Wednesday, March 18, 2020

My best practices for home office - Corona edition

Take some rest
If you follow my blog, you may already know that I work from home since more than 12 years. Except for some business travel, I tend to do the "things" considered work from a dedicated room in my house in Germany. Over the past years, I tried to find the balance between being productive (team, customers, employer, ...), take care of my family, socialize where possible and staying sane and healthy. Here are some of my best practices. They may or may not work for you, but at least give you some inspiration.

Be yourself

When I say that my best practices may or may not work for you, I am referring to the fact that every situation is different. Some of you may have a family or live with others, some of you have a dedicated room or not, have restrictions on work hours, family appointments, issues with Internet connectivity and more. Now, with the corona virus spreading, many of you have to live with curfews and even more restrictions.

Thus, take my and other advice for consideration only. Adapt it to your needs. I did the same when I started to work from home.

Work / life balance or integration

Several years back, one of the buzzwords was "work / life balance". Now it is often called "work / life integration". You can emphasize on work or life. My recommendation is to focus on balance and integration... :)

Plan for breaks. Plan for some fresh air and walks (combine it with grocery shopping?) and fitness. If possible, plan your social contacts outside your home office. Give your body some rest (eyes, back, hands) and use that time for other activities. Did you know that 10 minutes between conference calls could be used for cleaning parts of the bathroom or dining room and it can be relaxing?

Comfort food is ok

Few days ago, I joked with my team that I had stocked up on chocolate bars, marzipan and other comfort food. That type of nutrition is ok. It soothes the nerves and feels good. But I try to balance it with fruits and other healthy meals. As I said above, be yourself and find out what works for you.

Mute button and video camera

Many of us use video conferencing ("telco") to stay in the loop. All the conferencing systems have a highly useful feature, the mute button. I made it a routine to switch off the microphone when not talking. It cancels off my background noise and interruptions and also helps with the bandwith.

The same goes with the webcam. In most cases my video is not needed for the conversation. When talking with someone (directly or in a small group) who I have not yet met personally, I turn on my camera for few minutes to introduce myself. This is to better "connect" (bond). Thereafter, I offer to turn off cameras when not needed.

(this section was added on March 27, 2020)

Encourage feedback

Working from home often has a negative connotation. Hence, remote employees often work more than those in the office. Thus, I recommend to watch your work hours. With the commute missing and no regular routine to go home, you might end up working more than you would expect. This is fine, but you should watch your routine at home - ask your partner or a close friend to give you honest feedback on any changes they might notice.

The above helped me to stay sane. I enjoy working from home and its flexibility. Now, it is time for a break and some chocolate...

If you have feedback, suggestions, or questions about this post, please reach out to me on Twitter (@data_henrik) or LinkedIn.