In early 2002, I made the decision to leave my Director position at PwC to work full-time on building Saviom Software. With two young kids to raise and the world in the midst of a dotcom crash, this wasn’t an easy decision to make and yet, my gut told me that this was the direction to take.
Saviom needed my full energy and I knew I would be able to weather any storm with the loving support from my wife. While I knew the transition from being a Director at an MNC to a bootstrapped entrepreneur was going to bring about drastic changes, I was even less prepared for the work from home, house-husband role that I would end up assuming.
For 3 years, between 2002 to 2005, I worked in a home office set up in our bedroom while my wife began working full-time as the sole breadwinner for the family. It also meant that I was in charge of running the house which meant cooking and preparing family dinners, dropping and picking up my kids to/from school and general upkeep for the house. Who knew that working-from-home would end up being more demanding than my work at PwC?
While that 3-year period had its fair share of ups and downs, they still remain the fondest years of my professional and personal life. It helped me recalibrate my priorities and enabled me to spend time with my family. Besides parenting my children actively, it also pushed me to develop a new set of multi-tasking skills that I believe helped lay the foundation for the success of Saviom.
With a lot of us being forced to work from home due to the current pandemic, I would like to share a few tips on how to make the most of the coming months. Being thrust into a new working environment that melds into your personal life is never easy but I do believe there is a silver lining to every situation that we find ourselves in. Here are some pointers on making the most of things!
1. Set and Stick to a Routine
We all have a set routine that we follow every day- you wake-up, get ready, make yourself some coffee, get to work, work for the day- with roughly the same timed tea and lunch breaks throughout the day- and come back home and repeat for the rest of the week. While such routines sound mundane and boring, it’s what keeps us functional on auto-pilot with less effort throughout the week. After all, our brains are conditioned to know when it needs to gear up for work or when it can wind down for a break. It makes us work at our optimum allowing us to juggle multiple commitments at a time.
While telecommuting, you’ll need to initially be conscious about creating a new set of habits and routines to kick-start your auto-pilot mode. One of my favorite routines was to go for a post-lunch power-walk between 1.00 to 1.30 pm, helping me break up my day.
2. Use the Extra Time Wisely
One of the benefits of working from home is being able to save time on your commute, to and from work. Instead of having a bit of a lie-in, it’s important to use that extra time wisely and I would allocate that time for my family by sitting them down for a delicious and nutritious dinner every weeknight! It became a part of our family bonding time ritual and helped my wife and I understand what was going on in our children’s lives.
Cooking has always been a favorite hobby of mine and working from home allowed me to spend a full hour between 5 to 6 which would have otherwise gone into traveling. It ended up being a great routine for me- letting me pursue my hobby while also helping the family.
3. Control Your Snacking Impulses
While cooking routinely can help your overall productivity, regular and unchecked snacking does not. Being at home means you are probably only a few meters away from an entire fridge/pantry of snacking potential and even worse, you’re by yourself, so you’re not worried about co-workers watching you make regular trips to the kitchen.
For myself, I was definitely a procrasti-eater and it took me a great degree of discipline to stop. The solution came down to my earlier point of setting myself a routine- setting breaks and where I would take them (which in this case needed to be away from the kitchen). After all, out of sight, out of mind!
4. Straighten Out the Work Space
Having a decluttered and open workspace can do wonders for your productivity. I always felt I did my best thinking when I had a tidy desk without piles of documents or empty tea-cups to pull my focus. The less random objects lying around, the less potential for distraction. It also meant my wife didn’t have to come back to a messy bedroom, keeping us both happy!
Take time to reorganize your workspace and arrange files, stationery, and devices in the order that you would need them. Getting into a Skype meeting for which you know you’ll need to jot down points? You know where your notepad and pen will be, and can listen to inputs from your colleagues and managers attentively, without a frantic search going on in the background!
5. Establish Availabilities and Boundaries
Whether you like it or not, working from home means you’re going to see a whole lot more of your kids. I won’t lie, being a working parent and juggling meetings can be overwhelming, which is why it’s important that you find a middle ground.
It was a great period for me because I got to do what I always set my sights on while watching my younger son grow up. A part of my morning routine, which would usually be spent commuting, would instead go into playing table tennis and dropping him to school, while also involving him in the dinner cooking process (which he loved!). But at the same time, he knew the times I would be available meaning that I still got my crucial hours of productivity.
6. Dress to Impress
The clothes you wear often determine the mindset you are in- if you’re dressed for bed your brain will think it’s bedtime. While this doesn’t necessarily mean you should wear a suit, tie and a collared shirt, jeans and sneakers can generally do the trick. For myself, wearing shoes made a huge difference, where I would only take them off once the workday had ended.
It also helps you feel connected to your work and colleagues, enabling you to stay on top of the workload and what others are doing. Besides, it’ll come in handy if you and your surroundings are presentable during an impromptu video conference call!
While the circumstances for me working from home are vastly different from most people working from home now, I believe the principles still remain the same. As an eternal optimist, I believe each situation comes about for you to grasp and make the most of.
While I believe mine made me a better husband, father and company leader I’m sure everyone will come out of these turbulent times with strengths they never knew they had.
Stay safe everyone!