lunch break at 2pm, have tea at 6pm, etc. But, at home, I would end up having lunch at 4pm, working some days till 9pm and other days till 5pm. There was no consistency.
Expert-speak: Making a schedule for yourself can be boring, agrees Amit Kapoor, co-founder of Eupheus Learning, a Delhi-based educational technology start-up. “Everyone thinks it is there, all sorted in their ‘head’, but putting tasks down on paper could be beneficial. In fact, one can use tools like schedulers and reminders in Outlook or Google calendar so that they don’t miss an important deadline,” adds Kapoor.
A manager can definitely make the schedule for the co-worker and give timelines to be followed, as it were, in an office environment. Regular conference calls can let you stay on top of things at work, and in the loop. “According to me, work can be done from anywhere, especially if it does not demand the physical presence of an individual,” says Kapoor.
Can people just stop ringing the bell, please?
Okay, let’s not lie. We all listen to a bit of music, or read some non-work- related articles at work. But at the end of it all, you have to meet a deadline and finish your work. At home though, I spent most of my time answering the doorbell. The number of people visiting the house on any given day is much greater than the number of colleagues I talk to—from maids who could now come and go as they pleased, to delivery people and random neighbours making small talk. Can we just tell them not to speak to us? Can we not answer the door at all?
Expert-speak: Ensuring that at least the people close to you are aware you want to maintain a professional atmosphere and do not want to be disturbed during the day can help, says Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder and executive vice-president of TeamLease, an HR solutions provider. “Regardless of the other distractions for a brief period of time, school yourself to find ways and means to find your flow and concentration and quickly revert to the task at hand. If you’re still struggling to stay focused, take a short break before you get back to the task in hand,” she adds.
Power cuts, internet speeds and iffy devices
Power cuts may not be common in every city, but dismal internet speeds surely are. Why are they never as fast as they show on TV commercials? Why does my laptop decide to stop cooperating as soon as I open three tabs on my web browser? Wouldn’t it be nice to just be able to do my work using good old paper and pen?
Expert-speak: Formulate a stand-by plan for that inevitable power and internet outage and make sure all your devices are fully charged before you begin your workday, says Chakraborty. “Uninterrupted internet and power supply is very vital to function and stay connected, so make those worthwhile investments. It will help if you can arrange for multiple options (broadband, mobile broadband, USB, invest in an invertor or back-up generator) and not really depend on just one service provider or method.”
The fear of missing out
Not directly being part of meetings or brainstorming sessions can lead to alienation and a feeling of being left out. Mine is a small team, so I was always aware of what was happening, but how does someone working in a bigger team keep their chin up in a situation like this?
Expert-speak: Sripada, who worked from home for six months at one point, says it can be lonely. “No matter what you do, the human interaction, the casual conversation around the coffee machine, is something you will miss. In such scenarios, especially if the work from home situation is of a longer duration, you would want to meet up or go to places where peers hang out. So that you get an idea of what is happening in the industry, network, and be in the loop of things,” he says.
Design a makeshift home office (at no extra expense)
If you have to work from home for a few weeks, you could end up spending a lot of money to turn it into a work-friendly area. Here are some simple hacks to keep costs low and still have a nice set-up.
■ Make sure your table has light. Moving it closer to a window will only help you during the day. You can get a small lamp for a large table. If it is a small one, move it under a ceiling light.
■ Try not to fill up all the space on your table. Move your books, diaries or notepads to a corner or a desk organizer. This will make space for your laptop or desktop.
■ If you want to add a hint of colour, you can keep a water bottle, a vase, maybe even a small desk plant. Hang a piece of art on the wall in front of you to break the monotony of the “office look”.
■ Use jars instead of buying a pen stand to stock your stationery items. Not only will you spend less, you will also enhance the “artsy” feel of the table.
—Niharika Choudhary, founder and creative director, Peeli Dori
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