Covid-19 : When working from home

Corvid-19 : When working from home

Not everyone is naturally cut-out for working from home, but as we are all now being forced to do so, I thought I might offer some advice, after more than a decade of being home-based. I shall obviously leave all the health and infection-prevention advice to those that know.

1.   Make your new, but temporary, workzone comfortable and suitable for work. Don't balance all your bits on the corner of the dining room table, to be forced to move it at mealtime. Use the spare room if you have one (you're not having visitors anytime soon, are you?) The more comfy you are, the better you will be able to focus on working.

2.   Get the lighting right. Don't work in the dark, if you need to see a keyboard to type. We're not all touch-typists. Use a small light to illuminate the keyboard and your notes, to avoid eyestrain. Avoid the light causing reflections on your computer screen, too, that makes seeing the screen difficult. Don't work with your back to a window, that will cause a LOT of reflections.

Less temporary, but some useful information :

A few years ago, I had a builder in, to re-purpose a bedroom into my studio. I always keep the studio quite dark (for more accurate colour representation on-screen and no reflections), but I have multiple downlights specifically positioned in the ceiling, for different purposes. The primary lights illuminate my keyboard, some picture frames on one wall, and the floor, so I don't trip over one of my black cats in the darkened room. In order to stop the whole room being illuminated, I use very narrow beam (10 degrees) LED bulbs with a colour temperature of around 4000K, as that is a slightly colder, blue light, close to daylight - much better for working in. Domestic lights, that appear more orange or yellow are around 2500k and more suited to relaxing on the sofa.

3.   Sticking to '9 to 5' might not be strictly necessary (but discuss this with your boss, first). If allowed, work when it suits you better, have breaks, but make sure you maintain your hours during the day. Can you split your hours during the day, making better use of quieter moments in the house and still make all your deadlines?

4.   Avoid distractions. Yep, that means don't check your social media accounts every ten minutes! Pretend you're not at home! Try not to watch TV during your lunchbreak, if that will keep you from work for more than an hour, despite what I said above. If you want to listen to music, keep it low, play music without vocals, as that's less distracting.

5.   If you wish, you can now shower when necessary, rather than when 'expected'. If you're not going in to the office every day, do you really need to shower every day? Who's going to tell you that you stink?

6.   Don't shout at the wife/husband/partner/kids/dog/cat. They're probably just pleased to see you. Well, the dog is.

7.   Keep refreshed. Remember to eat. Time flies without distractions, see 4 above.

8.   Keep tidy/organised. You're out of your comfort-zone already, don't make it worse for yourself, by leaving stuff all over the house.

9.   Be professional. Take it serious. Do your timesheets.

10.   If you're struggling to concentrate, leave it! Do something radically different. Take that one walk of the day that you're allowed. Have a bath or a shower, you may need one if you enthusiastically followed point 5 above.

11.   Keep connected. Talk to, or video chat with, your colleagues to discuss things. If you're not used to them, emailed briefs can be surprisingly difficult. If there's two ways to read a sentence in an email, you'll probably choose the wrong one. (Hence all the fighting on social media). Connect, talk through things, like you would in person. Trust me when I say this can save a LOT of time.

If you choose the video call option, here's something you must do, before you start: Look behind you. Hide anything embarassing. Try and present an uncluttered background, if at all possible, or the person you're talking to will be having a good nosey at everything in the room behind you. Keep the kids or pets away. Apparently, I looked like a Bond-villain in a recent video meeting, when one of my cats jumped onto my lap during an important moment.

Put on a clean shirt or top. Look professional. If you happen to be naked from the waist down, don't leave your chair till the video meeting is over!

12.   You might not have access to your network for automatic back-ups, so manually back-up to a portable hard disc. Do this regularly. Once a day? Once a week? Depends on the value of your computer files. But please do this! It's heartbreaking when you lose all your work. Believe me. You can use software to schedule the back-ups to happen when you're not actually working on the computer.

13.   Replace the bog roll (if you have any), you're not at work now!

Stay safe, stay home.

Paul Thompson