Working from Home during Covid-19

18 Mar,2020


By Sanjeev Kotnala


The Covid-19 situation is worsening across the globe.

Functions and events are getting cancelled or postponed. People are avoiding large gatherings, and travelling is curtailed. The result: people and organisations are promoting work from home, which could be a new experience for many of us.



For most organisations, this is new. Some think they will lose out as productivity will drop. In contrast, there are people who believe that workers will be happier and more productive. You will decide the post-Covid-19 way of working for your organisation, by the way, if and when you act and deliver during this period.

It is just the location of your office that has changed. There is no change in the role, responsibility and expectations. So, similiarly, it is for you to ensure that your family role, responsibilities and the expectations don’t suddenly change. Most of us will be back to working in and from office in a short time.



Working from home requires self-discipline. In such a situation, it is natural for people to first relax and see it as an opportunity to get away from their pressurised, timeline-dictated schedule. With hardly any travel time to work and for meetings, things may seem better. However, nothing much changes. The need to be productive and still deliver the timeline soon catches up.

This leads to experimentation and re-educating people on working from home. And when the situation improves, quite a lot of organisations would have learnt the advantages of this ‘new’ way of working. Moreover, they would have recognised the degree and quantum of unnecessary travel they had been indulging in. And how new era technologies like Skype, Facetime, Slack, Zoom, Google Hangouts, cloud computing, drop boxes etc. can be of help.



Till 2014, I too was trapped in a 10am-to-you-don’t-know-when office-working syndrome.

Then I turned independent and started working from my home-office. It took me time to realise how one can remain productive in such a work scenario and the amount of self-discipline needed while working from home. Otherwise, it can have a reverse impact. The life-work balance instant of improving may deteriorate as a result of you being available all the time or having the flexibility of stretched working hours.



Do not redefine your work-day. Stick to your office timings. I have found that dressing up for the day- as you would do if you were going to work helps. It psychologically keeps you in a work mood. At the same time, do not give office time to house or family work. Sounds so silly. But in case there is essential housework, then apply for leave to yourself and then attend to the tasks or re-schedule your work, just like you would have done if you were working from the office.



In case you have space, please mark an area as your work station. It could be a study table, dining table, living area. It does not matter what it is, but it matters that you have a defined work area. Better if it can be quiet, well lit private space that is nearer to the router. Not to add, that minimise distractions.



Make sure you have the technology and infrastructure required to do your job. From getting to a higher speed internet connection in case, you need it, to having an electricity point or an extension cord to charge your phone and laptop. Remember, your home WiFi is going to be heavily overdrawn and divided with multiple family members accessing it.

Check if your job profile and the organisation allow logging in from public or domestic WiFi. If not get alternate arrangements made.

It is best, unless your work requires it, avoid facing the television and watching the news or any other programme. This is not really the time to catch up on all the episodes you missed on Netflix, Amazon Prime, OTT platforms, or surfing through the enticing e-commerce platforms.



Experiment. Remember, we all have our unique work clock. Most of us do not have any idea, which is the period we are most effective and productive. Use this opportunity to realise, if you are the morning person, the mid-day person or late afternoon person and once you know that, schedule your most important task during this period.



Now, you don’t have the liberty of cooler talk, discussing things over smoke, or lunch or repeatedly meeting over the same thing over and gain. It would be helpful and far more productive to be better prepared for meetings over the phone and drafting easy to understand simple e-mails. The advice will be to do more on-mobile and face-time communication with colleague them on e-mail. E-mail should be the best use to share document and or record decisions. Otherwise, the ping-pong you will end up playing over e-mail will be the ultimate destroyer of the advantage of working from home.

You will need to let people know when you are available for discussion. And more importantly, if you are interacting with multiple sets of people, get into a habit of also defining end time for such distance meetings and conversations. Maybe this is the time to really use the calendar on your mobile to best advantage.



Please don’t keep the TV on and start watching OTT offering on it. If you used to keep your Whatsapp and Facebook off during work hours, keep the good habit. Don’t spoil yourself with the newfound liberties.



Try sticking to your office reporting time and exit time while working from home. Give the additional hours to your family. It always belonged to them. This extra time is what you had previously stolen from your family time and sacrificed it at the altar of your professional career.



This will be battle you will have to win on yourself.. Now you are more at home. So what constructive use you put these additional hours may really be the key to working from home. Use it to connect with friends and relative over the phone. Use the internet to gain further insight and updated in your field. Or maybe read books or chit-chat with the family.



One can only hint at it. Once you are now at home all the time, the relationship gets redefined. Your role in how you tackle them will be important. For example, I ensured that my tea breaks were defined. My lunch hour was fixed. And if my wife suddenly wanted to go shopping, I refused getting trapped without prior notice. That was not the covid-19 period, and you could actually go out to pubs-malls without any fear.


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