All over the world, the coronavirus pandemic has meant thousands of people having to work from home for the first time. Unlike the occasional afternoon at home due to childcare challenges or waiting in for the plumber, this will represent the first extended period of home work for many and the first period with no agreed end date for most.
Many professionals work from their homes on a permanent basis and do so productively and in a way that works for them and their organisation. But without experience and organisational support, home-working can be a challenge – especially when spouses, house-mates and children are sharing the space.
It is, after all, first and foremost their home.
Getting the essentials right
I ran a webinar last week covering some basic principles of home-working, to give those with less experience some tips on how to navigate the expected challenges. I’d like to elaborate on the focus on practicalities and communication with a much broader point. This is now a situation that is going to be with us for some time. As such, we need to adapt to it and recognise what it requires of us.
Many people reading this will be familiar with the occasional day of home-work, planned to finish a challenging project or crank through a many-thousands-of-words report in a level of quiet that most workplaces don’t provide. This kind of working from home is associated with a sprint to get something done by a deadline.
Eyes down, hands on the keyboard, type until the sun goes down.
It’s no time for sprints
In the middle of a deadly and disruptive pandemic, sprinting just isn’t going to work. I encourage everyone to identify a pace and style of home-working that is as sustainable as possible. A way of working that can be deployed consistently for the months ahead, without detracting from their wellbeing or negatively impacting those closest to them.
Consider the next few months your working-from-home marathon.
- Building a set of healthy and helpful home-working habits to frame your day
- Agreeing how and when you’re going to work with the people you live with, especially if they are working at home too
- Coming up with a realistic approach to any childcare challenges your family now faces
- Being as flexible as possible as new logistical problems present themselves
- Approaching others’ home-working challenges from a position of compassion, not critique
- Dealing effectively with the expected uncertainty and anxiety that is natural in a situation like this
This also means that organisational leaders will need to role-model effective behaviours while walking the talk, that managers will be to be sympathetic and understanding, and that ‘productivity‘ will need to take on a new meaning for some.
The next few posts on this blog will go into more detail on these and related topics, to help you navigate working-from-home in a healthy and realistic way.
For now, I wish you and your loved ones good health.