As the COVID-19 pandemic ravages the world, many of us are not using this precious time to indulge in a hedonistic blowout, nope…..instead record numbers of us are keeping things low key and pretending to work from home.
For the unprepared, the uninitiated, and the plain workshy – working from home can be a treacherous and harrowing experience. Get things wrong and your employer will hit you quicker than you can say ‘P45’! Get it right though and you can be sipping gin and tonics while listening to classic jazz and not blowing your cover.
So, in these troubled and testing times The Recruitment Lab has put together our alternative guide for what not to do when working from home.
If in any doubt, just don’t do it!
Years ago when a village lost their idiot they would send out the search party to find them….now they just look at Facebook or Instagram which provides a rich tapestry of evidence for what their idiot has been up to. Guess what, if in doubt your boss will look at your Facebook account.
Let me paint a picture. As I set-off this morning to engage in some supermarket panic buying, I couldn’t help but notice that the car park at the railway station was empty, the car park at the golf course was full. Shocker! But, the last thing you want to be doing is posting pictures of you and the boys teeing-off for a round of 18. So, whatever you are doing (instead of working) don’t feel as if you need to share these details with everyone else.
If anything – use social media as your alibi. Maybe take a picture of that kitchen table with your laptop open (and switched on), couple of documents thrown around the table….perfect. Capture that moment of “working from home”, post it on every available social media channel and then get on with your day.
I am not saying don’t drink. God No! You are about to undergoing a stressful experience with no end date. In a worst-case scenario, you are self-isolating with your family. You are going to be pretending to home-school your children and somehow you have to try not to kill you partner. Alcohol could realistically be your only therapy.
The pub has now been replaced by your kitchen. How well you have stockpiled (or panic bought), is going to be a reflection of how good your therapy can be.
For a while, many of you may feel a mild sense of discomfort about drinking alone – that will pass. But, some of you are going to turn to various apps (for example Houseparty) as a crutch that allow you to socialise online with complete strangers. The phrase that “…somewhere in the world the sun is over the yardarm…” has never been more accurate. Before you know it you’ll be video-conferencing friends (you have never met in person) in Asia, Australia, the States…..all self-medicating and living the dream in beautiful isolation.
The key is to try and do this at the same time you might have actually gone to the pub (in your country of residence). Don’t start cracking open a drink at 8.15am just because in Australia the party has started to get hot. Sure, on a Friday (possibly a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) you might have had a lunchtime pint…. well, fair enough, but keep the timings tight. You are a pro; you are used to maximising your alcohol intake in a limited period of time and yet are back at your desk in good time for the afternoon – vaguely functional. In a working from home scenario the same rules apply.
Admit Your Job Should Actually be Part Time
In normal circumstances you would have gossiped at the watercooler, laughed about what was on TV last night and listened to countless colleagues talk utter cr%p. Somewhere in between all of that you may have counted paperclips, pretended to create an edgy social media strategy or just watched YouTube and shared the good bits with your “inner-circle” of trusted colleagues.
This is what you dedicate half your working day towards and when you get home you pretend to your partner that you have been pulled to hell and back, you should be paid more and the only thing keeping you going is the bottle of red wine every evening. Now though – half your daily work activities and distraction tactics have been removed.
Like an addiction, you are going to feel huge discomfort as you come to terms with the fact that without these distractions you have nothing to do from about 10.30am onwards. The last thing you want to do is admit to this scenario. Most of your colleagues will be experience exactly the same thing…except for Sarah in Accounts who does actually work part-time and now thanks to not having you distracting her with mind-numbing dribble feels she has a slim chance of keeping up with her near full-time workload.
Now is the time to say to colleagues how nice it is to not have the everyday office distractions, how you are managing to achieve so much more from home. No one is actually going to question what your achieving or the fact there is no end product; they will be too busy pretending to look busy themselves!
Let Personal Hygiene Slip
Your working from home, not auditioning for a role in Castaway. Nothing says “I’ve lost it” more than the guy on the video call who has forgotten the rule about wearing pants and shaving at least once a fortnight.
Thanks to COVID-19 we could all be working from home for a significant period of time – you need to keep things tight. If come day two you are forgetting what a toothbrush looks like and believe that pyjamas are acceptable to be worn beyond 3pm then someone needs to stage an intervention before things drift to a point where they can not be rescued.
Keep a routine. You may not need to jump out of bed at the crack of dawn to start a commute that literally rips the will to live from your body, but you do need to actually get up in good time. You need to aim for being showered and dressed and sat at your laptop at about the same time you would normally walk into the office. Some days that will feel easy, some days it really won’t. But when it comes to working from home presenteeism really is expected.
Interrupt your Siesta
Remember when you used to work in an office and you used to have the post-lunch energy slump? Normally you’d load-up with several cups of coffee or a Red Bull (or both) and just power through….well not anymore. Energy slump equals a blissful afternoon nap. Maybe you take to the sofa, maybe things are much more decadent and you go back to bed and pull the duvet over your head for a few hours. Regardless be prepared to enjoy some quality downtime post-lunch.
Of course, not everyone is going to play ball with this plan. Telephone calls, video-conferencing, emails popping-up…be prepared for some interruptions especially in the early days of home working.
For the ignorant there will be an urge to just grab the phone as soon as it starts rings. Under no circumstances do this. If you have been at peak siesta and the phone wakes you or the alarm goes off for that conference call – don’t pick it up, don’t try and just run with things or even try and vaguely be on point by blagging things. Literally, you will look and sound like road kill. Your groggy voice, your distant memory of work and your inability to answer a simple question such as “have you seen the email yet” are bound to trip you up.
Instead, stay relaxed, finish that siesta as best you can and then maybe grab a coffee. When you return that phone call or log onto the video conference then at least you will sound and look fresh! Apologise for missing the call – you can make any excuse up you want at that stage because you are now on your game not resembling an extra from the Walking Dead.
Start Watching Box Sets
Of course, you’ll have the TV on in the background! You might have a home office, but let’s be frank the main perk of working from home is keeping engaged with your home entertainment systems and never leaving the comfort of the sofa.
You maybe thinking that now really is a great time to watch all seven series of Game of Thrones. Maybe you always wanted to watch the Sopranos but never found the right time. You heard the rumours about Breaking Bad but until now never had a chance to act on it. Well – let me put a stop to this wish list right now.
Boxsets are just traps that distract you for too long…remember, the “working” from home bit…you need to keep yourself responsive and attuned to what is happening on email. Therefore, ditch the boxsets and keep yourself limited to the big issues of the day like Judge Rinder, Loose Women, or maybe Countdown for the more intellectual among you. You need something light, easy to turn on and off and not something which sucks you in for the next 18 hours and you suddenly wonder why it is dark outside.
So there you have it, The Recruitment Lab’s six point guide as to what not to do when working from home. We are not suggesting this guide is a catch-all bible that you live your life by. I mean bizarrely some of you have started wearing Lycra and have decided now is the time to take up cycling or jogging – and to be frank we shouldn’t have to tell you what is wrong with that. In addition, we have no doubt that for some our advice will simply fall on deaf ears. Ultimately though, there is always someone that ruins it for everyone else! So, stay safe and work hard at pretending to work hard at home!
About The Author
Simon Royston is the founder and Managing Director of The Recruitment Lab (A recruitment agency with offices in Aldershot and Brighton that offers employment services across Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and beyond). Simon lives in Guildford and has worked in Recruitment for over a decade. He has a degree and a masters in psychology as well as a diploma in Human Resource Management. If you would like to know more about anything written in this blog or would simply like to express your own thoughts and opinions do not hesitate to contact Simon through The Recruitment Lab website.