COVID-19: Getting the Job Done, Working from Home

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, our firm had enforced Working from Home. As the experience is new to many of us, our own Kenawak Tadele has noted tips that has helped him stay productive. 

The COVID-19 outbreak presents the opportunity to experiment on what working from home looks like. I believe the experience one gets, from this endeavour, is significantly subjective as it hinges on the preferences, behaviours, and environment of the subject. (1) Preferences because some people might lean towards the traditional business atmosphere to sustain their productivity, while others might still favour working from home for different reasons such as reduction of the hustle and inconvenience one goes through every day to commute to the office. (2) Behaviours because some are easily distracted by noises and diversions, as a result, lack the focus they usually have in abundance in office settings. (3) The environment is also important for those from large families, and the presence of parents, siblings, and kids might have the urgency and seriousness of being in office settings. That being said, here are the key takeaways from my endeavours to do my tasks from the comforts of my home for the past month.  

How we spend our mornings determine the day: Now that waking up early in the morning to line up at the taxi queues to make it on time to your office is exempted, sleeping over and waking up late becomes tempting. As comfortable as that is, it's also potentially detrimental to our effectiveness once we start working. This is probably because by waking up late, our mind has considered the day as a day of rest rather than a normal business day, and lethargy gets hold. We can start the day right by waking up before everyone else (at least keep the normal 'wake-up' time) and creating routines. For instance, to fill the time between waking up and starting work, I clean my room, go for a run, take a shower, and eat breakfast with the rest of the family. By then, my mind and body are awake and active to tackle the challenges of the day. Now for the actual work, here are the few steps that have helped me be more effective.

Plan, Plan, Plan, and Plan: Planning is something that can never be overstated. The first activity should be arranging a working space. Make sure whatever is needed for the day, things such as stationery and snacks, are readily available. Having done that, continue by taking five to ten minutes to schedule the day whichever way is comfortable and familiar. Some people prepare comprehensive to-do-lists outlining the specific activities that need to get done. What I do, instead of overwhelming myself with a list of ten to eleven specific activities that I probably won’t complete, is choose one specific assignment that I dedicate myself to and complete by the rest of the day. That activity becomes the highlight of the day, and its completion gives me a feeling of success that in turn grows my appetite for work the next day. Another thing to consider while planning is new and urgent activities that might be delegated to us by our managers that might disrupt our schedules. So, it is important to explain to our superiors our working pattern and also be flexible to incorporate these activities into our plans. 

Tell your family you're working, working. For real! If there are other members of the family who, like you, are also working from home and are on break, it might be hard for you to focus. Worse, if they are not taking you seriously.  As a result, you might be ordered to run errands or fix things. They might ask you to join them in whatever it is they're doing other activities such as taking part in their conversations and watching movies. Considering how these activities might affect your work, you need to set the record straight and show them how the office has come home. 

Take breaks: As important as the above takeaways are, it's also equally important not to overstress your mind and body. Set a few minutes off during the day to take your mind off of work and recharge your batteries and sharpen your mind. That allows you not to be bored and get tired of your work. Also, make sure you don't get carried away and forget delivering on your to-do list. 

Charge your electronic devices ahead of the day: In Ethiopia, you cannot overstate the capriciousness of the availability of electricity during the day. Most of the time, either electric power is not there when you wake up in the morning or it blacks-out sometime during the day. And that interferes with your daily plan as, unlike at the office, you probably don't have a back-up generator at home. I always make sure to charge my phone, power bank and laptop before I go to bed. If the power is out the next day, the stored battery will allow me to at least finish urgent assignments. 

Working from home is not complicated and even if you are not used to doing it in the early days, it's something that can grow on you. As the COVID-19 threat is potentially not extinguished any time soon, we can get better at working from home by recording our experiences and learning from what is working and is not.