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Corona Virus Survival Tips: How to Work from Home

By Diaryofamuzungu @CharlieBeau
Corona Virus survival tips: how to work from homeAs many Ugandans wake up to the new reality of Corona Virus (read my extensive guide with practical tips here) and the need to work from home, I thought I'd share my personal tips for managing a virtual office.

I've been working home since 2009 when I first arrived in Uganda as a volunteer with the Uganda Conservation Foundation. The organisation budget was tight: I slept in one bedroom and the office was in another bedroom of the shared house. Although it was convenient for me (hooray no sweaty matatu taxi rides to work) I also found it difficult as I had the feeling I was always on duty. Since then, I have spent most of my time as a freelancer, often working from my bedroom. It hasn't been ideal but I've made it work for me.

Corona Virus survival tips: how to work from home
My 'office' is at the end of my bed but alas no internet! When I want to get online, I walk to the top of a nearby hill (overlooking Kibale Forest) and sit on the concrete floor of the mabati-roofed church. I manage - and so can you

Are you working from home for the first time?

There's a lot to take in right now as you swap the stresses of the daily commute for the challenges of bosses and clients expecting you to meet deadlines in a wholly different environment. Everyone's adjusting to the Corona Virus outbreak in different ways. I hope you find something of use in this blog. If not, what did I miss?

Corona Virus survival tips: how to work from home

Here are my personal do's and don'ts for working productively from home during the Corona Virus outbreak

  • DO keep regular hours. Don't lie in until 11 am. If you usually commute to work, you will have more time than usual to work. If you normally work from 9 to 5, try keeping those hours. Give yourself a lunch break. Some people find it hard to start work in the morning. I'm the opposite, I find it hard to switch off at night (!)
  • DO keep a separate working area. This should be separate from where you eat. If you have to work at the kitchen, try and keep working and eating as separate activities. Meals should be appreciated and enjoyed. Having food and drinks near laptops and phones can be a disaster, I know! I once spilled a cup of tea over my laptop keyboard. It can happen to any of us. You're supposed to be social distancing at home; you don't want to be running to the computer shop because you had an IT disaster.
  • DON'T work in bed. Bed is for resting, sleeping, reading and 'other stuff.' Bed is your personal sanctuary where you unwind and relax. If you're in bed checking your phone, or typing away on your laptop, you are not giving your brain the personal space you need to relax fully. Go easy on yourself. Every evening by 9 pm, sometimes earlier, I switch my phone to airplay mode. Studies show that if you have an electronic device near you, your brain is mentally checking in, even if you not touching the thing. You need your beauty sleep, especially right now.
  • DO get organised. Think about what you have in your regular working environment that works well and try to recreate that if you can. Be creative!
  • DO tell your family and friends when you are working. Make it clear that between certain times e.g. 9 to 5 o'clock, you have work commitments. They can support you by respecting this - giving you a call at an agreed time when you're done. (This gives you something to look forward to as well).
  • DO think about which Internet provider is giving you the best service. Now is the time to shop around. I hotspot between two providers.
  • DO be considerate. If you are covering your own data bill, you might want to work into the night but think about the knock-on effect of that. It may mean you're useless in the morning when colleagues need to speak to you. Think about the impact on your family and the people you live with of you working antisocial hours. Is it really fair to them if you are cranky all the time? We're all going to need a bit more patience than normal so cut yourself - and everyone around you - a bit of slack. Try and create routines that suit everyone in your living space.
  • DO be economical. Think carefully about your Internet use. If you work from home, make sure you have enough data to meet your deadlines. Don't watch Netflix all night then tell the boss you are out of data. Be sensible. Don't take your job for granted. Many have already lost theirs.
  • DO keep in contact with colleagues on a regular basis. Office life is a lot more than deadlines. Even if you can't stand your colleagues (!) you will be used to interacting with them and their everyday chitchat. Find a way to keep that going if you can. WhatsApp groups, Facebook groups, Skype conference calls, Google hangouts, there are dozens of different ways of creating a virtual chatroom. Most of them are free.
  • DO embrace technology. Make use of online project collaboration tools. These can be as simple as Google Docs and Google Sheets, or try Dropbox. Rather than emailing attachments to each other, setup online sharing / collaboration systems, where you can see people's comments and edits 'in real time' (without worrying that there are three different versions of the one document in circulation). These kinds of tools can make you a lot more productive. When you go back to the office, you may wonder how you never used them before!
  • DO embrace technology. I work with many people who I never meet in person. We collaborate well with a combination of Dropbox, Google Docs, WhatsApp and CoSchedule (blog and social media promotion software. Dragon Naturally Speaking dictation software is my most important piece of office equipment. If you suffer from wrist pain, Repetitive Strain Injury or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, you will thank me for this one! (You need to purchase this software). I can be a total geek you know!
  • DO check that your laptop and phone software are up-to-date. Check your antivirus software. (Aren't there enough viruses doing the rounds?) You don't want a software meltdown when you're hiding at home far away from the IT department. That said, Teamviewer is a great free piece of software that allows remote access. My IT guy in Kampala can remotely access my laptop when I need him to check something out for me, even if I'm travelling.
  • DO think about how you keep track of your time. Your boss or client may require you to prove how much time you have worked on different projects. I use some software called
  • DO keep physically active. This is easier said than done so that's why a routine is important. If you can, go for a (fast) walk or run first thing in the morning. This sets up your metabolism for the day and will clear your head. Get the blood pumping, increase your heartbeat, don't hang around chatting to people, just wave at them and go on your way. (Remember social distancing, even while you're exercising). If you can't get out of the house, how about doing some squats? Get on YouTube and take part in a fitness class. Call up a friend and ask them to do a YouTube exercise class with you while you're on the phone together. Having a walk late afternoon is a good way to mark the end of your working day too.
  • DO work standing up if you can. Studies show that it is better for you than sitting hunched over a laptop.
    If you are making phone calls, stand up, take a walk around where you live, look out of the window, look up at the sky, look at the birds. Your voice projects better when you are standing up and you will feel more comfortable as well.
  • DON'T have work meetings at home. You're in isolation, right?
  • DO drink plenty of water.
  • DON'T sit at your desk snacking all day. It's easy to put on weight when you're working from home. Not only are you sitting at your desk or table all day, but you are not walking around the office, or walking to the stage like you do most days. Sometimes we snack when we are bored.
    At the start of the day, imagine you are getting ready to travel to work and plan your snacks. Prepare something and have it ready for when you want a break. Low-fat items like apples, chopped carrots are good for you. Boiled eggs and (plain) yoghurt are filling. Go easy on the g nuts, chapatis and rolex! If you like bananas, don't eat more than one. They're pure starch and if you sit on your kabina all day, that thing will grow!
  • DO cut back on your sugar intake and soda drinking.
  • DON'T hit the bottle too often, tempting as it might be. You'll put on weight if you drink too much alcohol and may get mood swings too. If you smoke weed, don't go overboard. Normal everyday life will be back with us soon enough...
Corona Virus survival tips: how to work from home
  • DON'T sit around all day in your night clothes. (It will feel rather weird if your boss rings and you are half dressed). If you are dressed in your work clothes, it will help you focus on the tasks ahead.
  • DO enjoy time off. Just because your laptop is there, don't become a work bore (like me!) Weekends are for relaxing, even when you're working from home. Get away from the screen. If you are on the laptop all day, and then watching TV or playing computer games (more screens), your brain may fry my dear! How about reading a book or newspaper, playing cards, cooking, sewing, gardening, planting tomatoes on your balcony, listening to music and podcasts, singing, playing music... even washing clothes or polishing your shoes can be therapeutic. Pray, meditate, do some yoga ... stroke the cat.
  • DO take a digital detox. Take time out from watching the news and following social media. It may clear your mind and destress you. The world will keep turning!
    If you find it hard to ignore social media, turn off all the notifications.
  • DON'T leave the house unless absolutely necessary If you absolutely have to go out, keep at least three metres from others. Wash your hands with plenty of soap for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitiser containing 60% or more alcohol (if there's no soap). When you get home, jump straight in the shower. Read more practical tips here on the Corona Virus blog which I am updating on a daily basis.

#StaySafeStayHome #StaySafeUG

Ugandan friends, what are your tips for working from home during the Corona Virus?

Do you have tips to share or is this a new experience for you? I'd love to know your thoughts here or by personal message.

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