Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

How to master work from home

From finding a spot with the best Internet connectivity to keeping the dog from barking during a video call, here are some tips to make remote working more productive from those who have suddenly found themselves logging in from the spare room

Delhi-based entrepreneur and investor Anisha Singh’s day usually starts at 5:30am. After a meditation session, she wakes up her two daughters, gets them ready for school, hits the home gym, and leaves for work by 9:15am. Now that she’s been working from home for the past few weeks and schools are shut because of the Covid-19 crisis, part of her routine has changed. At 9am, she races to the spare room that now doubles as an office, hoping to beat her husband to grab the space.

“My husband and I have a rule that whoever makes it to the ‘office’ first gets the chair. The other gets the bedroom, which is full of distractions," she says. “That’s why I haven’t relaxed my morning routine in any way." So far, Singh’s managed to bag the office on most days.

With the entire family at home, space to work without distractions is at a premium. Broadband connectivity, videoconferencing and a host of apps have made the transition to working from home during the coronavirus pandemic easier, but the challenge of managing expectations at home remains. Children cooped up in the house all day want to be entertained. Spouses, parents or in-laws expect more time, and chores need to be managed with work.

“It’s hard to keep kids engaged all day," says Bengaluru’s Amritha Sridharan, 33, who has been working for a Mumbai startup for four years. She used to have the house to herself when the children were at school, but now summer camps have been cancelled and colouring books don’t hold attention. “Till last week, my neighbours and I took turns looking after the kids. We had informal classes. One neighbour hosted abacus class, another chess. It gave me three hours of productive time. Now the apartment is in a lockdown, with no classes, no domestic staff or visitors."

Talent development consultant and executive coach Neha Parasher’s routine has been turned upside down with her husband and eight-year-old daughter at home. Parasher, who has been working from home for two years, would work uninterrupted till 3pm when her daughter returned from school. She and her husband have put down a schedule to avoid last-minute jostling when both have to take calls or join video conferences at the same time. They were forced to do this after they kept having arguments about who would use which room—the room overlooking the park, for instance, is quieter than the one facing the road, and is in demand for virtual meetings.

To avoid this, Delhi’s Shilpi Jain and her family have found a unique solution. Her husband works out of the car, and makes his presence felt only during meals. “We decided not to encroach on each other’s space," she says. Jain has been maintaining her routine, clocks in by 10 am, and puts in 8.5 hours of work every day.

Most people, however, miss the organized atmosphere of an office, and the clear boundary between work and home. Mumbai’s Suchet Shetty, marketing manager at Pernod Ricard, has been struggling to work in the one-bedroom house he shares with his parents. He has to tell them before he gets on conference calls or needs to do deep work. “Else, my mother will ask me if I want to eat or drink something," says Shetty, adding he’s working longer since there’s no fixed time to log out.

Parasher, too, has noticed that everybody is available all the time. A client, a mid-level manager, told her he’s on calls 13 hours a day now that he’s working from home.

“It is important to have discipline while working from home. This is not something anyone planned. More than infrastructure, we need guidelines," says Ravi Jain, co-founder of Hyderabad-based consumer insights and social listening platform, GenY Labs.

For those living alone, though, this is not such a challenge. Fern Pais, a manager at Essar, who lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Mumbai, says working at home has increased her productivity. Since she saves an hour and a half of commute time, she starts work early and finishes by 5:30pm.

“When I had to go to office, it would be 8.30pm by the time I got home, and I’d be too tired to do anything. Over the last few days, I have been trying out different recipes as I love cooking, especially Italian food," she says.

There’s a silver lining. Colleagues have formed bonds over the hardships of working from home. Vaishali Kasture, 50, senior leader at Amazon Web Services, says, “Some colleagues have kids in background, barking dogs, doorbells ringing during video calls. Sometimes when my dog, Maxie, pops his head in while I am video-chatting with team members, they cheer. The situation is bringing out empathy in people, something we had almost lost."

Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com

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