25/03/2020 - 16:20

Tech, trust and discipline needed for home work

25/03/2020 - 16:20


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Some people find transitioning from an office environment to working from home difficult, but it needn’t be.

Old habits can be hard to break when you bring the office home with you. Photo: Stockphoto

Some people find transitioning from an office environment to working from home difficult, but it needn’t be.

“I married you for better, or for worse, but not for lunch,” was the warning delivered 30 years ago by my wife when I made the move to work from home.

Many things have changed during the past three decades, but that piece of advice remains a useful tip for today’s crop of home workers, given how the decision to relocate from the office can affect domestic life.

If there are differences in the current migration to the suburbs it’s that in many cases it is not voluntary, which means some people are not prepared for the differences that working from home brings.

Space is one of the critical issues because those newly working from home need the room to do the jobs for which they’re being employed, and that generally means finding somewhere quiet and away from the daily activity around the house.

Discipline is perhaps even more important because home is not normally associated with office work, with the experience of former Reuters correspondent Jim Regan providing another early warning for me.

“I knew it was time to return to an office when I was still in my pyjamas at midday,” Regan said, based on his experience while writing for a metal-trading publication from a flat in New York.

Dressing for work while you know you’re stuck at home might not sound like an important suggestion but it does set the tone for the day, which ought to follow the rhythm of a normal work routine.

Having the right equipment to do your job is another vital part of the mix, and while I had the advantage of being able to spend a few weeks planning, the situation today is far more rushed.

Computers, printers, scanners and whatever else is needed for a particular profession need to be in place from day one, as does a premium quality internet and telephone connection. If what you’ve got now is not the best, make every effort to get upgraded.

On the issue of the internet, it might be wise to assume that a mass shift of workers to the suburbs will strain the sometimes-erratic service provided by the National Broadband Network.

A solution to broadband dropouts is to utilise your mobile phone’s ‘hot spot’ function to ensure a two-way flow of data and voice communications (and make sure your employer is aware that your phone bill could be higher than expected).

Early in the move home, it is important for everyone involved to appreciate that you are there to work. Walk the dog on your lunch break if need be, but your primary responsibility during work hours is to your employer.

Another potential downside is the loneliness that can arise when you’re stuck at home, particularly for those who enjoy a high level of social interaction. It requires willpower, but in these circumstances it’s a burden worth bearing, because the aim of this imposed social isolation is to dodge COVID-19.

Focusing on work in a home environment is not easy for everyone but once mastered it has significant benefits. The saving on time and money by not having to commute is significant, with the hardest decisions in the morning being whether to turn left and make a cuppa or turn right and turn on the computer.

Early in the shift to working from home, it will be necessary to decide whether you’re at your best working in the morning or evening and then adjusting household events around work, with work coming first because that brings in the money to maintain the household.

There is a flipside to the home work trend and it’s one that will worry employers: how can they know that their employees are doing the work for which they’re being paid?

The only answer to that question is trust, on both sides of the deal. An employer has to trust an employee while also judging the quality of his/her work, and an employee has to perform at a standard expected in the office (and perhaps a notch higher).

In all this, the key word for everyone is discipline. Maintain normal hours, dress as if going to the office, get used to working alone (a hard one for some people), figure out whether you perform better in the morning or evening, and then adjust the household around those working hours.


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