A short guide to working at home

A few tips for working at home


1. Don’t expect to be productive right away
Don’t stress out if you’re not super productive from day 1. If you’re new to this, give yourself time to adjust. People have an old routine for how they are used to working. Working from home is different, and it will take time to figure out a routine that works for you. It requires experimentation.

2. Get ready for the work day
You wouldn’t wear your pyjamas to the office, so don’t wear your pyjamas while you’re working at home. Get dressed rather than working in your pyjamas, this will help signal to yourself that now is work time.

3. Stick to a schedule
Set a fixed schedule and stop working when you’re done. And make sure everyone knows when you’re calling it quits. Have a ‘checkout’ ritual to end your day. It could be as simple as writing, ‘See you tomorrow,’ in Mattermost or something similar.

4. Set – and maintain – boundaries
Make sure you set boundaries for work so you don’t just keep on working into the evenings and weekends. If you use your computer for recreation outside of work, turn off work-related email and chat programs so you can switch off from work.

5. Keep work to your physical workspace if you can.
Do work when you are sitting in your work chair, then stop working when you leave it. Maintain those work-life boundaries like you are defending the walls during a siege.

6. Keep up your usual “commute”
If you’re really used to the commute to get into work mode – and to decompress after – you might want to consider going out for a 5- to 10-minute walk around the block before you start, and when you finish. But remember to keep to the social distancing rules – keep at least 2m away from others, and don't go out at all if you have a cough or fever.

7. Communicate, communicate, communicate and do it efficiently
Communication is key, so err on the side of over-communication. Write down everything in shared media, ideally online documents. You will need to persist and distribute more data than you can imagine. To keep conversations productive online, make the enter/return key put in a new line, not send the message. (You may have to type Shift-Enter to get this effect.) You’ll end up writing longer, more coherent messages and not do the quick-fire, stream-of-consciousness messages that can be annoying. Also, pro-actively counter the effects of asynchronous communication. Not: ‘hey… wait for reply… did X get back to you on the new cluster? …wait for answer… what are the specs for it?” But rather ‘hey, did X get back to you on the new cluster, and if so, what are the specs for it?’ all in one message. If you need a break from online interactions altogether, the remote work equivalent of putting your headphones on to signal you don’t want to be interrupted is to close Mattermost or whatever chat tool you're using.

8. Stay social
Just because you’re not down the hall from one another doesn’t mean you can’t have a casual chat with your coworkers. Arrange ‘social’ calls and online meetings. Schedule times to chat about the weather with colleagues, as this won’t be happening in the kitchen or around the office anymore. Make use of video calls when you can, it feels so much more connected than a voice call. That sense of connection can be harder to maintain with even your closest colleagues with remote work: Make sure you don’t feel lonely, and make sure others don’t feel lonely either… maybe do a remote lunch together. It’s important to let people know that you still exist. Say hi in some manner, usually via a message or video chat.

9. Invest in your at-home workspace
You need a good chair and desk set up in an isolated environment, if possible. If you haven't got a room of your own, make an “office” sign for your living room, bedroom, or wherever you are working so people know during your office hours, it’s a workspace. Make sure you have a good microphone for all the video conference calls that are about to fill your calendar. You will sound clearer, more professional, and it takes less energy for the audience to listen. Same goes for a good webcam setup: Full HD webcams are easy to come by and set them up where you have some proper lighting and a clean(ish) environment. Some popular web conference apps like Zoom have a green screen feature that allows you to replace your messy work room with, say, a nice picture of the Alps.

10. Family and house rules
Establish new house rules for the entire family. Just because you are at home does not mean you have time or bandwidth to engage in normal family life. People need to treat you as if you were away. That doesn’t mean you pretend your family doesn’t exist altogether. If you’re working at home with your significant other, enjoy the company, but don’t let them distract you too much. If you have kids at home, mention that during any online meetings. People will usually be accepting of interruptions if they expect them. Besides, we love our kids; there’s no need for us to apologize for their existence.

11. It’s OK to do the dishes
Household chores can make a good break in the day, but don’t let them distract you from work.

12. Beware the snacking
The grazing is real when you work remote. Buy lots of healthy snacks. If you buy something unhealthy you will end up eating it. Don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach.

13. Get outside and move
Getting out for fresh air while keeping distance from other people makes sense. Beware of remaining stationary for too long. When working from home you can put any 20- to 30-minute gap in your schedule to good use. A short walk, maybe a run, or a bike ride. Check out these suggestions for outdoor activities: 10 Nature Activities to Help Get Your Family Through the Coronavirus Pandemic

14. Find what really works for you
There are no hard and fast rules, so don’t be surprised if you can’t implement all of these things at once. You should feel free to bend or break the patterns as the situation evolves.

Adapted from a Grafana blog by D. Kiper and A. M. Whatley

© 2020 Institut für Neuroinformatik