Currently, Malaysia is starting the second phase of the Movement Control Order (MCO) or lock-down where movement is limited to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am sure the past fourteen days have been extremely challenging for everyone – from organizations trying to protect revenue, manage costs and manage staff to individuals trying to juggle work, home chores and their children. Working from Home (WFH) seems a lot harder than it looks!
For now, we will focus on the many of us trying to get work done and be productive working from home. I need to be upfront here that I have had about 10 years of work from home experience in various capacities from employee, business owner and business partner. Hopefully, what I will be sharing here will be helpful to everyone working at home.
Designate a working space
This is one key element to be successful working at home. Early on, we need to train our minds to separate the “home” and the “work” or “office” environment. Fortunately for me, I do have a room dedicated for this so it is quite a bit easier for me. Not everyone has a spare room so the next best solution is to find a good space as your “workspace”. It doesn’t need to be very large, but do get a good chair. Your sofa or dining chair may not be ideally suited to sit and work from for long durations. This has to be one space – it is tempting to move your “office” from the living room to the dining and to your bedroom but you need to separate your home and not let your work intrude into all corners of your home. This also helps if you are not living alone and it gives others in your family or home a space to work and not interrupt each other.
Many Work from Home (WFH) veterans like me will say that you should at least dress for work. Of course, you don’t need to dress up (no, you don’t need to follow certain ridiculous guidelines), but working in your pajamas is a recipe for disaster. Do shower and change before work to get your mindset right at the start.
Besides this, establish a work routine early such as break-times, lunch, and other tasks. This is more important when you’re living with others or children. Meal times can be a good time to take a break but also you will realize that you move a lot more in the office than the home so it is also important to stay healthy. Take frequent breaks to stand-up, walk around and to look outside or to a distance. I happen to have invested in a good chair, ergonomic desks and monitor setups but I do frequently stand-up and get water for example. During this time, I will look out my kitchen window and maybe even perform some neck relaxation exercises for a minute. This helps minimize the disruption of work blending into your home and keep you productive. When you schedule your day, the added benefit is that your day becomes more organized. Remember you can add your commute time to balance out the probably longer work day than usual due to “home” related tasks slotted in between your typical workday.
Many of you readers may not be an introvert like me, but connecting with colleagues is probably more important than you think. So, it is quite important that we ensure these communication lines are used more often than before. An average office employee spends the bulk of their time in some proximity to their colleagues. So, right now, when you’re working from home, reach out with all the new tools we have today; Skype, Zoom, Whatsapp and more. These tools are useful collaboration and communication tools but don’t forget that they also can be used to just hang-out and chat over virtual coffee!
The other thing is that you probably are not home alone. Suddenly, married couples are working from home – together! Children are home also! This scenario can be highly frictional and challenging. Balancing home chores, childcare and work is no laughing matter. In this case, I would suggest that you set boundaries, explain it to everyone and also seek support from everyone. If your child is older, they can understand the work arrangements. My son who is nine know when my wife and myself are working, taking breaks or helping him with his Google classroom or Zoom lessons. Take shifts, help each other out, we all get our time to focus on any key tasks, conferences, calls and more. Like I mention in the routines above, your workday will probably stretch longer because you are now juggling tasks in between. Be realistic, talk to everyone your needs and most of all, be empathetic. Being positive in this situation will help everyone.
During this MCO period, movement is extremely limited and a bit more extreme than typical Work from Home (WFH) scenarios so I am adding this little section here to help everyone stay healthy and in good spirits. Being stuck in a confined space is can be quite unnerving for all. Try to take a few minutes each day for stretching or some limited form of exercise. If you have space in the house, take a walk outside to the garden, if not, open the windows or go out the balcony if you can. Fresh air and sun will help. I open my work room windows in the morning for the sun and fresh air as usually by noon, it gets hot and the air conditioner is switched on. If you have an air purifier in the house, turn it on. Yes, it’s not hazy but clean air is always good for health!
With this mixing of home and work scheduling, your general well-being can be affected. So keep to your breaks, hydrate yourself and take some steps, however few. Some stretching or simple exercises help. Do google for work at home fitness or workouts to get some idea. If your family stays with you, it may be good to get everyone to join together for even five minutes.
Stay safe everyone!
Eugene is the Director of Marketing, Commercial and CX at Brandt International. With over 20 years in various industries and start-ups, his passion lies in Customer Experience (CX) and User Experience. He is rather OCD about design and interfaces in particular. Mildly diagnosed with ADHD, he drinks too much coffee and generates ideas at random times all the time.