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This Lockdown DOES Feel Different

[Updated] 3 Lessons From 10+ Years Of Working From Home (WFH)

[Updates: there are an increasing number of excellent "working from home" articles and I'm linking to them at the bottom of this post]

It's true to say that those in the tech industry are generally more setup, comfortable, and prepared for "working from home", heck I've been running my work life "remotely" since 2006. Aren't we all very lucky and slightly smug.

With that in mind, what about EVERYONE ELSE, the vast majority of people that use a computer that has been given to them, see it as just a tool to use, and is certainly a bit "dark magic" that spits out error messages, saves treasured words somewhere, and is most definitely in the domain of the "IT Department".

This article is aimed at those people.
That might even be you dear reader.

These are my distilled / found guide to working from home which I have split up into 3 distinct lessons:
  1. Reduce the tech hurdles
  2. Don't be scared
  3. It's still just work, get your fix of rituals

So let's crack into it, Reduce the tech hurdles. By "hurdles" I mean anything involving a computer (laptop, tablet, phone) that 'makes you think'. Classic examples, "Why isn't thing connecting to the WiFi?", "Don't upgrade now!!", "Install what, why?", or even, "It just doesn't work, ffs!!"

Some hurdles will be big, massive, show stopping hurdles that get sorted very quickly - your laptop isn't built to be used outside the office is a classic. Other hurdles may be small niggling ones that keep chipping away at your confidence over time - your home WiFi is good mostly but not really up for video conferencing. And finally you are going to experience weird ass, irregular hurdles that you have no idea what to do with but luckily only experience once a lifetime - you may need to install some software for your mobile to connect to your workplace network to access documents.

Your job is NOT to resolve the hurdles.

Your job is to find as many of the hurdles you will experience when you work from home. That's it, you find the hurdles and someone else resolves them, one at a time until all of the hurdles are either completely gone or now so low you merely step over them when they appear in your path.

There is only one real way to find the hurdles and that's to work from home. Take your laptop from the office, or use yours, take it home and try and do your job at home, sitting on your own desk.

TODO:
  1. Arrange for a day to work from home
  2. Get the names and contact details of those that can resolve potential hurdles
    (How do you call the IT Service Desk outside of work?)
  3. Take all the needed equipment home
  4. Wake up, get dressed, walk to your new home office, try and work
Your workplace should have a process for you and all your colleagues to work from home and be scheduling to test it, and they should be scheduling that in NOW! None of this should be new for us Kiwis, we live on the shaky isles and post Christchurch 2011, it should be standard practice. 

Taking the equipment you need to do your job may present it's first hurdle - taking that printer is unlikely to be something you can do. Note that on your hurdle list (yes, make a list), and make sure those that can resolve that hurdle know about it.

Your hurdle list is key when you try working from home - note down everything. Now, if you find yourself resolving a hurdle, awesome, pat on the back and welcome to the extended IT Department. I would suggest you also share how you resolved it amongst your colleagues and get the deserved praise.

Finally, resolutions to hurdles may not be perfect, they may only drop the height of the hurdle but not get rid of it completely. Be kind to those working on resolutions, go with the flow, know that these resolutions may only need to be for a short time. Who knows though, they may a show way forward to work from home on a permanent basis (work from anywhere, be that home, office, cafe, plane, overseas ...)

So, remember, it's on YOU to find those hurdles, but for others to resolve them.

MIKE TIP: Video conferencing can be a big hurdle, click the meeting link well before you need to attend and find out what tech hurdles may be coming your way.


Don't be scared, the second on my list is a very personal one. What makes some people scared doesn't even enter the worldview of others, and vice versa. You may feel that you won't be able to do the job to the quality you believe is required, you might have a freak out at the tech needs, you may see this as a creeping of the workplace into your personal time and just don't want that. 

What I know is that you're not alone, even when you're on your own.

I find this online life easy through practice and natural affinity, you may not, and that's fine. Reach out to those you trust at work and ask those questions you believe are silly, embarrassing, or even just too simplistic. You are NOT alone and your fears are valid, take a deep breath and reach out - send a text, write that email, pick up the phone, and ask, "Um, I don't know what to do?".

Want to ask me something, anything then please get in touch - my email, phone, and online ways are open and I'm ready to chat about anything you want, this article, let off steam, or just to have a yarn, that's cool.

TODO
  1. Be kind to yourself
  2. Acknowledge that this is new, scary, and weird for everyone
  3. Prove to yourself you're not alone
  4. Ask someone to help
Change is always scaring and can bring up anxiety and the most bizarre of times.

MIKE TIP: As soon as you feel your nerves, say I’m excited or Get excited to yourself. Out loud. Say it a few times. I’m excited. Get excited! That’s it, you will now have moved the feeling to excitement. [more: You're Not Anxious, You're Excited]


Imagine if you were at the office and the IT Department had upgraded your stuff, and you weren't sure about the buttons, or how the everything now works, what would you do? Whatever you would do, you can still do that, this is still just work so get your ritual fix, working from home though just means you won't be able to shove your chair back, stomp off down the corridor and ask your favourite help desk person for help. No, you'll have to shove your chair back, stomp off to the kitchen, and video call your favourite help desk person for help.

Working from home will be a change in a large part of how you spend your working day ... but not in what you do. Hold on to those office rituals you have, come together via video a conference to do the daily Dom Post quiz, take lunch at the same times you'd normally do, stop work and leave to go home (log off, stand-up, leave the desk) at the same time. All of this is still just work, it hasn't changed, it's now happening in a different place that's all, and you just have to get creative about how you replicate it now that you're not physically in the same place as your colleagues.

TODO:
  1. Consciously remember what makes your workplace what it is
  2. Actively set-up ways to replicate the rituals you have
  3. Make times to just hangout, chew the fat, talk about movies you've watched
    (video conferencing tools, be they work supplied or any other you use, are the best but not the only way to do this)
Remember you are making a new physical office for yourself (at home), and replicating everything about your workplace that makes it yours, that you feel when working there, and this is a proxy for your that other physical workplace. A workplace is processes, technology, but it is above everything else it is people - stay connected to your people and use the hurdle-less tech to do so.

MIKE TIP: This is gonna feel weird at first, so give yourself a fixed time to try it. For example, "We'll all join at 10am for morning tea and the Dom Post quiz using Skype", if after say two weeks it's not working then move on, maybe other rituals have already superseded them. BUT, stick to the timebox you've set for yourselves as you don't want to prematurely drop it just because it's "feels weird", all new things do.

More reading

The following are excellent articles to help you start working from home.

Preparation

Working and staying healthy

Video conferencing

[Updated 21st, 22nd March: added Catarina, Rowan. 23rd March: added Sam Gadd. March 24th: added NZ Rise and InternetNZ]

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