My first experience at working from home on extensive basis: Do’s and Dont’s

A lot of people, including myself are enjoying the privilege of working from home. However this was not usual at the start of my career, when I was observing around some of my peers working from home, I used to wonder how would that experience be? Now after experiencing the WFH, I agree to the fact that Working from home is a great advantage as it gives flexibility to work from the most comfortable space i.e. your home. But along with flexibility there comes the responsibility too to complete the work sincerely and dedicatedly. I am going to pen down some of my thoughts on Do’s and Don’ts which will be helpful to people who are experiencing the WFH for first time.

With COVID-19 outbreak, most of the companies across a wide range of industries have enabled ‘work from home’ facility to their employees as a safety precautionary measure.  Such arrangement for employees to work from home definitely have improved their sense of belongingness, understanding that companies are taking care of their employees. From employer standpoint, we would be contributing towards wellbeing of the nature by reducing usage of electrical office utilities which do long term adverse effect on atmosphere around. This will contribute to some cost saving attribute on utilities and office space. Most importantly this would also reduce the travel time for all of the associates which they can use to be more productive plus they can give some more time to their families.

But to maximize the benefits of working remotely, it’s important to follow a few do’s and don’ts. In this blog it is categorized separately for Employees and Team Leads.

For Employees

Employees who work from home have to be organized and driven to stay on top of their projects. However, there are still concerns that working from home may lead to people working less, being less productive, or multitasking.

Dos-

  1. Communicate with your lead and peers: The only reason to be in continuous communication is to ensure that there should be less/no confusion and increased productivity.
  2. Find a Dedicated ‘work space’ for yourself: Have a dedicated desk or an organized work space in your home to avoid any kind of distractions. It could just be a silent room free of distractions like Television and other noises. Maintain ergonomic work conditions and sitting postures.
  3. Try to keep normal office hours: As much as possible try and maintain your normal working hours. This maintains continuity and structure, keeping you accessible to your clients, peers and team members.
  4. Set clear boundaries: Set a clear demarcation while you are working from home. Let your family members know that you are working from what time to what time, ask them not to distractions during the day, even though you are at home you are still on the task, just that the place of work has changed but focus and dedication needs to be same.
  5. Take regular breaks: Taking a break is just as important when working remotely as it is in the office. Stepping away from your screen for even a short-while can protect you from headaches, eyestrain and a back-aches. Have a more productive and useful break by opting for a healthy snack, or to squeeze in some exercise – preferably outdoors if you can. For an extra creative boost, try 10 minutes of mindfulness or meditation.

Don’ts –

  1. Don’t be disconnected from your team: For first timers it’s not easy to work from home, may it be for lack of discipline, or a lack of routine or missing your team members in person. Don’t get disconnected from your team. That’s the last thing one would want. Please keep in regular contact over phone, email and other office communication mediums as appropriate
  2. Don’t let the e-mails distract you: While it’s important to check your email throughout the day, be sure to focus on your emails and efficiently sort through and respond to them. Your daily work should not be driven by number of e-mail you send or receive but rather it’s just a way of communication for work being done.
  3. Don’t get distracted from non-work tasks: Ensure to focus on activities that are work-related. Don’t be on your social media apps, taking long personal calls, or spend hours chatting with friends unnecessarily. Be mindful of time, don’t waste it.
  4. Avoid delaying the tasks: Make sure you stay on top of project deadlines using your dedicated work calendar so that you don’t get behind. Follow the targets and ensure you meet set deadlines by your team / manager.
  5. Avoid excessive personal time outs: While personal time outs are important, ensure that we are not extending the break timings unnecessarily which might impact timely completion of our daily tasks.

For Leads.

Dos-

  1. Be mindful of first-time remote workers: Work from home can be challenging time for many employees, especially those who are working from home for the first time. Leads should have frequent communication with such team members and make sure they have the tools, means & knowhow of being effective while working remotely.
  2. Set timelines to your associates: All team members should be able to see who has been assigned to each task within a specific project. This helps them understand their own contribution to the overall project. Transparency to certain extent increases employee trust which is necessary to keep everybody engaged and focused on the goal. If you are allocating a specific number of hours for completing a task, make sure it is realistic. Sometimes this may demotivate if the deadlines are unrealistic.
  3. Have regular checkpoints: When working with remote resources it is important to have a clear understanding of all project activities to check progress and meet deadlines on time. Regular remote stand-ups meetings would prove valuable and also understanding in case if there are any challenges faced by associates in order to solve it in a timely manner.
  4. Appreciate your team’s efforts: Ensure to thank your team members and to let your team know what happened and the difference their efforts made. Different strategies of motivation works for different people so use wisely.
  5. End of Day Summary report: While working on multiple tasks simultaneously, there are chances that the resource may lose track of what they accomplished during the day. Also you might notice that some of your remote workers spend excess amount of time completing simpler tasks, it must be addressed aptly. Use the end-of-day summary report to get around these issues to ensure that time is utilized properly and work is delivered.

Data Privacy should be ensured: Working from home can potentially expose your project/critical data to get compromised if proper care is not taken, when employees use unsecured home computers or networks. Ensure to protect your data by making sure that any cloud-based file sharing and storage apps that employee uses must have appropriate standards of security measures. Set up of two-factor authentication to log in to your networks and use a virtual private network (VPN) for access to your company data.

Don’ts-

  1. Avoid micro management: Let’s align on a fact that no one likes to be micromanaged, and employees who are working remotely may feel you don’t trust them if you are always looking over their shoulders. Assign some tasks to the associates and make sure they have the necessary tools to action. Let them handle the details of how they plan to accomplish the deadlines.
  2. Don’t overlook performance: Simply as someone isn’t physically present in the office doesn’t mean that they’re not as dedicated or accomplished at their work. To be truly inclusive to people who prefer remote work, standardize the processes and milestones for career progression. Make sure the performance get measured effectively.
  3. Don’t be presence-driven – instead be result driven: Since the team is working remotely hence don’t track your resources over their presence on communicator or how promptly they respond to your emails. Instead do trust them and dependent on the outcome of their efforts.
    1. Don’t allow unbalanced overwork: If you observe that one of your resource is consistently logging extra hours, find out the cause and try to address it. You should also encourage them to take some personal time out as this will help him/her to be more productive in lesser time.
    2. NEVER cancel/deny for a one on one: Don’t cancel or deny the meeting invite from your team members. Incase if the timeslot does not suit your availability then propose with a new timeslot. This will help the resource to stay motivated and address their queries and concerns.

    To summarize, while we are working out of home during this pandemic, all employees must ensure to complete assigned tasks and activities before the due date by adhering to the set guidelines. This is the time to think creatively, work collaboratively, and be alert to the opportunities around us. Additionally, we need to take care of ourselves and having a proper work – life balance.

    With all this panic situation around, we still need to comfort ourselves and our dear ones. Being optimistic and always wanting to stay positive; let us understand that this is a phase and it will pass. We must remain focused on our goals and do our part correctly & everything

Ashish Sherlekar

Ashish is a Principal Consultant at Verinite. He is Certified Scrum Master and SAFe Agilist with a demonstrated history of providing service in Retail and Commercial banking domain at various geographical locations. He is passionate about Music and loves singing. He believes in “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.