Learning to work at home alone can be challenging for people who have been used to working in offices surrounded by people. Here’s a chapter adapted from my book called Career Success with SharePoint and Office 365 you may find helpful :
It sounds somewhat romantic to say that you work from home—and it is, if you have the right discipline. It is certainly not for everybody. The isolation can be problematic—you will have way too much uninterrupted time to think, all your demons are going to start coming out, and depression can easily set in. Working this way is something that you usually need to ease yourself into, but right now, most people don’t have that luxury. So what can you do?
Setting boundaries is important, especially if you have family living under the same roof. Work must take place during specific hours, and in a specific place. When you leave that area, work must stop. Similarly, when in that area, your family must not interfere. This is easier said than done when you are the parent of a toddler—or even a teenager—who doesn’t understand the concept of boundaries, but you can, over time, gently teach them that it’s grown-up time—of a different kind. Just because you’re at home, it doesn’t mean you are there to clean up after them all day. It will take a few months for things to settle down—it’s quite normal.
Many companies would want you online during core hours, but because you’re at home, you can work when you are most productive. For some people this is early morning, for others it’s late at night. Give yourself working hours and stick to them.
Loneliness can also be an issue if you live alone. The silence that settles when you suddenly have the whole place to yourself— especially after having been surrounded by people for as long as you can remember—can become deafening. Make sure you get balance by spending every couple of days with friends or family.
If you have dogs, phone calls can become challenging. For some unknown reason, my dogs love to start barking as soon as I pick up the phone. I’m sure they know this, and it’s nothing more than a game—but they are winning. In my neighbourhood, people tend to take their dogs for walks in the afternoons. Our refuse is collected once a week. This is when all the dogs in the neighbourhood go completely berserk and bark as if their lives depend on it—a person cannot hear themselves think. If you need to have conversations with clients or staff members, make sure it’s outside of peak barking hours. Cats are no problem in this area, for obvious reasons. I’m not altogether sure about vocal parrots though….
There will be days when you don’t shower or get out of your pajamas, and that’s okay—it’s quite normal for somebody who is working from home for the first time. I call it Sloth Mode. The trick to surviving this is to get up, get dressed, and get out of the house at least twice a week. Human beings are not designed to sit at home for weeks on end—a person can drive themselves insane like that. Find some balance in your routine so that you can cope.
Of course there will be some people who are going to think they are on holiday and try duck and dive the system. Most companies have the technology to track all work, so it is in your interest to do the right thing. When a crisis blows over and companies take stock, do you want to be labelled as the one who just took chances? Jobs are lost that way. It’s a rough year for the planet. Put your head down, stick to the plan, get the job done, be professional.
If you are a business owner or manager that is letting people work from home for the first time, have faith in people and know that there is technology to help you. It is daunting when you’ve never managed people like that before. It takes a lot of trust. Allocate tasks with deadlines and use technology to track everything for your piece of mind.
But most importantly, don’t forget that you are still a human being. One that needs physical contact as much as you need air, water, food and shelter. Hug the people you love. And learn to meditate.
Everything is going to be okay.