4 Personal Tips for Working from Home
From Steve Yorkstone
Working from home can mean you get lots done, but, it also means you face some challenges. Especially when you're working as part of a distributed team. Here are our top tips to work from home, based on experience. Thanks to all our colleagues who shared their hints & tips on our internal social network.
For all the technical advice you need, check out the Working from Home page.
Tip 1: Set your boundaries... to be mindful of the space and time that you'll be doing your work in (and communicate that to the people around you).
A morning routine can really help, with the same times you’d usually do. It is super easy to "just check that email" before breakfast, and then before you know it (if you are anything like me) you'll find you'll still be sitting there in your pyjamas by lunchtime, starving hungry, and not working at your best.
Physically make sure your space is suitable, (check out the Health and Safety advice it is important) and do take breaks. Human bodies need to get up and walk around now and again, and we need fuel and water to work well - it's great to have some natural light and a view of the world.
Letting people you know when and where you're working with little visual reminders can really help. A post it note on the bedroom door could save your partner from accidentally walking in on a work call! Visual cues also help. I wear my work lanyard when I am "working" to help remind others (and myself) that if I don't give them the time I normally would it's just because I am at work... but I’m not sure this works for my hamster!
Each team will have different ways of checking in with how your work is going for the day, working on a distributed team is going to be new for all of us (even the bosses!). Some people like to send an email at the start or end of the day with a quick update, or a message around a team discussion group. This brings us on to...
Tip 2: Reach out to people... but being aware they might also be in a new and unfamiliar working situation
One of the benefits of working from home is focus. We can close the door and get things done. That said, work is about more than just cracking on with what we have to do, we are all part of teams and the wider community, and it's important to keep in touch with the people around us. But when everyone is so busy getting themselves set up in response to the current situation, how will we get the level of communication right? What if we end up unwittingly distracting people?
Well, I would suggest that this is one of the things we are going to have to learn to do with time and experience. We're probably not going to get it right all the time, but, if we can trust each other to ask for help if we need it (and let it go if they don't accept our offers for help) that might be a good guide.
Check out this BBC article about not over communicating.
Oh, and don't forget your external community. I know already across the sector there is some really good advice emerging, so it could be really worth checking in with your contacts out there. Not only could you learn something that could support you, but, it may be there is an opportunity for you to help.
Of course, reaching out is one thing, but what's the best way to do it?
Tip 3: Use what you know... to make practical solutions right now.
Start with what you already use. In practice you probably already are using services and systems to communicate with the people around you. If you are set up with a SharePoint site that you use well brilliant that is perfect! But if not, don't sweat it. Maybe you have a Workplace by Facebook group for your team, or a WhatsApp group chat. Don't forget the Plain Old Telephone System.
What we have seen is that sometimes these systems have been creaking under the load over the past week or so, so it is ok to use an alternatives. and ok to keep using these systems now to keep in touch (of course without breaking any of the University Information Security Policies!).
Don't worry that we aren't in a perfect situation right now - of course we aren't - this was completely unprecedented. But we can work through this situation to make improvements. Which leads us to:
Tip 4: Always be learning... what we discover right now will be useful later.
While we are in the process of adjusting to these changes it is going to feel weird, and we're going to make mistakes. But, that is what the business of learning is about. In a wee while, when this is all over, we'll probably have learnt some new skills that will set us up to deal with the next challenge, whatever it might be, and to keep on doing what we do for our students, our colleagues, and for the wider world.
Finally: if you would like help setting yourself up, contact the IS Service Desk and they’ll help find the right person to get back in touch to help get you set up and ready to go. If you are thinking about how your business processes work and making home working effective and productive, give Steve a shout who’s ready to help.