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Explainer: A guide to working from home

Tuesday March 17 2020

If you have children around, you can take turns with a family member in order to give you room to work.

If you have children around, you can take turns with a family member in order to give you room to work. PHOTO | FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

SARAH NANJALA
By SARAH NANJALA
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With increasing coronavirus cases in Kenya, the government has advised workers who can work from home to do so.

Several private companies have also asked non-core staff to work away from the office in a bid to help arrest the spread of Covid-19.

But just what does working from home entail? And can staff be as productive as in the office?

Here is what you need to know about working from home:

DEFINED

Working from home is a work arrangement in which employees do not commute or travel (by bus, train or car) to a central place of work, such as an office building, warehouse, or store.

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It is also known as telecommuting or telework.

Working from home became commonplace in the 1970s. However, advances in technology such as internet and devices like smartphones and laptops have encouraged the culture.

This is particularly the case in sectors that do not really require the physical presence of staff.

In countries such as the US, working from home is popular, with about 40 per cent of the population preferring to work away from office at least part-time.

However, with the coronavirus pandemic that is ravaging the world, working from home will become a necessity rather than a preference.

This, however, is dependent on your profession as some jobs require physical presence of their staff, for instance, medical professions and retailing.

HOW TO EFFECTIVELY WORK FROM HOME

Although it may seem like a dream-come-true for many, after several days of being closed in, boredom, loneliness and frustration can creep in.

To avoid that, the important thing is to remain focused, structured and productive.

Here is a guide:

Establish ground rules

Working from home might easily give the impression that you are on holiday, when essentially you are not.

The first ground rule is to structure your day well by ensuring that your hours of work correlate with the number of hours you usually give in the office.

Does your job require you to work from nine to five with a few breaks in between? You should stick to that timeline.

It is important that you keep in mind that you are at home to work and make a clear distinction from the beginning between work and home mode.

This means that your mind should switch to work mode from the moment you wake up.

Take a shower once you wake up, brush your teeth, take off your sleeping clothes, wear everyday garments and take breakfast.

Set up a functional work space within your home

Not everyone has a dedicated work space or room in their home that they can call a home office. However, you can make room for it.

If you have a spare room, you should set it aside as a dedicated work space where you can have the peace and quiet that you need to get work done.

For those who do not have a spare room, you could use a corner in your house as a work area, which other people in the house are not allowed to interrupt.

It is important to note that this work space needs to be separated from rooms, people or devices that can cause distraction such as a television or family conversations.

Get the required tools for your work

For you to be as functional and as efficient in your home just as you are at your workplace, you will need to get the right tools in place.

These include a reliable source of internet, a laptop or computer, stationery, a printer if need be, and a smartphone.

You may also have to increase the internet speeds in your home if other family members use the same network.

Lower internet packages may slow down your work and this might lead to frustration and inefficiency.

If you need to attend virtual meetings, you can do so via platforms such as Skype and WhatsApp.

You can also keep yourself updated with other colleagues or your supervisors via emails, texts or, if it is for a large number of people, WhatsApp groups.

Establish realistic goals

Working from home is very different from working in the office.

You may easily deceive yourself that since you are now working from home, you have more time and fewer distractions and can therefore get more done.

Although there is some truth in this, it is important to be realistic about your goals as you might get stressed when you fail to achieve aims that you set for yourself.

Experts say it is better to have three to five goals to achieve for the day and get as much done before lunch as people tend to slow down in the afternoon.

Minimise distractions

It is very important to remain disciplined and focused while working from the house if you hope to get anything done.

To do so, you should try as much as possible to remove yourself from any distractions as much as you can.

If there is noise in the neighbourhood or your home, you might consider getting noise-cancellation headphones.

If food or the television distract you, switch it off and work away from them.

If you have children around, you can take turns with your spouse on taking care of them or have a nanny to do. Similarly, you can give your little ones chores or homework as you work.

Take breaks

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Make sure that you take breaks while working from home.

Sometimes it may be difficult to take a breather, especially when you think you are lagging behind with goals set for the day.

The environment at home can also make us believe that we do not need breaks, but we actually do.

Leave your desk at lunch hour and eat your meal in a separate room or take a walk around the house of the compound.

When you do this, you will feel more refreshed for the afternoon part of the day.

It is also important that you eat proper meals and drink water throughout the day.

Socialise with other people remotely

As the entire purpose of working from home is to reduce the probability of getting infected with the new coronavirus through social interaction, it may not be possible to meet up with friends and work colleagues.

However, thanks to social media, people can still interact with friends remotely.

You can catch up with your friends during your lunch or power breaks or even in the evening on social platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter.

You can also use this time to update yourself on the progress of the pandemic as well as get valuable information that can help keep you and your family safe.