• Dawn Chan

Improving Your Work from Home Experience

Updated: Dec 24, 2020

Overcoming isolation, building digital diligence, and embarking on self-learning are some ways to enjoy working from home.

Singapore is currently in the third week of its circuit breaker. Those who can work from home have mostly adapted to new norms. Teleconferencing platforms such as Zoom, WebEx, and Google Meet have become commonplace.

What the circuit breaker measures have proven is that it is possible to do most work online. However, not everyone is keen on working from home – complaints include a loss in productivity over time, feelings of isolation, and bosses expecting 24/7 availability.

Rather than bemoan the circuit breaker measures, take this time now to improve your skills and take up online training courses.

However, remote working can also provide better work-life balance and also affords greater convenience than going to the workplace. The drawbacks are there, but they can be dealt with.

Overcoming Isolation

Humans are social creatures. While this explains our need to have close ties with family and peers, it also extends to the workplace. Many people work regular office hours, five days each week. What this translates to is a lot of time spent with colleagues. When people first begin to work from home, the transition from being in a busy workplace full of people to being alone at home can take time to get used to.

Being physically apart can also affect a team’s ability to collaborate and brainstorm. Experts say that 70 to 93 percent of all communication is nonverbal. When people communicate solely through emails or online messaging platforms, this can cause misunderstandings that could affect productivity or decrease morale.

One way to overcome this is by opting for video calls instead of emails wherever possible. Team leaders could also consider scheduling regular video calls to check in with their team members, thus helping to establish rapport within the team even when they are physically apart.

Digital Discipline

Another possible factor affecting productivity at home is a lack of boundaries. This ranges from bosses expecting 24/7 availability to not having a work area at home. People are creatures of habit. They form rituals to get through the day. For example, during the commute to work, people get themselves into a work mindset and similarly separate themselves from work when they travel home.

However, without this commute to indicate the start and end of a workday, it might be harder for people to feel productive or conversely, be able to settle back into their personal lives after working hours are over. Hence, one possibility is to carve out a separate workstation at home, no matter where it is – be it in the living room, the study room, or even at the dining table. In this workstation, remove distractors such as phones or social media and focus on work. Once the workday is over, move out of the workstation to transit back to personal time. This transition would help one get into the proper mindset and increase work productivity.

If having a separate workstation is not possible, then create a before-work routine – perhaps washing the dishes, taking out the trash, or any action to indicate it is time to start work. Drawing this line between personal and work time can recreate the effects of a workplace commute as well.

Self-Learning at Home

The COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted work life as we know it. Digital solutions are now championed as the way forward. The development of artificial intelligence (AI) and other frontier technologies could well replace employees in time to come. Robot cleaners, integrated facilities management, and driverless vehicles are just some examples showcasing how manpower can be reduced, especially in times of crisis. It is imperative that companies prepare their employees for the digital future by sending them for online training or courses.

Now is a good time to start. With remote working helping employees to save time, companies can allow their workers to gain skills relevant to the future. Employees can also take their own initiative to upskill or reskill themselves by picking up future-ready skills, for example, coding, website design, or data analytics. There are many free online courses, for example on LinkedIn or SkillsFuture, which will enable employees to pick up useful skills. Other online training resources include online teaching and learning marketplaces like Udemy, Skillshare, and Coursera. Harvard University is also offering free online courses with certifications of completion during the lockdown period.

Rather than bemoan the circuit breaker measures, take this time now to improve your skills and take up online training courses. When the economy recovers from the outbreak, the skills learned would no doubt improve your employability, and also help prepare you to deal with future crises.

By Dawn Chan

#workfromhome #onlinelearning #onlinecourses

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