Help – I’m working from home! How to deal with meetings, children and other obstacle


26.03.2020

The unprecedented coronavirus measures have resulted in a record number of people working from home. So, for anyone who’s working from home for the first time, and for employers who’ve been obliged to introduce teleworking, here’s a summary of our top tips!

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Tip 1 – Try to structure your day

Working from home allows you to divide up your day in a more flexible and practical way. Yet home workers find it most efficient to impose a fixed working structure upon themselves, with bigger blocks of concentrated work, and a few longer breaks in between. Be sure to start your day with a shower and don’t work in your pyjamas. This will immediately get you into more of a work mindset.

 

Tip 2 – Efficient meetings

Ask yourself whether 17 people really need to take part in a meeting. Put together your meetings as practically as possible and use digital tools that work well. At StepStone we regularly use BlueJeans, Microsoft Teams and Slack. Google Hangouts, Zoom and (made in Belgium) Vectera are also well-known online communication tools. Actively involve all participants in the meetings and avoid people adopting a passive attitude during the meeting. You can use the 5-minute rule for this: every 5 minutes, check what someone thinks, whether someone has any other ideas, etc. Is there someone that can’t make it? Record the meeting and send a short report with concrete decisions and a to-do list to all participants immediately afterwards.

 

Tip 3 – Keep on communicating

When you’re working from home, communicate even more regularly than in the office. Not to prove that ‘you are actually working’, but to avoid misunderstandings and to ensure that you don’t become lonely and isolated. Make sure that you keep everyone involved informed. Don’t send extremely long emails, but keep things short and to the point. Compile a brief update on your work for your manager every week. Many teams use the free tool Trello for efficient project management. As a manager, this gives you a handy overview of how the project is progressing and who is doing which tasks.

 

Tip 4 – Take good care of yourself

Stay healthy while you’re working from home. Schedule regular breaks. Make sure that you stay active. Keep away from sugary foods, but stock up on fresh fruit, dried fruits and nuts to snack on. Get out in the fresh air every day. Take advantage of the time that’s been freed up by not having to commute. Also make sure you don’t go to bed too late.

 

Tip 5 – Ignore your household chores during the day

Set aside fixed times in your work schedule to possibly do household tasks. Make sure that you stay fully focused when you’re concentrating on work, and don’t keep heading to your dishwasher, washing machine, messy cupboards or vacuum cleaner. Plan these tasks ahead of time for mental peace of mind.

 

Tip 6 – Working from home with children

It is virtually impossible to focus on work whilst simultaneously minding your children. But now that schools are closed and people are obliged to work from home, we have no choice but to do this to the best of our ability. Are there two adults at home? If so, take it in turns to mind the children. The parent that’s in their ‘work bubble’ that day should be left in peace as much as possible.

Are you at home alone with your children and do you also have to work? In that case, plan out a programme for your children (for example use Maison Slash’s handy planner) with tasks, assignments and games, and make it their responsibility to complete their tasks successfully. Children love structure and ticking off lists or colouring in to-do lists.

  • Maison Slash has put together inspiration for parents in this Facebook group to get through these #fiveweekstilleaster.
  • The first month on Netflix is free. But it’s still healthy to limit screen time and go outside frequently (although be sure to keep a safe distance from others!).
  • The library is putting a whole series of free audio books (for children and adults) online.
  • Come up with a longer project that will keep them occupied for a few days, like ‘make as many buildings as possible with all your Lego bricks’.
  • The Wablieft newspaper is temporarily granting free access to all its articles. These are ideal reading material for children and those less keen on reading.
  • This site contains colouring pages from 113 museums worldwide.
  • Set up a book swap with neighbours (and do it safely: wash your hands!).
  • Focus on work as much as possible while the children are napping, while they’re watching their daily film, or – if there’s no other option – after they’ve gone to bed.
  • Above all, make the best of it. Enjoy your time together. Don’t get stressed. And the most important thing of all: wash your hands – frequently!
  • Make trips to nature reserves (take your own drinks and picnic with you and carefully pick up your rubbish) or stay on the sofa and enjoy a virtual museum visit in twelve world-famous museums.

 

Employers : trust your employees and be understantding

Employers need to show understanding for the situation during this coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, they have to trust that their home-working staff really will be doing their work. Research shows that employees do more work when they are working from home than they do in the office, despite the fact that they spend slightly fewer hours working.

“Home working can only be successful if you are confident that your staff will perform their roles, regardless of whether you can see them or not,” says Aaron McEwan, Vice President of the research bureau Gartner. Managers often worry that they have no overview of the work routines and workflows of their home-working staff. Home workers organise their work around the times of day when they are most productive. The trust their manager places in them motivates them to do their work well.

So, there’s absolutely no point in laying down bureaucratic rules such as ‘email your boss if you’re taking a break’. Show understanding for your employees’ home situation during this crisis and communicate openly and honestly in both directions.