With the lockdown announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa starting today some of us are going to start trying to work from home. I say trying because many are about to find out that working from home is not as simple as it sounds. There are many treacherous pitfalls that we can easily fall victim to which I will outline and give suggestions on how to tackle them and give yourself the best chance of working effectively from home.
It’s not just about you
With a total lockdown, everyone will be at home. So as much as this is about organising yourself it’s also about organising those around you and getting them prepared for your work from home setup. In cases where space is limited, this may prove very difficult, however, a conversation beforehand is better than conflict later.
The magic of time
I have been an early riser for years now and the purpose of those extra 2 hours I have carved out in my mornings has changed over time. Those hours, however, remain my most productive and this is largely boiled down to the lack of distractions. As I always say nobody is awake to distract you at 5 am and if someone is awake and looking for you at 5 am it likely is a real emergency.
As many in Europe and the Americas went into lockdowns a few weeks ago social media was awash with tweets and posts that featured “complaints to Human resources” about co-workers who were in this case children and infants in the house. Those who live in households with children will understand that we will have trying times ahead as their ability to play outside and/or with friends will be taken away and therefore they will look to you as a playmate. This can be trying and we must make time for them too or at least consider their feelings in these difficult times.
You imagine yourself your hammering out 8 consecutive hours of work but this likely not possible. In fact, it’s not advisable. Despite spending 8 hours at the office, not all 8 hours are spent working. Honestly. Schedule your breaks and get your “co-workers” in on these breaks and how they will be used.
Your real co-workers
Depending on the type of business you work in some of your colleagues may still have to report for work and this is a trying time for them. Understanding that there may be emotions that your co-workers may not be able to express easily given the circumstances. Also, consider that home situations differ widely and not everyone is in the same situation as you. Some may have a tougher time working from home than you do and a little compassion may go a long way. If you are customer-facing, so to speak, understand that customers are likely experiencing great difficulty too in this time and conversing as such really helps.
If you do commute to work you’ve just gained some extra time. Not so fast. This isn’t a guarantee of increased productivity. I have worked in work from home arrangements and can tell you for free that the extra time may amount to nothing. Parkinson’s law states that work expands to fill up the amount of time allocated to it. What I have found is allocating yourself the shortest amount of time possible to complete a task improves the likelihood of completing it.
What we are going through is unprecedented and we are likely to see and feel things we have never done before. 21 days is a long time and there is no one way to get things right, if at all, in a time like this. As bitter a pill as it is to swallow, the lockdown is for our good and it needs to be adhered to. Let us please play our part by only going out if it is necessary to do so. Please be safe and sanitise.