Unfortunately, we can’t pull the plug on 2020, wait 10 seconds and then turn it back on again – if only we could.
These are unprecedented and somewhat scary times for our country, well for the world actually. Now more than ever, we need to pull together and do what we can to keep each other sane, and keep the economy limping along to try and minimise the financial impact on us all.
The government are urging us to work from home wherever possible and are now in a state of lockdown for the next three weeks at least.
Companies are frantically trying to get provisions in place so that their staff can work from home. Setting up VPN access to desktops from home computers, even purchasing laptops so employees can work from home etc. It’s all about Coronavirus preparedness and I’m not talking about stockpiling toilet roll, pasta or anything as ridiculous as that. No, what I want to talk about is working from home.
I already work from home, mainly because I took a job with a company that are based 260 miles away from my house and that’s just a tad too far to commute. So, I chose to work from home. It suits my family life; I can walk my two oldest children up to school and still be home in time to start at 9am. I can run up at 3.15pm and collect them again, it’s only a 5-minute walk away. Many people comment to me “Oh you’re so lucky to work from home” and they’re right, I am lucky in that respect and it was my choice, but it is HARD. It can be lonely and isolating and I really struggled with it for probably the first year.
I work for DSCallards, we’re a technology company specialising in Business Analytics and provide technical support, training and other professional services alongside the licenses we sell. I’ve spoken to half a dozen or so customers this morning and the running theme is that their staff who’re working from home for the first time ever are going stir crazy already and its only day two!
So, it’s prompted me to jot down my thoughts in my first ever blog. Here are some of my hints and tips for how to keep yourself sane!
If you can, set up your “home office” in a dedicated space. Be it the dining table, a table in the corner of a room somewhere, a spare room. I’m lucky, we have a spare room in the attic and I have my desk and monitor set up there out of the way, It’s much better to be sat at a table than trying to work with a laptop on your lap. That being said, I had to decamp downstairs in the living room sofa with my laptop on a tray since before Christmas, as my neighbours have been having an attic conversion and it’s been too noisy up there. A couple of weeks and they’ll be all moved in and I can return to my lovely monitor and not have to squint at my laptop screen any longer. But that’s another story for another day…
It’s really tempting to stay in your PJ’s if you work from home but don’t. Get up, have a shower and get dressed for work. You might not have to wear a suit or business dress but make an effort to look neat and tidy. As a company we’re always doing video calls with each other and customers via teams/Skype etc and actually, it just makes you feel more “business like” if you’re not dressed in your tracky bottoms or PJ’s.
If you don’t do it already, diarise your routine. Set time aside for specific tasks and stick to it. It will help you stay focused.
To work effectively from home requires discipline, it’s something I still struggle with but I’m a lot better at it than I was. I find turning off emails whilst I make customer calls to be quite helpful. I often fall into the trap of answering an email the minute it lands in my inbox, to the detriment of the task at hand. Turn off the distractions for a time if you can. I appreciate this won’t apply to everyone but it does help me.
Physical Distancing, not Social Distancing
I don’t like the term social distancing; I prefer physical distancing. Now more than ever we need to draw closer socially to support one another – we just can’t do it physically. If you have Skype/MS Teams/Zoom etc make use of them. Particularly at the moment where government advice is changing by the hour, it’s important to stay in touch with your employers/employees and colleagues. We have a group chat on Microsoft Teams whereby we review the previous day, plan the day ahead and agree such mundane things as “who’s going on lunch when” to ensure we always have telephone coverage.
Find the Funny
A few of us are already remote workers but for my colleagues who are normally based out of head office, not being able to glance up and ask a colleague a question is a really weird feeling. We seem to have embarked on a competition of sorts for outfit of the day with my colleagues having video calls with one another in assorted headgear. So far today we’ve had a police helmet, a trapper hat, a stormtrooper's helmet and the boss went full out in a tuxedo, bow tie and rakishly angled trilby – brilliant!! I’m scrabbling around for ideas of what I could wear but only really have an assortment of plastic tiaras as options. The important thing is, it made us all laugh and is keeping our spirits high. I feel an ongoing theme coming on.
Take Advantage of the Downtime to Address System Issues
This one is aimed mainly at IT. If you’re experiencing a quieter period due to fewer people working, then why not take advantage and service pack some of your application? Putting my sales head on for a second, service packs and upgrades to SAP BusinessObjects BI can be performed remotely so there is no impediment from that perspective. Even migrations to a new server can all be done remotely providing someone can spin up a new server for it to sit on – is now the time to do that?
As I believe I may have already mentioned, staying focused when working from home is hard, especially if you’re not working from home by choice. Dependant on what the business is, you may be really busy, but it’s likely that you will experience a slow down and things will be a lot quieter. Is there any online training you can undertake?
Here at DSCallards we have taken steps to be able to provide all our training in an online classroom environment. You may find that doing an online workshop whereby you “have” concentrate and be in the moment, might actually be really of benefit, not just from a work-related perspective but in just keeping you sane generally. Obviously, that will be very dependent on whether or not you have a place at home where you can set up and work uninterrupted blah, blah, blah.
Yes, I’m in sales and yes, I want and need to keep money coming into our business so that we can weather this storm, but actually, it’s a really valid point.
Take Advantage of the Benefits
There are some obvious benefits to working from home. Unlike in the office with its instant hot water tap, I have to wait for the kettle to boil. Whilst I’m waiting, I might pop a load in the wash or transfer a load to the dryer. On my lunch break, I might prep tea so as to save time later when the kids are home…
Schools are Now Closed Except for Key Workers
Kids. Now they might just throw a spanner in the works. The above is all well and good but what about if you have to try and work from home and have your children at home? Well I guess it depends on the age of your children. If they’re a little older then they’re probably self-sufficient and you can still get a lot done. If, however, like me you have young children (Ages 3, 5 & 7) this going to be much more of a challenge! I know for example that if I’m working in the attic and daddy is downstairs with the children, they would (and have) all walk past him, climb two flights of stairs and come ask me to make them a drink/snack. I mean literally, walk past him to come find me. What is that??? Having children at home and continuing to work is certainly going to be challenging, in my case we are planning on splitting it between us. I’ve already spoken to my boss and he’s agreed that I can reduce my hours down and work 9am-1pm and my husband is having the same conversation with his boss about working 1pm-6pm. It’s a balancing act between providing childcare and working. I certainly cannot ask my mum for help as she falls into the high-risk age category.
Will it work? Well we’re two days in and it seems to be going ok so far. Although, we are ONLY two days in, so ask me again in two weeks. I may not be coherent though.
If any of the above has been helpful or has struck a chord, then I’d love to hear about it. If you’re a DSCallards customer and want to talk to us about exploiting online training/remote upgrades and service pack applications during these potential downtimes please get in touch with either myself firstname.lastname@example.org or my colleague email@example.com.
If you’re not a DSCallards customer, well why not? If you’d like to be, or are also interested in online training - contact us.
Oh yes, there is one other final act of Coronavirus preparedness that I’ve undertaken ... I've bought a trampoline!