This article was first published by Dinesh Dayani of DollarsAndSense on his LinkedIn profile. It is republished with his permission.
While Singapore’s circuit breaker underway since 7 April, DollarsAndSense had previously taken the proactive step to work from home since early February this year when the Dorscon level was first raised to Orange. Since then, we have had only around 5 days of requiring our staff to go to the office.
Given my temperament and circumstances, I do not think I am a natural fit for working from home. If not for COVID-19 and the Singapore government’s circuit breaker step to halt all non-essential work at workplaces, I would most definitely choose to work from the office.
Despite this, working from home has been an enriching experience. I get to spend more quality time with my baby boy. Yet being around him makes me less efficient in my work.
Moreover, my mum and my helper take it for granted that I am an additional caregiver for my boy. My wife is a teacher, and still had to go to work before the circuit breaker measures came in. At home, I have a total of 7 people in different stages of our lives in our home as well – my parents, my brother, my wife, my son and my helper.
While it’s a big help to have so many people around to help take care of my son, I think that this arrangement actually works against me if I have to work from home, primarily because I do not have a personal “workspace”. I have already made the dining table my work area, but because the dining area is my living room, the television is switched on very often by my family members who do not have to work from home. Besides the distraction of the television, my baby boy cries a fair bit, and there’s extensive cooking for so many people at home.
I am fortunate that DollarsAndSense is relatively nimble as a company, and we are able to effectively do most, if not all, of our work from virtually anywhere.
To keep accountable to my co-workers, here are 4 things I have done to become a better work-from-home colleague.
#1 A Dedicated Workspace
Other people may have converted a room into their study or home office, but my dining table serves as my work station.This means my family members will not use the dining table frequently anymore to help me focus on my work.
I leave my laptop at my work station rather than taking it around to work on the bed or in front of the television in the living room. Doing this, I feel that my mind is wired to doing work when I am at the dining table, similar to how it would be when I am at my desk in the office.
Having a dedicated workstation also allows me to be at one location when I need to video call for meetings with colleagues or clients. I also have WiFi figured out for my dedicated workstation so I do not have to keep trying to get a good connection from various spots at home.
#2 A Work Routine
Working from home can be difficult and it can also blur the lines between work and down-time. This is why creating a routine can be beneficial.
With a routine, I know when I start and end each day. This routine frees my schedule for me to do other things like watching television, going for runs, reading a book or playing with my boy without the guilt of thinking that I should be working.
Also, I can benefit from the advantages of working from home while mitigating some disadvantages. I use my routine to build small breaks into my day for a more balanced lifestyle. Having a more balanced lifestyle is more important as the lines of work and personal time become blurred when I work from home.
Moreover, I have realized that my work routine should not just accommodate my needs but also my colleagues’ . For example, I have to work during standard working hours as opposed to working from 3pm to 12am each day. This is because I want to be accountable to my colleagues first should they need to get in touch with me at various times in the day.
The need to be in touch with my colleagues has become even more important during remote working. I recount a personal experience when I had a late lunch at 2pm to 2.30pm but because my colleagues decided to push the meeting earlier and I was the only one they couldn’t get in touch with. The lesson I learnt was the importance of proper and efficient communication with my colleagues to facilitate things for everyone.
#3 Good Communication With The Right Tools
While working in the office, I may have taken proper communication with our colleagues for granted. After all, the DollarsAndSense team is a small one and we could just turn around and speak to one another.
Working from home has changed the way I communicate with my colleagues. With remote communication tools like Whatsapp and Google Hangouts, I have begun to appreciate the significance of making sure that everything I communicate to others is clear and everyone is on the same page.
I realised that I also need to employ the right communication tools to maximise the effectiveness of communication among us. For example, my colleagues and I have employed emails, texts, conference calls or video calls to get our ideas across.
#4 A Healthy Diet
“You are what you eat”.
This saying is generally true – if you eat healthily you are typically healthy, and if you eat unhealthily, you will likely have health issues.
Working from home has enabled me to adopt a more healthy diet as I can also take my lunch hour to cook healthier meals.
Eating right will give me the ability to perform better in my work. I can focus better when I eat lighter meals. I also have more flexibility in having more frequent meals so I do not need to stuff myself all at once during breakfast or lunch or dinner.
One rule I have, even before these ‘circuit breaker’, work-from-home measures happened is that I never buy anything unhealthy, such as ice cream, chocolates, chips, soft drinks or other junk foods, back home. By limiting my junk food exposure to outside my home, I eat less and become more conscious about which junk food I want to spend good money on or fill my tummy with during a meal.
A Little Bit Of Effort Can Go A Long Way
I do look forward to going back to the office. Meeting partners, colleagues and clients is a part of my life that I realise I enjoyed and should have treasured more.
While this nationwide stay-from-home experiment has shown that I may not be the best stay-from-home worker, I have nevertheless gleaned lessons such as the importance of doing the right things in achieving a better work-from-home outcome however seemingly little these things are. After all, a little bit can go a long way.
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