HOME OFFICE: Due to the coronavirus spreading across the globe, many employees find themselves having to work from their own home. This article presents some advice to help you along. (Photo/illustration: Shutterstock)


How to work effectively from home: Tips and pointers

In only a few weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has turned the world upside down; countries are closed, businesses shut their doors and employees are asked to work from home if possible – all in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

By Mari Kristine Buckholm, 18th of March 2020

Smart Innovation Norway is in the fortunate position that the company is well-prepared for a situation where everything needs to happen digitally on different platforms. At the moment, all employees are at home office. But, how do you work effectively from home?

Independent approach

If you are one of those people who struggle to concentrate when you are at home, in an environment you do not normally mix with work and where there are so many potential distractions, then you might have something to learn from Heidi Tuiskula, senior researcher and international project manager at Smart Innovation Norway. She is well acquainted with home office due to her many EU project travels and working from her home country, Finland.

“Working from home requires a more independent approach in managing your day and tasks. It lacks in collaboration and social inclusion as the informal chat is many times neglected when using the digital tools for meetings and chats. It, on the other hand, adds to concentration when your work is not constantly disrupted by noise in the open office environment or by other people popping by your desk to ask something quickly,” says Tuiskula.

Challenges and advantages

She considers the greatest challenge of working from home to be keeping up the normal collaborative work methods and communication with co-workers like you would normally have.

“Also, it can be a challenge to make a clear division between home time and home-office time, so that you do not end up working all the time,” she notes.

At the same time, Tuiskula (photo) points out, there are several advantages to working from home – if you know how to exploit them.

“For me, the home office allows better concentration with scientific tasks. Especially, when writing reports or scientific papers, the quiet home office creates a better environment for the best results. It also allows flexibility to organize my day according to my work needs. For example, when collaborating with international partners, sometimes you need to organize meetings outside the normal office hours. When working from home, I can split my workday accordingly and return to the home office in the evening for a call with a partner in a different time zone.”

Maintain your routines

The international project manager has had many years of practice with home office and has learned how she can be at her best while working from home.

“First of all, I invested money in buying equipment for a professional home office setting to ensure a healthy and productive working environment. I use daily to-do lists to organize my day, I use digital collaboration methods as well as old school phone calls to keep in touch with my colleagues and partners and I do my best to close the computer after the day to have a relaxing evening without work,” Tuiskula explains. She adds:

“I do my ‘preparing for work’ routines every morning, even though it can be tempting to just sit in your pajamas the whole day. It gives me a professional feeling, you know ‘dress for success’. I also try to remember to keep breaks like I would do in the office to ensure proper concentration.”

Heidi’s top 5 tips to ensure an effective workday from home:

  1. Start by creating a quiet place to work, make sure you have a good chair and all the necessary equipment you need for a productive day.
  2. Analyse your normal day in the office and think, what kind of changes you need to make in your behaviour in this home office situation. Do you usually walk to your colleagues’ desk to ask for help or to brainstorm? Maybe you can now send him/her a message in teams chat or call? Do you organize ad-hoc meetings with colleagues? Those can be organized as a telco instead. Use to-do lists or other task management system and make daily goals for progress.
  3. Remember to have breaks. A normal human being is not able to concentrate more than on average about 45 minutes at the time, even less in the afternoon.
  4. Make sure your office hours won’t extend to last the whole day, we all need free time to stay healthy and innovative. But on the other hand, make sure your home office hours are not distracted by home free time matters to stay productive.
  5. Keep in contact with your colleagues, also with those, with whom you are not actively working. You also need some social chatter throughout the day so do not forget the coffee machine talks.