The commute may be a breeze, but having your partner and family sharing your office space could have its downsides. And how are you getting on with your imaginary friend from accounts or HR? Here are my ten top tips for dealing with the new normal
Separate your workspace from your living space
This is particularly important if you have kids at home. Try to find a space away from the maelstrom which your kitchen and lounge room will become. Make clear to your family that they will need to treat a visit to you in the same way that they would treat visiting their work colleague. You don’t have to get them to make appointments, but asking if they can interrupt you would be a good ground rule. It may also help them if you tell them when you are starting and finishing work, and when you are breaking for lunch.
Try to find a space next to a window – it’s important that you stay connected with the world
Make sure that your workspace is comfortable – but not too comfortable. Reading important material while reclining on your favourite couch may not be the best recipe for, as my history teacher used to describe it, reading, understanding and inwardly digesting. Napping is not an acceptable work activity.
Stay connected with your work team
Don’t use Yammer, Slack or similar chat options for total communications. Regularly pick up the phone and listen to a human voice. Find a daily activity where the team can get together virtually – sharing a 10 question quiz from the online news whilst having morning tea in front of your screens may be a good idea.
Regular snacking from the fridge, or having the chocolate or lolly shelf next to your desk is not a good idea
Keep such things in the kitchen, and reward yourself every hour or so with a stretch and a walk to go and get them. This can also be a good way to check in on the kids, check for parcel deliveries – many more these days – and waving at the neighbour. Social distancing is very important, but so is keeping in contact with other humans nearby. You can conduct a conversation quite easily whilst 2m apart.
Connect and interact with real people outside social media
Yes I know it’s old school, but ring through your deliver-in lunch order rather than doing it online. It may take slightly more time, but hearing people’s real voices is an important way to stay connected. And remember all that time you saved since you stopped catching the train or the bus to work.
Stick to a regular schedule
Shower and dress at your normal time. Start work when you would each day, take a lunch break, and clock off when you would normally leave. The bonus is casual Friday is every day. And even if you have to wear a nice shirt or top for video calls, no-one can see the shorts below the desk.
Hydrate more than you would in the office, eat healthier food, and walk around the house regularly
Usually, you would walk to the train or the bus stop, or from your car park to your office, and it’s important to replicate that in other ways. You could even make your online team activity an exercise break, although you may get some opposition from Collin in accounts, you know the one I mean.
Have an imaginary work friend.
Ours is Gerald from HR. He’s the one who leaves boxes in the corridor, doesn’t wash up his own dishes, and creates a mess on the general workbench. It’s much more fun to pay out on Gerald than to give your partner, with whom you will hopefully share the couch and television watching that evening, a hard time. And it gives you and your partner someone to criticise – or even praise occasionally – during the lunch break.
Your IT expert is your friend
So don’t complain if they keep you waiting. They are probably problem-solving for half the office. So think about whether you really need to ask them that question which is annoying you, or whether a quick Google search might do the trick. Also remember that old It proverb from the classics –
Turn it off, wait, then turn it on
Often the problem will be gone.
If that doesn’t work, think about whether this is a PICNIC –
Problem In Chair, Not In Computer.
Remember, this too will pass.
This is a very difficult time for all of us around the world. But, like most challenges, it will come to an end. Use a lunch break to do some virtual holiday planning or touring. Many galleries, museums and tourist attractions around the world are setting up virtual tours. Horse studs and farms are posting videos of feeding the animals. So pick an activity you enjoy, and jump aboard virtually. The Sydney Olympic mantra of there’s nothing like being there is certainly true, but this is the next best thing – and much better for your health and budget.
Bonus tip: For the geeks, if you are using a remote desktop provided by your workplace, Skype For Business will not allow video.
At least that’s the conclusion I’ve reached. But then again, I didn’t ask Amelia from IT.