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Work-from-home balance: we share what we learned

Work-from-home balance: we share what we learned

Martina Fabbretti

How are you coping with working from home during these isolation times?
If most of your meetings look like this one, you are not alone: welcome in the club of the people who are struggling to find a work-from-home / family balance. We are all in, we are millions.

Work from home comes with its advantages: no need to commute, have access to your own things, be able to dress comfortably, see your kids more than ever, and have more flexibility in your schedule. However, a sudden transition from the office to home may be challenging.

We decided to do more than sharing the same pain with you. We want to turn our learning into tips for the ones who still have to deal with this unusual routine in the weeks to come.

A dedicated workspace

Choose a space that you designate as your workstation. It should be a quiet, bright place where you can concentrate. A spare room is ideal. But also a kitchen island or a corner is enough.

Kiss your partner and kids goodbye before you walk into “your office”. That will help you to set physical boundaries with the other house members.

The atmosphere you create in your workspace is also very important. Consider a plant: plants reduce blood pressure and increase attention span by up to 12 percent. That’s also a good company if you miss the busy office and you don’t have any pet jumping onto your legs during meetings.

Make sure you have the right equipment!
Table, screen, mouse, light. Since our home equipment is most likely not as professional as the one we have in the office, you should try to move around. Muscle immobility is one of the most common reasons for muscle aches we so frequently experience while working at the computer at a make-shift space that lacks an ergonomic setup. Changing the chair or moving it from one place to another will give the brain the perception that you are now in a new space and you will avoid posture-related pains. Our graphic designer got a stand-up table so he can often change positions.

Manage your time efficiently

Together with space boundaries, time boundaries are the most important aspects of the transition to working from home.

Setting a routine helps you focus on the day.
Get up at the same time in the morning and follow your regular routine that includes getting dressed. It may be tempting to work in your pajamas from your comfy couch: putting on real clothes is important to feel our most productive. Picking up routines might be challenging. But once you pick it up it becomes a no-brain activity: consider using one of the many apps for picking up good habits. That will also become fun!

Working from home does not mean a 9-to-5 schedule. Take advantage of the flexibility that working from home offers—load the washing machine in between meetings, or take a break to play with the kids as a reward for them letting you work uninterrupted, or just take a mental health break. Whether you are a night owl or a morning bird, dedicate your most productive time frame for the creative work or the tasks you tend to procrastinate. Our architect loves the silence of his house during the last hours of the night, to design the Qualibrate infrastructure.

But be careful: by getting out of strict office hours you might end up working extra time. Once your workday is over close your computer, plug off your brain, and wind down. After a reasonable workday, put away your electronic devices and work tools. Keeping work reminders out of sight keeps them out of mind and helps you relax and recharge your batteries. After work, I like brain engaging activities like video calling my family or learning to do new things like playing chess.  

Another golden rule that is not new: take breaks!
Be sure to schedule those mental health breaks—time for lunch, and shorter 10- to 15-minute breaks throughout the day to take a walk, meditate, or just breathe. Taking breaks will be critical to your sanity but also make sure you rest your eyes from sitting in front of the computer. You can have Time Out to remind you to take brakes, an app suggested by our graphic designer.

Social interaction

Do you miss the coffee breaks with your colleagues and Friday drinks? Working from home does not mean giving up the dedicated time to bond with your teammates.

When the forced remote working started, our full stack developer had a great idea: a water cooler video chat where you could kick in at any time and find some peers to cheat chat with. Or to organize lunch breaks together and keep up with the good team habits.

We then turned our Friday drinks into virtual ones: I love the way I’m getting to know my colleagues for what they are. Sneaking into their daily life, see them in the comfort of their house, meeting their kids and partners. That also gave the chance to extend the drinks to the colleagues who are physically far.

Reach the team when you need it!
In a typical workplace setting, when you are stuck on something, you can always check in with your coworkers to brainstorm about a solution. Working from home may create the feeling of having to solve every problem on your own. Use video or chat to ask your teammates for help when you need it. The ability to ask for help is crucial for your mental health as well as for your ability to do your job.

Working from home with kids

Kids out of school are one of the biggest challenges of working from home, especially if both parents have to work or if you are a single parent. We have many parents in the team so we know how it feels!

If both parents are working from home, as in the case of our Director and Head of Customer Success, we suggest discussing an arrangement of the day based on the working agendas. Every morning, before the standup with the team, they do a 15-minute stand up with their partner. They arrange the time to switch off between working and spending time with the kids. That’s also where the technology can help: our Business Relations Developer suggests blocking the agenda when you and your partner pass the baton in taking care of the kid(s).

Schedule check-in time with the kids!
If your kids are independent enough to play alone, schedule regular breaks dedicated to them, perhaps 15 minutes every two hours. The kids will know they have time with you coming up shortly to help them hold on to their questions and requests.

Keep them engaged and active!
Coloring, watching educational shows, playing in the garden, homework. There are plenty of activities that could prevent your kid to get bored. Our favorite idea? The trampoline that our Business Relations Developer bought for his son. Trampolines are good for heart health, coordination, and confidence boost. Bust most of all are a great way for your kids to release their energies enough to fall asleep at 8 p.m. And here’s the greatest part of it: kids don’t get tired of jumping!

Finally, accept that working from home will not be peaceful - kids will walk into your workspace still. Let your coworkers know this will happen and remember that the same thing will likely happen to many of them. Kids are kids, after all. And with their cute faces and requests, they always manage to get a smile during some boring meeting.

The only rule: keep your attitude in check

After all, our greatest power is our perspective. It can victimize us or empower us. When we figure out what we can control and what we can't, it’s easier to accept whatever is beyond our power.

So accept that there will be challenges and take advantage of this restrictive time to clear the clutter out of your basement, learn to play a new instrument, teach your kid the games you were playing at their age, cook, treat yourself with a home-made spa, read, listen to music…

Do something fun you've neglected for a while. Do whatever helps you to maintain an inner balance in these hard times.

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