How to Effectively Work from Home During a Pandemic It helps to keep the same work hours that one would have at the office, starting and ending the workday around the same time

By Neerja Birla

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The spread of COVID-19 has thrown work and life into terribly uncertain waters, with the nation recently going into lockdown in an effort to flatten the curve firmly. It says a lot about the gravity of the situation when we need to take such drastic measures to keep everyone safe.

With all non-essential services shut, India Inc. is now officially on work-from-home mode. While remote working is a well-established aspect of corporate work policies, it has never been attempted at such an unprecedented scale until now. Perhaps the silver lining in all this is that we live in a highly connected digital world, with plenty of apps, tools, and platforms to help us invariably navigate such challenges.

The technology we have today gives us an edge that entrepreneurs and businesses did not have in the past—we can get work done, innovate, and make progress with just our digital or virtual presence. Even so, it can still be a bit unsettling not to have the routine of going into the office, of trying to stay distraction-free in a whole new environment where the people around you are not your colleagues, but family members.

When the line between work and home life is essentially non-existent, how does one manage to meet deadlines and targets while also devoting time to the children at home, and managing family chores?

In the spirit of embracing silver linings and making the most of this situation, I too have been trying out a few techniques to manage the work-from-home challenge. In times of uncertainty, I believe that a semblance of familiarity is a great comfort. I find that it helps to keep the same work hours that I would at the office, starting and ending the workday around the same time. I continue with familiar routines like excising, checking emails, and setting task priorities for the day, so that one doesn't get overwhelmed and can stay focused.

Another way to help your mind stay in work mode is to find one spot in the home that can be designated as your workspace. For example, a corner in your living room that is relatively quiet can become your "office away from the office'.

While one may have to attend to needs and situations that inevitably arise when the entire family is home, I find that it helps to take short planned breaks to take care of those things—engaging with the kids, completing a chore, etc. By allocating enough time in your schedule to deal with things that would otherwise become "distractions', you might be able to reduce stress and feel less "all-over-the-place'.

Effective communication is another invaluable technique as companies are opting-in for virtual interaction tools to emulate the social interactions that we'd otherwise have in our offices. As we switch to the cloud for everything from collaborative document sharing and team discussions to client conferences and even presentations, I find that it helps to be patient and clear while speaking and writing. From using bullet points to list thoughts clearly in an email, to being empathetic in discussions over video calls, it helps to remember that we're all doing our best to keep things as normal as possible.

As you wind up your workday, you must allow your mind to transition from work time to personal time. It helps to leave your laptop and other work-gear in your work area and then be fully involved with regular family activities until you start work again the next day.

Most importantly, do remember to be kind to yourself and your colleagues—everyone's going to take a few days to acclimatize to the new status quo. Once you settle into the new routine, you'll soon get back into the groove and find a work pattern that will be more productive.

This pandemic has already altered the landscape of the global workspace beyond recognition. However, I believe that this change gives us a unique opportunity to discover new ways of working and utilizing technology, which could have a positive impact long after we overcome the current crisis.

Neerja Birla

Founder & Chairperson - Mpower

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