Working from Home - useful Tips from a Pro
In this guest contribution written by Heike Regina Nirschl, a successful German business and career coach, valuable recommendations are given how to work efficiently from a home office.
Working from Home - Challenge and Opportunity
Many companies had to provide home offices for their employees in a very short time frame.
Likewise, many schools were caught unprepared when they had to change to digital lessons. Those companies and schools that had allowed home offices before and pushed on digitalization are well prepared. For others, this situation represents a big challenge that is coped with in different manners.
And how to deal with this situation? How do we get to work efficiently from home and to separate business and our private life without spatial distance?
MOST IMPORTANT RULE: SELF-DISCIPLINE
In these challenging times, the home office is a basic requirement for many of us to do our jobs. For parents with kids, young children in particular, this is a great opportunity to look after them. At the same time, this is often the biggest challenge, in particular for single parents with little children. This requires a high level of flexibility. On the other hand, certain rules and routines help to achieve the best results
In my starting time being self-employed (after decades in an office) when I hardly had any clients, it was a great help to carry out preparing works such as:
• Define fix working hours
• Avoid disturbances
Parents with little kids should arrange themselves with their partners and fix the working hours in a way that one is working and the other one looking after the children. Single parents do not have this possibility and have to react even more flexible in this situation. As an example, my girlfriend gets up very early in the morning and works for two to three hours before her 5-year old son wakes up. Then they have breakfast together, after that he keeps himself busy for a while. However, at one stage it gets critical … and nothing works apart from watching TV. Those who have school-age kids can make agreements with them and, as an example, schedule online lessons during their own working time. In most cases, this works well.
It is, of course, very tempting! I am at home, no one can see me. Maybe just the postman. So why should I dress up or not wear a jogging outfit? Sometimes I also take the bait. However, it helps to dress as if you were going to the office, a least a bit. Why? It is easier for me to focus on my work.
• I can mentally better adjust to my work
• I can better separate between private and work issues
On days that I spend in my „feel well home look“, I do not work as concentrated and efficient compared to days when wearing an office outfit (which is quite comfortable). In between, I clear the dishwasher, peg out washing, write my shopping notes or hoover my appartment. As a result, I am often dissatisfied with myself at the end of the day since I have been effective neither here nor there. Because I did not separate between private and business things.
Same as the jogging outfit, the expectation of lolling on the sofa with the laptop on your thighs may be tempting for some people. I can only recommend not to do this. Why?
• Back pain and tensions
• Separation between job and leisure time
I often suffer from back pain. When I am sitting with a half-round back on my sofa and work like this for a longer time, I can already book an appointment with my chiropractor the next day. You may say „I am not you“ or „I never have back pain.“ Maybe not after one day, not after one week. But with a non-ergonomic posture, you will get problems sooner or later. Therefore, recommend: sit at a desk. If you don´t have a desk, change your table in the living- or dining room into a desk. Clear the space from private stuff and arrange for an office atmosphere. After the work is done, the table changes again to its original purpose – and you have a clear separation between job and leisure time.
Even if it is hard sometimes – when working my mobile phone is out of sight. Although messages on WhatsApp or others come in without a sound, I am distracted when the screen lights up – and I am tempted to have a quick look who has contacted me. That way, I have lost my concentration, my workflow, my concept – and I have to start all over again.
It is also recommendable to avoid anything else that might distract, such as looking after the laundry. In the office, we neither jump up all the time to do something completely different that has nothing to do with the job.
Sure thing, a fast and stable internet connection is a basic requirement to work efficiently. However, the following equipment is also very important, in particular, if the home office does not just last for one or two weeks;
• A decent seating
• Sufficient space on the „desk“
• Headset, mouse and maybe a big screen which is particularly nice.
For one or two weeks, a normal kitchen or livingroom chair may suffice. However, you will need appropriate seating for a longer time. An office chair is expensive and takes a lot of space. My solution (and I am very happy about it) is an ergonomic stool. It forces me to sit upright, facilitates constant movement and – the best, does not require a lot of space. After work, I just push it under the table.
In the office, we mostly have sufficient space for documents, binders, and notes. It is also important to have enough space for working material in your home office. It bugs a lot if you constantly have to look for something or to get up to pick up A, B or C.
Headset and mouse are basic requirements to work. The headset is, of course, important for phone calls but even more important for virtual conferences through Skype or Zoom. Your hands need to be free so that you can type and the audio connection is even better.
In the office, most of us are sitting in front of a big screen, sometimes even two screens. Working at home just with the small laptop screen requires a change. Often I need two screens in order not to switch too much. As a workaround, I place my husband´s laptop next to mine and, as an example, check a website for information needed. Sometimes I tend to forget that I cannot simply draw the document from one screen to another and I had to smile about myself.