Smile@Work | Solutions for happy workers

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20 Apr 2020

Working from home when you’re not alone: Tips from remote workers

Couples, parents, friends or flatmates… Lots of us have been working from home for over a month now, sharing the same four walls. Here are the experiences and anecdotes from people in France and Belgium as they give their tips for being better organised and more effective during these exceptional times.

télétravail à la maison famille confinement

Cohabiting: each to his own mood

Lockdown has certainly tested our sensitivity to the presence of other people and to noise. So, when several people are at home, the first rule is to listen to each other. “From the very start, each of us would have days when we were fine, and days when we were feeling down,” says Chloé, who is sharing with four other people, all of them working from home. “We made a simple rule: anyone who’s having a bad day should alert the others, starting from breakfast time, and we would leave them in peace. So, it means no comments about them being in a bad mood or looking a bit miserable. Within the group, everyone has had an off-day, but it goes quickly.”

Volume levels: mind the decibels…

Managing volume levels is another recurring issue. So, what’s best practice? The answer is to be aware of the noise being created and to make allowances. “I’m very often on the phone, like my partner,” says Agathe. “We pay attention not to speak too loudly, so that we don’t annoy each other, and we’re also careful to avoid disrupting videoconferences by appearing in the background. In fact, we have simplified the house décor in a corner that is dedicated to videoconferencing, to make it look more professional!”

Another important point is that playing background music while you work doesn’t suit everyone. Some people prefer hard rock, while others might like classical music or reggae. So, the simple message for music lovers is ‘Use your headphones’!

Time management: the art of juggling priorities

For parents at home with their children, organising a working day and family time means keeping a cool head. To remain zen and to enjoy your time with the family, the best approach is to focus on doing one activity at a time. “When I’m with my 21-month-old son, I am 100% with him, and when I’m answering a work email, I’m 100% on that,” says Marion, who works from home, along with her partner. “It’s full-on, which is why my partner and I alternate between play time with our son and periods of intense work or meetings.” Every evening, it’s useful to run through the priorities for the following day, to avoid adding any additional stress on the day.

For Erika and Richard, who are also working from home and who have two daughters, aged 2 and 4, it’s essential for the child-minding duties to be shared equally. “We are very supportive of each other,” says Erika. “One person’s work shouldn’t count for more than the other’s, even though some jobs carry more responsibility.” For Richard: “In the end, you are just as productive at home as you would be in a normal day at the office. It’s just that the working hours start earlier, at around 6am, before the girls wake up, and might finish later in the evening, around 10pm or 11pm. But we get there in the end!”

To keep your children entertained, there are some simple tips, like creating a little hut in their bedroom, or organising a treasure hunt with clues. An activity that involves them using their hands is particularly welcome, such as a playdough workshop or cooking with the rest of the family. If you’re in need of inspiration, there are plenty of podcasts available for entertaining and educating children. Our recommendation? Pinna, an on-demand audio streaming service (podcasts, audiobooks and music compilations) for kids 3-12.

Managing space: create limits (even virtual ones) for each activity

During lockdown, managing space becomes a real headache. So, the DIY approach to working areas soon makes its appearance: for some people, creating a workspace means putting cushions on the floor in a corner of a room, while for others it means setting up a garden table in the lounge. “I prefer to work in my bedroom, on my bed, rather than in the lounge or the dining room, where my husband and son are nearby,” says Elsa, a lawyer and mother of a three-year-old boy. To prevent homeworking from becoming too invasive, it’s important to have a dedicated space that you can leave, just as you would leave an office in the evening after work. “To an extent, that’s what I’m missing in a set-up like this,” Elsa adds. “I never get the feeling that I’m leaving work. If anything, I’m even more available for work because I only have to see an email on my smartphone and I’m switching on the laptop to write a response. Mental and physical distances have become harder to maintain.”

The outside world: staying connected, sharing, talking to each other

At times, it’s vital to ease the pressure. A videoconference with your friends or family, with a drink in hand, is an essential part of the week! “I wait all week long for a Friday night drink and videoconference with my girl friends,” says Marion. “It’s my time for thinking about other things than work and family life.” The internet is full of games that friends can play with each other, with the likes of the Massive Music Quiz, Cluedo and Monopoly all available online. Enjoying a break with friends during the week can be a great way to wind down.

To help you get away from family or friends who are under the same roof, many museums have opened their doors to virtual visits. In France, these include the Louvre, the Musée Grévin and the French Foreign Ministry building, while the likes of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the British Museum in London and New York’s Guggenheim Museum are also open. Meanwhile, the Opera de Paris has created ‘Aria’, a website that introduces people to the world of opera. Quizzes, excerpts of operas and interviews with experts are all available, completely free. For its part, the Comédie Française has planned an entire online programme, which is definitely worth checking out.

Does working at home with others = coworking?

Working at home when other people are around means sticking to the basic rules of communal living. However, there is an added complexity due to the fact that the space isn’t always suitable, and the colleagues can be very young and not always very professional…

“If you think about it, being locked down and having to work alongside other people, is a bit like being in a coworking space,” explains Fabien, the founder of a digital start-up, who is in rented accommodation with two friends. “We already know how to cohabit, but now we’re learning how to cowork. It’s not always easy, but there is an element of it being enriching to share our experiences from completely different backgrounds.”

Remote working with other people is therefore the same as coworking, albeit without the benefit of customised, professional workspaces – coupled with a range of services, including a concierge offering. So, make the most of this unavoidable period of training, ahead of the return to business as usual, and find out about the advantages of coworking!

Find out about the advantages of coworking for entrepreneurs!

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