Working from home – How to work effectively

Working from home – How to work effectively

Working from home has taken on a new significance in the time of the pandemic. Many companies, employers as well as their employees, have been confronted for the first time with this topic and especially its implementation. Even in politics there is more and more discussion about it. What I would like to talk about now are my own experiences in my home-based office and ideally the one or the other reader, who also works from home, gains the insight that he is not alone with the advantages and disadvantages or he finds one or the other tip for a better implementation for the work in his own four walls.

My experience

Finding a family-friendly job was one of my priorities when looking for a job, because I am a mother of three small children and I am now fortunate to be able to work from home for more than two years. It is not the rule to find employers that let you work entirely from home. However, if you find a company that is technically very well equipped and does not require your physical presence, your chances of working from home are considerably better.

After a few months of working from home, I had to realize that the work did not go as well as I had imagined working in my personal home. It was still quite a bit different, in a positive as well as in a negative way.

The idea of working from home

In the mornings, you should be able to calmly fulfill all your private and domestic obligations and wishes concerning yourself, the apartment, and the children. After you have brought away your children, you can go home in peace and quiet, because the commute to work is eliminated and you are certainly less stressed. Once you arrive home, you can get down to work, do your work with passion, and then you are finished. The best thing is, you do not even have to walk home, because you are already home. The children would not have to be picked up yet, so there is still time for the household and then you can treat yourself with something nice, a little time out before the day continues. When all this is over, you pick up the children and have plenty of time for undivided attention.

For me this idea was of great value and is still the most beautiful for me today. If you do not have children at home, you can fill the time that should be there in the idea with the gym, further education or meeting friends

Ideas thrown overboard

At this point I could list a lot of different daily routines to explain more clearly how and which complications have become part of my previous ideas of the work from home. However, this would go beyond the scope of this article, so I will try to give you an understanding of the biggest hurdles I had at the beginning with the following text:

Bringing my children to school in the morning and to the daycare center in peace and quiet usually worked wonderfully. It was usual to go to school first and then bring the other two children to the daycare center. It took me some time to realize “This is where my way to work starts” and so it was there, the 20-minute walk to work.
When I arrived at home, my eyes were always on the kitchen, which needed to be cleaned up after the hustle and bustle of the morning, but then I remembered the laundry that needed to be done, so I went back to the laundry basket. On the way to the laundry basket, my eyes fell on the clock. Okay, the laundry must be done later, because the working hours are about to start.

Sitting at the workplace, highly concentrated, the phone rang. I let it ring to not be distracted. After a few minutes I looked at the phone to see who was calling. The person who called was not important at all for that moment, so work was continued. As soon as I was fully concentrated at work again, the phone rang again. The second time I answered the phone and explained that I was working and had to hang up. After the phone call, I was thirsty and in fact I had not really had breakfast in the morning and for a better concentration, breakfast is important. So, I also ate something, but quickly so that I can be back at work promptly. Back at work, back in full concentration, the doorbell rang. Unfortunately, I had to react, otherwise I would not get my mail or maybe it would be my schoolchild coming home unexpectedly. The door was opened by me and well, if I was already standing, I could turn on the laundry, then I would have the opportunity to hang it up later before my home is filled with more life again. When I turned on the washing machine, my complete private to-do list was back on the screen. I have not yet made an appointment with the doctor for my little one. That was not good. I called the doctor, but I could not reach anybody immediately, as it is often the case when you call a doctor.

It was even more complicated with many kinds of interruptions of my work time, so that a lot of my work fell in the afternoon or was only completed in the evening. After a few weeks, I realized that it couldn’t go on like that, because nothing that happened in terms of work-life balance worked the way I wanted it to. It was time to change something about my structure and not directly about my job from home.

In fact, I am not the only one who starts with such problems as soon as he starts working from home. The more people work in the own home, the more often such or similar difficulties are reported, not to mention the appropriate equipment and space, especially if, as is currently often the case, you suddenly end up in home-based work.

Working from home as a learning process

My opinion is fixed: “Working from home is a learning process – working from home is learnable”. Admittedly, if I did not hold this opinion, my performance for work would have been weaker and I would no longer be sitting where I sit or perhaps just without work. Anyone who is discouraged after the initial difficulties of working from home and leaves the work within their own four walls because of such a lack of concentration is likely to make a mistake. With the following procedure I got well out of my self-described “home-based office mistake routine”

Private acquaintances and date arrangements

It was important to me to make people who like to have contact with me in my private environment aware that I like to be called and that I am always there for them, but please not during my working hours. If you think of grandparents, for example, or of a friend of mine, freshly mom and very talky, you can imagine that it took a while before this could be implemented. However, I must also mention here that options such as simply switching off the cell phone are not feasible if you have children. Getting out of habits is not easy for everyone. In addition, I also had to consider the bureaucratic environment, as well as making appointments with doctors deliberately for the time when I am not working, even though I would theoretically be accessible earlier. In individual cases, it is possible to do something like this because it would not fit otherwise or would take too long. But it should not be the rule.

Special workplace

My own workplace has been created, a fixed place in my home, which is only used for work. This was necessary, because in the first months I changed the workplace within my premises frequently due to various reasons. All in all, this was not effective. It took up more time than it would have made sense. I realized that this alone was not the solution when I looked at my workplace every evening. Of course, everyone thinks about work in the evening, but with the possibility of being able to act immediately because something occurs to you in the evening, the probability increases that you will implement exactly what you have thought of.

I often sat at the computer in the evening, I had no free evenings and therefore started the next day more tired. Solving the problem is easy, but it still has challenges. For me, it took a few days to become aware of the consequences and to send a signal that closing time also means closing time. So, I built myself a rack for a beautiful curtain, with which I can make my workplace disappear in a flash when the time comes. Even if it is just a curtain, it is something I must consciously push aside to get back to my workplace. For those who do not necessarily want to make a curtain or do not have a single room available for their permanent workplace, things like secretaries can also be used.

Fixed working hours including flexibility

Fixed working hours are especially important to me personally, because without them I usually worked more and more unstructured, because you always start working again and as already indicated, I was never completely at work and never completely in my private life. Overall, it can be exhausting and for this reason, I have set my own times, in which I work. In addition, I have built in a certain time window, in which I am aware that I am off work, but if it is justifiably necessary, I am also there for the work and the team during this time. Where is the flexibility in that? For example, on days when my school child needs to be looked after by me at home. On these days I have the flexibility to arrange my working hours differently and therefore it is possible to avoid to use unplanned vacations. This makes you happy for yourself and certainly benefits the team you work with. Here it is also very important to mention that the issue of time management was not so easy for me personally, because CustomHash offers completely flexible working hours. The only rules are that tasks are completed on time and deadlines are met. This is actually a wonderful thing, but this point was a challenge for me in the beginning. Especially as a mother of several children, “flexible” sounds very tempting at first, but you must be able to deal with it and fortunately I learned that.

Order in the workplace and paper consumption

Order in the workplace is a must; even though I am basically more of a chaos-powers-me-creative type, I have found that too much chaos is not so wonderful and too unproductive. Already in the first weeks, I looked at my work surface and a feeling of strong pride came over me. Why? I am a young woman and I am lucky enough to work in my home-based office for a young and growing company. On my desk and all over the floor were a lot of sheets of paper with lots of ideas, sketches, mind maps and other things. Suddenly, however, I was overcome with a feeling of shame, because I imagined that my boss would see exactly what I saw at that moment. Hand on heart: the way it looked at and around my workplace, you probably would not find such a sight in any office. Although I was productive with it, I realized: all the paper must go! Nowadays I do not need paper anymore, because I note even the smallest notes on my computer. The environment will certainly be happy about that, too!

The way from the start until now, were at least 6 milestones and I did not have to lose sight of my own chaos. Now there are more handkerchiefs, pens, dices and table tennis balls on my desk. What do I do with them during my work? Occasionally small gymnastic exercises with the ball at the desk, otherwise I simply enjoy the fact that the table is not empty and my chaos (which is basically none) can be maintained.

Ringtones and other noises

Noises during working hours distract me. For this reason, I have assigned certain ringtones to the contacts in my cell phone to know who is calling and whether it could be an emergency. Other contacts are muted to avoid unnecessary calls.

The bell of my front door is now on my personal ignore list. In fact, I do not notice it anymore. Unless the doorbell rings like a storm because I have assigned my schoolchild with this. If he ever comes home at unusual times, he should ring the same and this works very well; in addition, it happens very rarely, which suggests that I opened the door far too often in the first months. About the mail service: Either someone else in the house opens the door or I get it at another time. Usually you know when to expect important letters. But even in my private life, I am now so digitalized that I very rarely receive letters. After an unexpected distraction, it can take longer before you can concentrate on the matter in hand again, which is why it is very important to switch off possible disturbing factors; especially in the home-based office.

Contacts with the team

If you start a new job as an employee in a company, the contacts in the team are usually made at the company’s place of work and you are kept up to date almost automatically because you are noticed a lot between the door and the hinges, over coffee, lunch, etc. or you are generally approached more often. It is different in the home-based office. Whoever has the opportunity and I had it, introduces himself personally at the company location and gets to know the other team members. If you do not have the opportunity, you work with means of communication that include video chat solutions, for example. But one thing is certainly not easy when working from home: the feeling of belonging can sometimes suffer when you are not on site in the daily business of the company. The positive thing about it – at least that is how it was with me – is that it was a pleasure when this feeling disturbed me, because it showed me that the company is important to me. The next positive thing about it is that only those who know the problem can change anything about it. Since then, I have been paying attention to communicating more with my team, even where it is not always necessary. This way, attention is guaranteed, and it is not so easy to be “overlooked” during the next update. The whole thing has changed in this year anyway, because now all CustomHash employees work in their homes and communication works very well.

Personal conclusion

Today, I am even more satisfied with my work whitch I can do from home than before because I have learned from my mistakes and continue to learn. The difference between the beginning and today, is simply that I left my “mistakes routine” behind and started to create an efficient structure and framework, which was given by my employer from the beginning, but I had to gain my own experience first. Even though there are already numerous tips on the Internet, I very much hope that my experience report has at least helped you a little bit to get the best out of the home-based office for you and your employer.

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PayPodo operates under CustomHash AG, a company registered in Germany with Legal Entity Identifier 391200VTCFSYUNN7YA32 and with offices at Oberwallstraße 6/4, 10117 Berlin, Germany. CustomHash AG (Certificate) is an authorized Electronic Money Institution intermediary of Verified Payments UAB (Licence No. 27), which is a licensed Electronic Money Institution supervised by Bank of Lithuania under the Electronic Money Regulations.