Hot Desk: A comprehensive guide to working from home

Remote work has become an increasingly viable option for many who seek it.

9 October 2017 | 16:49

Source: Annahar

If the house is considered too cramped or if the thought of working at a loud café, where taking calls in a noisy entourage is problematic, there are plenty of co-working spaces to be found. (Photo Courtesy of Antwork)

BEIRUT: There are numerous factors that contribute to becoming a successful work-from-home employee; as more companies across nearly every sector accommodate an increasing number of staffers wishing to forego the morning office pantry footfall.

Remote work has become an increasingly viable option for many who seek it.

Here is a modest guide to becoming an efficient remote employee; a culmination of what veteran home-workers learned on their entrepreneurial journeys.

GET DRESSED FOR THE DAY

Many home commuters argue that people shouldn’t wake up to the blue hue of their smartphones and immediately start working. They should place it across the room, or better yet, in an adjacent one, and force themselves up and out of bed to turn their alarm off each morning.

“When the alarm goes off, get up and prepare for your day as you would for an office job: take a shower and get dressed,” Ali Hammoud, an independent UX/UI game developer, told Annahar.

While business attire is not required, Hammoud recommends people to act as though they will be interacting with colleagues in person; getting dressed also helps a person’s psychological state by setting a tempo for the day and discourages any sleepy notions.

“Don’t work in pajamas, since it will affect your productivity. After all, you never know when your in-office-colleagues will want to video chat, and you don’t want to beg off because you look unkempt or aren’t wearing a shirt,” he added.

DON’T SLEEP WHERE YOU WORK

Whether in a home office, co-working space, or a desk in the bedroom, do not work while lying in bed; since it will affect work productivity and entice a sleepy/lazy demeanor which will affect performance.

“Working in bed never works, which is why you need a very neat and organized workstation at home; it could be your dining table, a desk in your room, or a small study that should be only dedicated to working,” Priscilla Elora Sharuk, COO of Myki, a Beirut-based cybersecurity company that developed a password manager and authenticator application, said.

Then again, American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald did most of his work while lying in bed, and reversely Earnest Hemingway famously had a typewriter and table that required him to stand up while writing.

Worst case, toss a laptop and a pair of headphones into a bag and head to a local coffee shop with a good Wi-Fi connection to set up shop and get things done. However, be courteous when planning to transform a public space into a temporary office; make an all-day presence on one of their tables worthwhile by ordering food and drinks.

“Setting up a secluded area at home marked only for work is the most optimal way to increase your productivity,” Hady Abdel Nour, CEO of Smarke, said.

He argues that people tend to work at coffee shops for the general vibe and environment, thus “remote employees should replicate the ambiance they experience at coffee shops, such as the lighting, music, and coffee around them at home to boost their performance.”

If the house is considered too cramped or if the thought of working at a loud café, where taking calls in a noisy entourage is problematic, there are plenty of co-working spaces to be found.

Services such as Antwork, The Submarine, and Beirut Digital District help the lonesome worker to rent office space and sit among freelancers and other professionals, maybe even make new friends or even take advantage of a stocked pantry or kitchen.

SET YOURSELF UP

Internet speed tops the list here.

“You must have a good Internet connection at home in order to keep up with the workload that needs to be finished, and it comes in handy if you’re handling large files,” said Lara Noujaim, Director of Publishing at game development studio Game Cooks.

Noujaim, who is a veteran at remote working, highlights that if the Internet at her home office fails, she can still connect seamlessly through her smartphone, set up as a Wi-Fi hotspot.

“Also, make sure your workspace is set up with everything you need, from a comfortable chair, any special tools you need and even a phone or headset,” she added.

COMMUNICATE OFTEN

The ability to communicate quickly and reliably is a key attribute a remote employee needs to succeed. Frequently update the manager or boss; since most offices use some group chat service, such as WhatsApp, Slack, or Trello to communicate with each other during the day.

Make sure they’re installed while knowing how to use them to cement a presence with colleagues and especially the boss to keep them informed of availability and working status.

“If you are out on a walk or lunch and not working, don’t ignore a message from a co-worker seeking clarification or assistance. Follow up and be sure that while you are on the clock, you remain as available as if you were seated right beside them,” Sharuk told Annahar.

SET YOUR OWN GROOVE

Set goals for yourself by making a list of things to do today, this week, or this month.

According to Noujaim, having a consistent schedule and being strict about it is useful for drawing outlines around the managed time, in order to keep things balanced for both work and play.

“You must have a lot of discipline to maintain your schedule and keep to your deadlines; the most effective way to do this is by determining your best productive hours of the day and start working then,” she added, highlighting that productivity is something people need to establish.

Hammoud, however, has a different approach to time management.

“I consider the Pomodoro Technique to be the best way for anyone to manage their time, divide their tasks, and finish what they have on their plates in an efficient way,” he said.

The Pomodoro Technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks of five minutes. These intervals are named pomodoros – Italian for tomato – after the vegetable-shaped kitchen timer that Francesco Cirillo, its inventor, used as a university student.

A simple alternative is the TomatoTimer web application that can easily help anyone get started and stay focused. “Plan your day to the smallest detail, Elon Musk CEO of SpaceX plans his day to the last minute,” Hammoud said.

A number of entrepreneurs consider the most effective way to complete their daily tasks is by following the S.M.A.R.T goal approach, which is by making sure a daily to-do list includes tasks that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

DISTRACTIONS KILL PRODUCTIVITY

According to Sharuk, it is mandatory to block out distractions as much as possible by setting and enforcing boundaries when working from home, especially by explaining to family members and children that the work area is off limits and that they should avoid interrupting unless it’s important.

“Set aside time and breaks to spend time with them of course, so they don’t feel entitled to your working time,” she added.

Public enemy number one and perhaps the most nefarious is the social media streams that swiftly steal time from anyone.

Extensions available for Google Chrome, such as StayFocused, allow a specific amount of time per day on selected websites (like Facebook or Twitter) before rendering them inaccessible for the remainder of the day.

OUT AND ABOUT

According to Noujaim, one of the blessings of working remotely is the opportunity to live a more active lifestyle instead of being deskbound, but it’s important to make activity a habit.

“Find time to go for short walks to help ignite productivity and creativity, otherwise you’ll fall into the inertia of sitting at your desk all day and never leaving the house at night,” she noted.

Nour Alwan, space manager at the Submarine co-working space, considers having a regularly scheduled social meeting such as a pre-work coffee or lunch with a friend or group of friends helpful in creating a vibe of a regular schedule; while also giving some outside inspiration.

Socializing is important to combat the inherent loneliness and isolation generated from being a lone wolf.

WHEN YOU LOG OFF FOR THE DAY, LOG OFF

It is important to separate technology when the day is over, especially in the areas meant to recharge and disconnect, since it’s considered by many to be invaluable to the discipline needed for working remotely.

“Just as you should wake up in a room absent of technology, you should return to one, once you’ve completed a day’s work. When you log off for the day, log off,” Noujaim told Annahar.

She considers that trying to mix work and free time runs the dangers of never quite powering down or shutting off, and it can lead to a burnout and depression from feeling like you’re always on and available.



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