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How to make your work from home more productive during times of Coronavirus written by SUNITA MISHRA, published in March 24, 2020

In times of the Coronavirus pandemic, many companies are asking their employees to work from home. By laying down some ground rules, you can make working from home more productive.


Businesses across the world have taken a unanimous call to offer work-from home (WFH) to employees in order to track the novel coronavirus or Covid-19 in its tracks amid infections rising with every passing day.  Multinational companies from Apple to Facebook and Twitter to Amazon have advised staff to work remotely even as governments, communities and businesses devise plans to contain the outbreak, which has now entered as many as 178 countries. In order to arrest the spread, offices in India have also advised employees to work remotely till the situation improves.


As efforts are on worldwide to find a cure for the deadly virus that has spread at an extraordinary speed, it may be a while before office might be open for business. This would be a good time to set some ground rules as work from home becomes mainstay than just an aberration in your work life.


What to expect when you are working from home


Towards the start of the decade from 2000 to 2010, technology-fuelled multinationals proved it was possible to offer their staff remote working options, an alternative agreeable to both the employee and the employer.  For one, employee would not have to deal with the onerous task of travel back and forth businesses will not have to lease expensive workspaces in various locations and invest millions to run those every year. Somehow, the charm of WFH concept started to fail by and by, with majority of rolling back this option towards the middle of the 2010s.


Neil Usher, a global workspace design expert in his book of The Elemental Workplace says that the WFH concept took a backseat in the middle of the decade freshly gone by because companies probably expected technology to act as a cure-it-all panacea. Why that expectation was not fulfilled, says the author, has also to do with the fact that technology has enhanced our ability to physically relate and interact.


Lured as you might have been by the ring of it, there is a possibility that WFH might cause certain challenges in front of you.


No definite office hours


To be at your office, you have to follow a certain daily routine. Since there is no going to office in remote working, losing track of time is easy. The relief felt at the idea of not having to travel to office in the long run would not compensate for the feeling of losing track of your routine.


No real human interaction


Isolation has the ability to teach even the staunchest introverts and geeks to learn to appreciate the power of human interaction. While you are definitely in touch with your colleagues through various multimedia platforms, they would hardly ever make up for the real interaction with your co-workers.


No real division of work and personal work


It is always a good thing to distribute the hours in a day for your personal and professional life. When your home is your workspace, you might be tempted to use your office hours for personal work and vice versa. This might impact your life on both the fronts.


Tips to make your work from home productive


Since we have identified the challenges in your way to work from home, it is easier to find out the solution.


Start your day like before: The first rule to not go crazy in the middle of all office and house work is to treat office hours as office hours. The time before and after that is your personal time. Strictly follow this ground rule to keep things simple and convenient. If you have a 9-to-5 job, don&rsquot be lazy and start at 10 am. Similarly, don&rsquot overcompensate for being at home and work after 5 pm.


Quick tip: Your family members should be made acutely conscious of the fact that even though you are around during your office hours, you are not available for personal work.


Create a workstation and stick with it: Since we are not clear about the timing we should also be clear about the place. Running around the whole house in your pajamas with your laptop lying in one corner and its charger plugged in the drawing room is a sure-shot way to kill productivity. So that you don&rsquot tire yourself physically by looking for things and taking trips all across the house, just make one place in the house your workstation and maintain its sanctity.


&ldquoAs our teams start working remotely, we are continuously encouraging our team members to set aside space at their home as their work place. It may require a little discipline in the beginning, but it is essential to have a dedicated work space,&rdquo says Nair.


&ldquoStaying there for a long period might cause feelings of dullness and languor and claustrophobic if your home is a cluttered mess of things. So clear the clutter, pick everything you don&rsquot need and stow it away. A spacious, clean work space will be more relaxing and calming,&rdquo  says Bhawana Bhatnagar, interior stylist, Founder of Casa Exotique.


Quick tip: It would be the best to keep your workstation at home secluded so that you are able to accept office calls or engage in video-based communication.


Keep your work tools handy: The worst of not being in your office is not having anyone around to assist you in case some software in your laptop starts operating or you feel like having a quick cup of coffee because you are tired of working. In the absence of an office, one realizes the facilities they had easily available. Make sure your wifi doesn&rsquot fail you and make sure all those tools that enable web, message and video-based communication run flawlessly on your system.


Also, a video-based communication i.e. a Skye call would mean you and your surrounding being visible to your colleagues. On both counts, be ready to that that video call.


&ldquoA virtual brainstorming session discussing the challenges and opportunities with the team members helps ensure that we continue to work as a team, however remotely. It is also important therefore that when we are sending calendar invites for virtual meetings, we add relevant agenda and documents,&rdquo says Ramesh Nair, CEO and Country Head, JLL India.


Quick tip: In a WFH scenario, you are only as fast as your internet. Have the best of it.


What not to do when working from home


Don&rsquot multitask: Even if you can do it, multitasking will hamper your professional productivity. Division of work and personal hours is of utmost importance.


Don&rsquot overcompensate: This is for the workoholics &mdashonly because you are working remotely, doesn&rsquot mean you have to overcompensate by having no personal life.


&ldquoThe tendency to over-deliver naturally takes over workers during remote working situations. They want to make up for their supposed absence from the office by way of doing more than they would have if they were present in office. This tendency would end up exhausting you in the long run, apart from the obvious repercussion that this is not sustainable,&rdquo says Kalpana Asthana, a New-Delhi-based soft skills expert.


Don&rsquot lose contact with superior, co-workers:  Consistently keep in touch with your supervisor and co-workers on call, mails, messages and chats. Notify and update your superiors about your work progress.


Don&rsquot forget to take breaks: This is the usual practice at your office, right? A working professional would certainly not need a sermon on why taking breaks during work is important. However, for clarity&rsquos sake it must me reiterated here that the break should not be used to do some other personal work. Treat is as a break and relax before you get back to work.


Pointing out that keeping dedicated beginning and end of the day, Nair adds that staying healthy in these times is non-negotiable.


&ldquoThis begins with knowing and managing our own stress levels. We need to recognise our own behavioural, physical, emotional and cognitive responses to stress and work towards reducing the levels. And how can we do that? Take regular beaks throughout the day, take a walk, and take a break. Nothing helps like a few minutes away from the screen,&rdquo he says.


Don&rsquot ignore your personal life: You loved ones would have complained earlier when you brought your work to home. Now that you have now turned a part of your home as your workspace, it would be unfair to stay over occupied in your work and ignore your personal responsibilities.




Could work from home stop Corona outbreak?

Since the virus spreads through social interactions, promotion of work from  strategy can go a long way in containing the outbreak.


What could be the problems with work from home?

Apart from distractions that might hamper your speed and productivity, work from home can also lead to social isolation, causing anxiety.