#WFH Working From Home
Working from home can seem like everyone's dream. No commute, mild chores getting done, the dog/cat/python gets to see you all day. And then there's the question of pants. You actually get to ask a question about wearing them. Bliss. While many have written about the trials and treats of working from home especially now that it is commonplace for millions, but we are here to talk about the etiquette of working from home, and during a time when everyone else is too.
There's one big caveat to this working from home advice that we must address as very different from our traditional working from home advice. Since most of us are home due to the threat of COVID-19, so too are our children and partners and roommates. For most this isn't send 'em to the bus stop (honeys and kiddos alike) and skip-dee-doo to a quiet home and day full of work getting done.
Everyone is home. Roommates, kids, parents, significant others (and the python). And on top of everyone being at home, there is a heightened sense of anxiety and pressure because it's much harder to escape each other than typically would be. So take people who normally love each other but get breaks from one another, stick them into a confined space and tell them that even though they can go get exercise, there's a big threat out there and it's real. It's a wonder we're getting anything done other than Netflix.
In order to make working from home work for you. Communication and observation are going to be key. Here are some tips to help you out.
Working From Home - The actual work part
Set aside the issue of others in your space and an invisible but deadly threat outside, working from home comes with it's own etiquette and since many of us will be working from home for a while it's best to establish some common ground.
- Schedules help.
- Creating that work vibe.
- Conference calls.
- Video Calls
Your schedule may vary day to day, but figuring out some sort of plan for the day and communicating it to those you work with is key. Whether that's a phone call to touch base, a shared calendar, or a texted/slack message/task making sure your teammates know how they can reach you, or what you'll be working on is helpful. Not so much to keep tabs on you, but to both help people know where you might be at in your day and to help you stay connected to the team. Your schedule will also help you when it comes to folding in those household chores you think will be so convenient to do while at home. As well as to help separate home from work once your workday is done. Many have realized that while they thought home life would creep into work life, the opposite can be true. Work life can creep into home life very easily and you can find yourself back at the computer not long after having called it for the night.
Dressing for your workday as if you were going to be meeting with people can often help establish a work mindset while in the comfort of your home. Ever looking for ways to be comfortable many have questioned whether or not you really need to wear pants to a work from home day. We say that you'll have to make smart decisions for yourself on that one, but we think putting our work foot forward, even if it's just forward into the other half of the living room, is worth it. Other tactics are setting up a designated desk or workspace, even if it has to be folded up and put away once work is done. Having spaces that feel conducive to work are likely to help you maintain a professional feel. Much as we all love our comforter and bed.
Always be prepared for your call, no matter the type of call it is. Have something to write with, don't be getting ready to chow down on something, and have any materials or files you need open and ready. For conference calls with no video, have a plan in place for if the quality of the call declines or if people can't dial in for some reason. Check your email or text messages if you're having trouble accessing a call and don't be afraid to reach out via those methods to explain the issue you're having. If someone is struggling to connect try to be patient and reassure them that you can catch them up, or that you can wait to begin. It's very easy on a conference call to have people talking over one another. Since you can't see anyone it's hard to interject easily sometimes. Do your best but try to catch someone's attention if they don't seem to be catching on that others need a chance to speak. "Excuse me Jim, Jim, excuse me Jim...." until you catch Jim's attention and can say, "I'm sorry we'd just love to give Karen a chance to respond to that..." This is so common place now that it's not considered rude nor should anyone be embarrassed for having talked on and on. It happens. Say something to the effect of "So sorry, yes of course." The mute button is a real gem. So many people have gotten in trouble thinking that mute button is engaged only to say disparaging things and find out their client/boss or mother-in-law was still able to hear them. (They need an emoji with a paper bag over its face.) Wait to say anything negative until you are quite sure that the call is disconnected. In other words: think first.
The world has discovered the awesomeness of video calls and video conferences along with the pitfalls. On the plus side it's an amazing way to connect and can really help you read the room even if you can't be in the room. From dog training to happy hour you can really connect with people during a time when well none of us can gather together. On the downside, calls can freeze, people can have trouble accessing the call, some people forget to unmute themselves or turn their volume on, or their speakerphone off. All kids of background noise can get picked up by the mic and add to the cacophony on the call making it hard for you and others to hear you. It's awesome when it works but when it doesn't, have a back up method ready to turn to and don't waste too much time trying to make it work beyond the regular attempts of starting the call over, or adjusting sound, lighting or camera. It's best to have a well lit space, that's quiet. Position yourself about three quarters of the way in the shot (so your head has a little room at the top and we aren't staring up your nostrils or looking down on you so that you have puppy dog eyes. Straight on works great. As a moderator on group calls utilize your ability to mute the group or spotlight a certain person when they are talking. Always ask all members on a call if the call can be recorded or if screen shots can be used and where they will be used. You must gain people's permission before posting. Be patient with the connection quality. You might have to pause and try again or you may wait a second longer than in person when responding to someone so as to be sure they are truly finished and not just frozen briefly or delayed. You can raise your hand if you need to, or use notes for someone who may not be hearing what you're saying. Though try to be kind with the notes. We think you should wear pants, but really it's up to you. Just be sure the camera can drop down suddenly.
Working From Home - Balancing life with others
Working from home when you live with others can be quite challenging especially for those in small spaces and with limited access to the outside world right now, this is even tougher.
Communicating your schedules is key to success here. Knowing who will need the home quiet and when will be very important to everyone being able to accomplish their work together. There will be days where it doesn't go well. Junior won't want to go outside while daddy's on his video call for work. Or your teenager will swear loudly after dropping something in the kitchen while you're on a work call. Quick, sincere apologies and efforts toward avoiding disruptions in the future will go a long way toward not creating frustration and grudges. Whether you decide it's quite time during calls or everyone goes out for walks, make sure you talk about what you need and what's realistic. Then do your best to be supportive and understanding.
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