In 2006, I started a blog called, WebWorkerDaily. As an early believer in the power of broadband and the disruptive nature of the networks, I sensed that the future of work was distributed. As it turned out, I wasn’t alone. The site attracted many fellow believers, so-called digital nomads, and became host to fun and lively conversations.
It was also about a decade too early. The economic incentives were not yet enough for companies to entertain new ideas about how to structure a workplace. And truth be told, the early tools were rudimentary at best. Over the years, the concepts of remote working and a distributed workforce started to gain traction — mostly because of the increasingly apparent wisdom of the ways of companies like Gitlab and Automattic. Yet, despite the success of many distributed teams, even most technology companies and their anointed sages have been dogmatic about their conceptions of work.
Until now. A rather unfortunate and unexpected turn of events — the spread of a deadly virus — has forced a majority of white-collar works to work from home and has triggered a new wave of interest in remote work. While it would be preferable if we cast aside our preconceived notions and came together around smart solutions without such a society-threatening crisis, sometimes this is what it takes.
As someone who has been a proponent of working remotely, I often work from home, even though True’s offices are literally a stone’s throw from my apartment. Thanks to a gigabit per second broadband connection, and a relative quiet building, I prefer doing Zoom calls from home, as I am able to not be easily distracted and don’t have to use headphones.
Of course, I often tend to hibernate — work from home for a few days, without leaving the apartment at all — and that training is coming in handy. Here are some of my working from home tips that you might find useful:
- Maintain the same routine as you would when going to work. I usually get up at 4.30 AM and go out for a walk every morning, come back at around 6, and don’t check emails till about 7, which gives me enough time to shower, have a cup of tea, and dress up.
- The door to my bedroom remains shut for the entire day. This prevents me from thinking of working from home as a “vacation day.” It is not just working from home, it is not “not working.”
- I dress up as if I was going to work. This prevents sloth from setting in, and frankly, as technology people, jeans and T-shirt are pretty much counted for workwear. I don’t wear shoes at home — it is the one concession I make. I want to be presentable to those I am Zooming with
- I make a to-do list for the day. Instead of sitting in front of a computer all day, adding more to your plate, it is smarter to narrow the focus to what you need to get done. It might take three hours or ten — either way, you must not overwork. Overwork is the biggest downside of working from home, especially if you are single like me and don’t have anything to stop you from working.
- I work in 90-minute spurts. And every 90 minutes, I get up, get a glass of water (you gotta hydrate) and pace up and down the apartment a few times. I go out to the balcony, get some fresh air, and then back to work.
- I am diabetic, so I have to eat on schedule — and others should do the same. I do a 16-hour fast, then a meal at noon, and then another in four hours, and then a light snack. This keeps everything ticking. Following a pattern and having a habit is a good way to make working from home easier.
- I occasionally schedule some time to chit chat with friends — just to break the monotony of work.
- Lastly, I save two hours in the day for things that are personal and appealing to me — for instance, editing photos or writing a blog post.
- I almost never let screentime exceed 12 hours.
- Read a book, especially when taking a lunch break. What is the point of working from home, if you are not going to pause and smell the curry?
Over the past decade and a half of observing the evolution of work and the workforce, I have accumulated at least enough insight to aggregate and point to articles with quality insights and information. I will occasionally update you with good information on how to work from home without losing your mind and how companies of all sizes can stay focused and productive as their employees socially distance themselves.
- My friend Matt Mullenweg is the best and biggest proponent of distributed teams and remote work. He has a podcast devoted to it and often writes about it. Here are his thoughts on how to be efficient when WFH.
- Harvard Business Review has a nice overview of all the questions you might need to ask and answer as a company that is now getting going on working remotely.
- Coronavirus will reshape the American relationship with work and workplace. And while things might seem simpler for knowledge workers, it might not be easy for others. The folks from UC Berkeley discuss how things might change. A must-read.
- A Bloomberg reporter went into lockdown for six weeks in China and now has returned to work. It has not been easy even when returning back to a normal work environment. “There’s a need for greater trust between executives and employees, and that productivity can’t simply be measured in terms of hours,” ~Zheping Huang adds.
- Social distancing can feel lonely. Here is what you can do to overcome it, and still remain social and be part of a community.
- How to work from home with young children. Good essay.
- How to do video conferencing properly.