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Successful Virtual Collaboration Part 3: Home Office Etiquette

Last week, the majority of us went to the office each morning as usual. And today? Well today, it’s different. Almost all of us are now working from home. Okay, thanks to Corona, the situation is now as it is. We can’t change it. But how can we handle it? A daily struggle between Corona curfew, household, home and office. How can we maintain the focus on our work without losing sight of ourselves? It quickly becomes clear that distractions are almost everywhere: Your private smartphone with the newest social media updates and news or your household – with a rather intrusive beeping your washing machine and dishwasher can be really annoying at some point.

The third article from our blog series “virtual collaboration” shall provide advice around self-discipline and structure to work from home efficiently, so that you do not face a bunch of unfinished work and homework at the end of the day.

About self-discipline and structure when working from home

Since several years I have been working for TEAMWILLE from home. I would like to share my tips and tricks with you. How can you structure yourself, to achieve the best possible work results in a very short time and – above all – without losing sight of yourself? I can tell you one thing in advance: Working from home has its advantages and disadvantages. But with a good amount of self-discipline, structure and humor you can keep the disadvantages low and benefit from this new way of working.

No one can be equally focused eight hours each day. This is also not possible in office but often you do not even notice. In your office there are your colleagues frequently up for a chat. But being unproductive when working from home comes to light quicker than we think. So bear in mind to:

  1. Stipulate a fix time when you start and finish your working day.
  2. Divide your working day into blocks. Try to find out how long you can work productively (max. 90 until 120 minutes). Then have a break of approx. five or ten minutes. Make yourself a tea or coffee, open a window and/or maybe do some exercise or stretching for your back. I promise, it’s magic :-)
  3. Don’t forget your lunch break. As you may have read in the second article of our blog series, a lunch break is often automatically cancelled due to several video conferences, calls and meetings – without even being noticed. Therefore, stipulate a fix time for your lunch break, too, and enjoy your lunch consciously.
  4. Prioritize your work and topics. I recommend to invest five minutes before you switch off your laptop in the evening. Take your calendar and look at your meetings in the next morning. Do you have early meetings? Do you have deadlines that have to be met? Write down the most important topics and prioritize them.
  5. Just a quick look at Social Media? Or the latest news? In fact, a very bad idea. Your brain can’t handle such constant distractions and is permanently interrupted. Put away your private smartphone for the time in which you want to work efficiently. You think you are multitasking compatible? Well, no offence, but it is a mistake to think that we are and can do all things equally well at the same time. Test yourself and try to focus for 90 or 120 minutes on one (!) task. See what happens. Well, I’m sure… nothing. The world hasn’t come to an end, WhatsApp and Social Media are still looking the same, messages can still be answered and the task on which you focused? Well, presumably it is finished and you can tick the box.
  6. What you eat matters. Don’t worry, I will not use this paragraph for another vegan nutrition recommendation with perfect pictures in kitchens that are perfectly tidy. But what I definitely want to recommend is that you have enough water prepared at your desk and some healthy snacks at hand e.g. nuts and berries or maybe sliced vegetables and fruits. This is how you can handle possible ravenous hunger attacks or unnecessary tours to the fridge.
  7. But one thing that I’m sure is missing the most is your way to work and back home (maybe even just unconsciously). Your time alone in the car, on your bike or on a train; time to read, listen to music, podcasts or just do nothing and clear your mind is no longer automatically part of your daily business routine. That’s why I definitely recommend: Go outside, go for a walk, just a few minutes maybe twice a day. Or do some Yoga exercises at an open window; stretch your back – just small details that do miracles for your body and mind to keep you focused.
  8. After work – Spatially separating your working time from your free time is so difficult when working from home. But when you remember some details, it is easier for you to clear your mind and transfer from work mode to free time mode at the end of the day:

    • Consciously shut down your laptop at the end of the working day
    • Switch off your business smartphone
    • Clear your workspace. Invest max five minutes each evening – it will not take longer. If you work at your dining table, get yourself a box in which you can put your laptop and work utensils and store everything together in a cupboard – and then… call it a day.

One last advice: Invite your colleagues to a virtual after work beer. Set up a virtual Skype, Zoom or Teams meeting e.g. on Friday at 5:30 pm. Yes, you have read properly. A virtual after work event is also possible. My colleague invited us to an after work session last Friday with the words: “Go to your fridge, get yourself a drink of your choice, make yourself comfortable, enter the virtual meeting room. Switch on your camera and hold your glass or bottle into the camera. And then… Cheers :-)

Read more about virtual after work beer and informal team meetings in our next blog post.

In this sense. Make the best of it. Make use of the current Corona challenges and keep developing yourself. Be open-minded. Corona forces us to think out of the box and to find new ways and opportunities for a future way of working and thinking.

We are happy to receiving your comments. Just use the comment field below and let us be part of your own experience about self-discipline and structure when working from home. How do you structure your working day? Do you have further advices? Feel free to share so that we can all benefit from a great community working from home.

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