Covid19 has driven most of us, at least here in Austria, into isolation, and sadly sometimes desperation, at home. Our new routine: Home Office. Many find that challenging. But it also offers unexpected opportunities and benefits. And since we cannot choose, why not make the best of the situation. In this post I explore how that can be done and how our DreiKreis Team is managing. On top, I give tips from 15 years’ worth of Home Office experience.
The IT sector is no novice when it comes to flexible schedules and homeworking opportunities. Work is mostly performed on a computer and technology as a resource available outside both office location as well as office hours, so this seems natural. VPN networks, video conference calls and WiFi allow us to stay well-connected to coworkers and superiors. Today, we can all benefit from their experience.
Forced to stay home – organisation is key
Where employees and freelancers can usually choose where to work, the ubiquitous corona-virus is eliminating the choice to go into the office for most. It doesn’t take long to identify the challenges that come with the situation.
A normal workday may start at a certain time, boast a busy schedule, meetings, a desk, co-workers, coffee breaks and – best of all: a definitive end. All of this is different at home. And although it may seem tempting to sleep in, slouch to the couch in your pyjamas and check your work emails with the laptop on your knees, it may be helpful to set up a good and preferably dedicated work space.
Such a bespoke space exclusively for work, with a desk/table, space for work material, a proper computer screen and little distraction can be achieved easily enough. Why not clear and mark space on the dining table, or even convert part of the kitchen table for that purpose?
We also suggest drawing up a definite schedule. Getting up at the same time, having a shower and dressing before sitting down at your normal office hours helps to maintain the sense of a regular workday. Remember: This is your real job, not a holiday. And in times where the unemployment rate skyrockets and the future seems uncertain, you want to hold onto it.
Our recruiting team can usually structure their day as they wish. This makes working from home now easier. Recruiting specialist Dora Rummel however is convinced that her success majorly depends on rigorously structuring her workday: “Home Office hasn’t changed when and how I begin my day. I’m most productive in the morning and consistently sit down to work between 8 and 9 o’clock. It helps me greatly to keep to a routine”.
She has also found advantages in the situation: “Most candidates answer the phone straight away and I have no trouble getting hold of them. This makes my job a lot easier. Also, I find this unusual situation easier to bear if my day looks as normal as possible”.
Too much contact, not enough communication
What happens if you live with your partner/family? It is necessary to create boundaries that respect everybody’s needs. A dedicated space for each family member, privacy where possible as well as the opportunity to vent frustration can help. If your home doesn’t provide enough rooms, how about taking it in turns to use the best workspace according to a fair plan?
Transparent rules and clearly communicating your requirements become even more important where children are present.
„Having the kids at home is of course an additional strain”, explains DreiKreis-co-founder and director, Johanna Kerber, who lives near Vienna with her husband and two children at school age. “We have decided on two hours of ‘school lessons’ every morning with a 10 minute break in between. We even set an alarm clock to mimic the school bell. In the afternoon the kids do an additional hour of ‘homework’”.
She continues to share: “One of the most important things was to create a proper work space for each of the kids. We try to make it as real as possible and let them sit next to each other. Now, they can concentrate on their schoolwork”, she says, “and because we use a flipchart to transparently visualise the daily routine, it is easy for them to and understand and come to terms with it.”
And when the best plan fails and tempers run high, remember: the situation will relax! Who knows, you might find something positive where you didn’t expect it.
Where some may find too much communication at home, more communication is needed to your team as well as your boss. If you are used to clarifying open questions easily in person during office hours, it is vital to continue doing this from home. A daily check in-call with your boss is regular meetings with your team and co-workers can be helpful. This way, expectations can be managed, questions answered, problems solved, and feedback given.
Johanna Kerber has ensured an intensive exchange since the very beginning of the crisis: “We successfully use the platform ‘Teams’ for our daily stand-up (Scrum) and regular Jour Fixe. Questions and queries are quickly resolved on the telephone and personal communication has a place on chat apps. We don‘t use WhatsApp to discuss business because of data protection“.
In the next few weeks we will report on the challenges of virtual leadership and how our director manages them.
Organisation and communication isn‘t all that can be done to make Home Office not just bearable but enjoyable. Our next post will shed light on how to unwind after work, how to deal with loneliness and isolation and what advantages the situation brings.
Stay healthy, stay happy!
DreiKreis has relocated the work stations to their Home Offices.
We are well experienced with home office and can therefore still provide all our services to you and proceed as usual.