Due to the outbreak of Corona-virus, there’s a sudden influx of people working remotely. As someone, who has only recently gone through the transformation from a regular office worker (with an actual assigned desk and all that classic stuff), to a full-time remote worker, I thought I could share some of my experiences on how to survive WFH (that’s Working From Home for those of you who’re even newer to this stuff than I am!)
Up until recently, I used to work at Valo’s Montreal office. The office was always vibrant, often quite full of people. But about half a year ago I moved back to Finland with my family – the change from the office in Montréal to working alone in a dark room in the middle of a forest in Finland was rather big.
However, a horrible thing like a worldwide viral pandemic outbreak is apparently forcing quite a few other people into the same situation. In the wake of restrictions to travelling and public gatherings (and the actual health risk), different organizations have been speeding up their transformation to a more remote-friendly working culture.
Tech behemoths like Google and Microsoft are embracing, and even contributing to this cultural shift. Not only are they encouraging their own workforce to work from home, but they’re also doing their best to help their potential customers to do the same.
Microsoft is offering a free six-month trial globally for a premium tier of Microsoft Team, [which] was originally designed to enable hospitals, schools, and businesses in China to get up and running quickly on Microsoft Teams, and that tier is now available globally. – –
On March 10th, Microsoft says, it will also roll out an update to the free version of Teams that will lift restrictions on how many users can be part of a team and allow users to schedule video calls and conferences.The Verge
Okay – so that’s there. At least getting started adopting remote working practices isn’t expensive now!
And Teams is a great tool. Back when I had my first stint at remote working (while living in the USA in 2017), Microsoft Teams was pretty fresh out of the oven… And it was a lifesaver during the 6 remote months I went through.
Without proper collaboration tools, Cabin Fever would’ve gotten to me pretty bad. While Finns are known to be fairly introverted, some social interaction is still a welcome change in your work day.
But I digress.
To get back to the topic, there’s plenty of small things you can do to make your working from home experience as pleasant as possible and just a tiny bit more sociable. Read below for my top picks!
Tip 1: Turn your camera on
For a remote worker, most of your daily interaction is going to be through instant messaging, voice chats, or online meetings. But these channels can feel extremely distant and asocial. For someone, who usually likes the water cooler talk, and all the delightful interactions and exchanges at the office, this can feel extremely discouraging and kind of depressing.
However, this tiny change makes a huge difference: Turn on your webcam, and politely request that the others do the same. Seeing each other’s expressions is huge.
Try it for a couple of days, and you can probably feel your cabin fever diminishing!
Tip 2: Reserve a room as your office, and treat it as your workplace
To tell you the truth, before having to experience WFH on my own, I found advice like this borderline comical.
I thought that if I was in the position to be working remotely, I would let nothing stop me from working from sofa without pants on.
Now, to be fair, you don’t have to wear pants when you go to your “office” (office – as in a dedicated working space). But having routines like that helps immensely in conserving the work-life balance. When you go to the office, focus on working and getting stuff done. Don’t take your work home from the office.
Your family will thank you, and maybe you will end up working a bit less as a result (trust me, that’s also a good thing!)
As a side note, I know a lot of people who also genuinely suit up before going to “the office” (the tiny room that you’d usually call “broom closet” or something, but that now has a tiny desk for a laptop in it) and starting their work, but that’s where I draw the line.
I’ll have my company hoodie, sure – I mean, I would probably wear that anyway – but ain’t nobody going to force me to wear pants. That’s one of the biggest pros of working remotely anyway!
(Despite what it sounds like, points 1 and 2 are in fact compatible as long as you play it smart 😉)
Tip 3: Take any chance to actually meet your colleagues face to face!
Okay, so this is kind of a big one for me.
Suffering from Cabin Fever is not fun. Meeting your colleagues is usually fun (or at least it should be). So if you get a chance to meet them at company events, trade shows, after work events, or whatever else, go the extra mile and take the chances. Well, the travel restrictions notwithstanding., obviously!
I mean, I personally hate going anywhere by default. Such a bother, and there’s going to be people there. Usually, I’ll rather stay home; it’s warm and has chairs.
But when you’re working from home, you will really need to go somewhere every now and then. Even better, if you’re getting paid to do so, right?
Tip 4: Have a hobby!
Trust me, it’s really easy to get stuck in the grind.
How? Somewhat like this:
You start your day at home, you take your kids to daycare before getting back home, work for 8 hours at home, get your kids back from daycare, only to return home, and probably spend the rest of the day at home, before your kids go to sleep, which is when you get back to your computer to work for a few more hours…. Until you crash, due to the air getting so stale in the broom closet that serves as your office.
That’s a routine – sure – but not a very good one. It’ll wear you down, even if you like your daily work. You need to figure out something to take your mind off the grind!
I’m not going to into any weird details about what to do, though.
I feel like all the life advice guides telling you to get a dog, start jogging, “walk to work” (around the house, that is) every day, listen to some particular music, go to co-working spaces, or whatever else, are just trying to impose authors’ ideas of optimal lifestyle on you.
That’s useless. The same things don’t work for everyone.
But believe me when I tell you, you really need a hobby. Or any other excuse to get you away from work, and possibly out of your house!
That was just my 2 cents or so, on how to survive working from home. Having gone through that transformation twice in the last few years, I felt I’d try and share what has helped me keep me fairly sane!
On a related note, if you want to read a huge list of excellent survival tips, read Scott Hanselman’s blog post “Love in a time of Corona Virus“.
On an unrelated note, in a country where “personal space” equals keeping a distance of 1-2 meters to everyone else, diseases like Corona virus have a slightly toned down rate of infection. But still, no matter where you live, stay safe. If WFH helps you do that, great.
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