Working from home? HR experts offer a few tips on staying productive

Thanks to the Covid-19 epidemic, homework has become a constraint rather than something that is undertaken occasionally. It’s unclear how long the current lockout will last, so it’s also best to focus and prepare to work in this mode for the long haul. Working at home (WFM), however, has its own challenges. We spoke to human resources and technology experts and asked them what practices and tools we can adopt to ensure that our productivity does not suffer during this period.

Stay disciplined: Many people find it difficult to work in a disciplined manner when working from home. There is a tendency to start work late, to take unexpected breaks, and to waste time in unproductive activities. With family members behaving like you’re on vacation, maintaining a high level of seriousness can be a challenge.

Experts suggest that you approach working from home with exactly the same attitude as when working from the office. “Do not make any changes to your schedule. The time you fall asleep, you wake up and the activities you do before leaving for work, such as exercising, must remain exactly the same,” says Rituparna Chakraborty, Co-Founder and Executive Vice-President, TeamLease Services. Those who may have to attend video calls with clients and senior management must dress appropriately. Being dressed formally also helps to create a good mood.

It also makes it possible to set up a clearly delimited workspace. If you can have a room for you where you can close the door, this is ideal. In small houses, try to set up a workstation in an isolated corner. Do not work while sitting on the bed as this may cause long-term posture problems.

Maintain fixed hours: Often when you work away from home, the hours of work can go on and on. Your colleagues, customers, etc. can call you at any time of the day or night with one request or another. “Even when you work away from home, there must be a designated time when you start working and a designated time when you close your store,” says Chakraborty. Managing your colleagues’ expectations in this regard is particularly crucial.

Since you are alone, create an agenda for the day. List the tasks you intend to accomplish. This will act as an anchor, ensuring you don’t drift.

If you are not using a daily planner, it may be time to start using one now. Divide the whole day into half-hour or one-hour slices. Plan specific activities, especially those involving other stakeholders, for specific hours. Keep blocks of time when you are working hard on your own and will not be disturbed. Such segregation is important, otherwise the whole day could go by without you accomplishing much.

Take scheduled breaks of 5-10 minutes at regular intervals. At the office, you would already have a routine when you go out with colleagues for a cup of coffee. At home, you need to consciously plan similar breaks. Walk around the house and stretch your muscles.

Stay logged in: Even if you can’t go out, it doesn’t mean you can’t socialize. Schedule voice and video calls with friends and relatives, especially those with a sunny and upbeat disposition. It may be wiser to stay away from Apocalyptic Cassandras, as there is already so much bad news all around. Staying connected will help you realize that you are not alone in this area. This will help avoid the tendency to become paranoid or depressed.

The technological tools you need

Get adequate bandwidth: If you are working on heavier applications, or if several family members are working at the same time, the slow speed of the Internet could be an obstacle. Switch to a more expensive plan if you need it. When deciding the location of your workstation, the strength of the Wi-Fi signal should be taken into account. Also start using file sharing apps like Dropbox if your job involves transferring heavy files.

Make sure your software is compatible with the office version: Those who have been supplied with laptops and the necessary software by their offices will not be faced with this problem.

But those who use their laptop or home office could face a problem. “Workers may not have the necessary software at home, or the version they are using may be out of date. They may need to upgrade to stay productive, ”says Udbhav Tiwari, public policy advisor, Mozilla.

Start using video conferencing: Regular office meetings should be replaced by videoconferencing. You can use a free service like Google Hangouts. It is easy to set up calls using it. Only one person should have a Google account. He can share a link with the other person. The latter only has to click on it and it works in a browser. The latter does not even need to install software.

Zoom is another dedicated video conferencing tool that offers free and paid versions. The entire meeting can be recorded. A link can then be shared with members who were unable to attend. They can watch it later and keep up to date. It also offers a “raise your hand” function. By clicking a button, a participant can let others know that they want to speak. This feature allows everyone to have their say without interrupting someone else.

In the enterprise version, Google offers a video conferencing product called Google Meet, which also offers the recording function. Corporate users also benefit from unlimited storage and they can also share very large files via Google Drive.

Collaborate on documents: Google Docs is a good application for working simultaneously on a document with other remote team members. It is a word processor that can be shared online. If you tried to work on one and were baffled by the movement of the line you were working on because of your teammate’s frenzy by tapping a few lines above you, the simple solution is to work on different paragraphs and on different pages.

When people work remotely, they also need an online collaborative whiteboard. Google offers Google Keep. Another such application is Lino. The whiteboard is useful for teaching. It is also useful for brainstorming because people in different places can all put their ideas and suggestions on the same whiteboard.

Minimize disruption: You can completely avoid pesky calls by using an app like Truecaller. “If you are using the premium version, the software automatically updates the list of the best spammers. You don’t need to spend time doing it manually. Paid users also have access to an advanced call blocking feature. If you activate it, your phone won’t even ring when spammers call you, ”says a Truecaller spokesperson. Paid users can even activate a feature that only allows phone calls from the numbers listed in their contact list. This function is often used by people who are victims of harassment.

If the number of calls you receive in a day decreases, you will have more hours of uninterrupted work.

Timers: If you are a professional who bills clients by the hour, you may need timer software to calculate the number of hours you have worked. Timers can also be used to set time limits for each task. They may also remind you to take breaks at reasonable intervals. Pomodoro Timer Lite is an application that you can use for this purpose. The Google Calendar can also be used to set reminders, events and alerts.

Trello is an application that you can use to create a task list.

Be aware of security: Finally, desktop computers tend to be safer than home computers because system administrators are meticulous about best security practices. At home too, there are a few basic protocols you should observe, such as not clicking on links from unknown sources and having antivirus on your computer.

Technology to the rescue

  • Video conferencing tools like Google Meet, Google Hangouts, and Zoom can lend meeting privacy the same as an actual office meeting
  • Use Google Docs to work with another colleague simultaneously on a document
  • Google Keep and Lino can be used as whiteboards for teaching and to record ideas during brainstorming
  • An app like Truecaller can minimize pesky calls
  • Timers can help you keep track of time spent on a task so you can charge appropriately

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