Working remotely used to be a really rare opportunity. In 2020, everything changed. Thousands of people who have never ever worked at home forced to leave the comfort of The Office, the free coffee, free breakfast, and fancy meeting rooms and work in their small home office setup that sometimes a simple chair a small desk and a notebook.
In this post, I am going to write about the most important rules when I work remotely. For me, there is nothing new in that. I am working at home for about 8 years now and the team that I work with has always done their daily job at the office. I got several questions about doing remote work in a proper way so I thought there is the time to create a blog post about it.
That’s all for introduction, new lets see the rules
Rule 1 – 9 to 5
You work at the office from 9 AM to 5 PM? And you feel the work at home is endless? Most of the people let the time flow out of their hands. They wake up, eat something, start to work (they have no idea when), and finish it when they feel it. And it can be 10 PM because who looks at the clock?
The first rule is simple: if you used to work from 9 to 5 at the office, you must keep the same scheduling at home. There is no reason to turn on your computer and log into the corporate VPN sooner or doing overwork if there is no live issue. You have an alarm so you can use it. There is rest time and the working time. No reason to mix them.
Rule 2 – Handle the family
We can separate this topic for two cases: without or with children.
The first one is the more easy one. If you have no kid at all, you just have to handle special family requests in their place.
I remember the first couple of days when I started to work remotely: My mother asked me to go to the pharmacy, my wife asked to do the shopping and the list goes on. The reason is simple: you are at work so you have time.
It is important to tell them: yes, I am at home. And no, I have no time to do such things as I am working right now. But if you cannot handle it, I am happy to help you and do it after the working hours.
Working at home is a whole different topic. Especially, if you have small kids. Believe me, my daughter is 5, and my son is 3. Have you ever asked a 3 yo to please to be silent for the next 8 hours? To be honest, it is a complex topic that deserves a whole different blog post. So I am going to go into the details later.
Rule 3 – Get into work
When you work at the office, you have some kind of frame during your day. You wake up, prepare yourself, go to work, work, and at the end of the day, go home.
People say it is horrible to work at home because there is no break between being at home and being at work. Those are the people who open the door for the pizza delivery guy in their pajamas at lunchtime.
Rule 3 is easy: you wake up, prepare yourself, and go for a walk. It should be at least 30 minutes. Or maybe this is the proper time window when you can do the daily shopping. Several years ago I used to escort my wife to her job in the morning and walk back to our home.
At the end of the day, I do the same: go outside of the house. Before the kids, I used to do some physical training after work. And when I finish it, go home.
Rule 3 basically means I leave the house in the morning, arrive at work, leave my work in the afternoon, and arrive at home at the end of the day.
Rule 4 – Pomodoro
We have so many distractions at the office: endless meetings, coffee break, tea break gossip at the kitchen, our co-worker asks for help and I would continue the examples.
In contrast, you can do endless work at home even if you have scheduled your time from 9 to 5. Have you ever noticed your eyes are burning in front of the computer? And when checked the clock you saw you sat on your but for 3 hours without taking a break?
The Pomodoro technique is the thing that can save your life. The rules are simple:
- work for 25 minutes without a break
- have a 5-minute break
- work for 25 minutes without a break
- take a 10 minutes break
I won’t get into the details in this video, but I have a recommended video on this topic from John Sonmez. You can watch the video here.
One side note: you should assume the average working day is 8 hours so you can complete about 14 pomodori on a day. Believe me, it won’t happen. But on the other side, if you can deliver 8 Pomodoro of focused work, you can be easily a top performer in your team.
Rule 5 – Morning cofee
Have I mentioned the coffee break in the office? There is no reason to do the same at home. Just schedule a daily 15-minute meeting in the morning with the title ‘Morning coffee’. It should be optional but make sure you invite the whole team.
Believe me, it will be fun. You will know a way more about your co-workers and if you have kids, there is the time when you can show your child how to communicate online: I had several sessions during the last couple of months when the kindergarten was closed and I just prepared some apple and tea for my kids and invited them for the morning coffee meeting.
Rule 6 – Never eat alone
It can be hard during the pandemic. If you have preferred teammates to eat at the office, you can do the same at home. GoToMeeting can help in that.
In the long-term, I have a couple of friends (not all of them are co-workers) and we have a private messenger group. Every day, we discuss where to eat and when to meet. And we just have lunch together.
The most important thing is in Rule 6 is its name. Eating alone every day can destroy your social life and opens a path to mental illness. I recommend it for nobody so please make sure: you will never eat alone.
Working at home can be both fun and terrible. But I am sure: without proper rules, you cannot sustain it in the long-term.