You might not be aware that Hypertext is largely a remote operation.

Considering that we’re a website that reports on news, having a permanent office can sometimes be silly. Sure, we have a physical office at WeWork but for the large majority of the time I’m sitting in my home office, typing up news and features.

We’ve operated this way since 2017 and in that time I have learned a lot about working from home.

With the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) now officially in South Africa we suspect a few firms will start asking employees to work remotely rather than come into an office and run the risk of infection.

While this sounds like a gift in disguise, working remotely comes with its own set of challenges and navigating them can seem daunting at first.

So, with nearly three years of experience working from home, here is what I have learned.

Good housekeeping

My day begins with a bit of housekeeping but not for my home.

The first thing I check is that the internet is running at full tilt. Then I check the loadshedding prognosis for the day and begin planning my day.

Even if I have a morning off or an event later in the afternoon, the hours between 08:00 and 17:00 are blocked off for work. Personal business takes a back seat no matter how urgent it is. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule but they are exceptions.

Doing this housekeeping first thing in the morning allows me to plan out what needs to be done if for instance there is loadshedding that day or my internet has fallen over in the night.

A good thing to consider should you be working from home is to have a back-up internet connection.

Depending on your company, you may have to sort your own internet out and if that is the case we highly recommend having a back-up plan on an entirely separate network.

For instance, I have fixed-line wireless, a mobile connection from Vodacom and a mobile connection from Cell C. These three connections mean that I can be online no matter what.

It’s also important that your home is in a state that doesn’t inspire you to start cleaning up mid-way through the day. While I’m not one to tell you how to live, a messy work space is distracting and I have spent many lunch hours tidying up.

In terms of loadshedding I have three coffee shops nearby that have generators should the power go out and my mobile internet connections keep me online.

My advice is to find out which restaurants or co-working spaces near you have generator power and allow you to work there for a few hours at a time. Be nice and be sure to chat to management as you might have to come back depending on how long you’ll be working from home for.

A backup mobile internet connection is a must. I use a Vibe 4G for backup.

Plan out your day and stick to that plan

Working from home can be distracting what with all the creature comforts you’ve amassed.

For this reason I found drawing up a schedule and sticking to it was incredibly helpful. After a few weeks the schedule should be second nature but in the early days it will be incredibly tempting to fire up some games or movies during downtime.

My schedule these days includes everything from making coffee to taking a few minutes everyday to step outside.

More importantly, I’ve found that creating clear separations between my work day, and home time is incredibly important.

For instance, at 17:00 no matter what I call it a day. It doesn’t matter if a project is one hour from being done, my day starts at 08:00 and ends at 17:00.

From a mental health standpoint I’ve found this to be incredibly important as it’s easy to want to keep working so that you look busy.

Burn out at home is a very real thing and you should be hard on yourself when it comes to both working and calling it a day.

Building off of this, I recommend trying to fool yourself into thinking that you are “going to work”. That means sticking with your morning routine and getting dressed as if you were going to work on casual Friday.

Sure, you could hang out in your PJs all day but when the sun starts to set and you realise you haven’t moved from your position in front of the PC all day, you’ll want to take this advice.

A highly edited version of my daily routine.

It’s a lonely situation

Despite having my colleagues on IM and a phone call away most days, it can get rather lonely working from home.

Socialising with others at the weekend or after work then is incredibly important.

Something that has helped me very slightly is having friends who are also working from home on a WhatsApp chat. As I don’t have a manager looking over my shoulder constantly, I can afford to take a few minutes to chat to a friend about the news of the day or simply share memes.

It’s a small touch but it can really turn a terrible day into a more manageable one.

There are of course other things you should consider such as working in a quiet place free from distractions but that advice isn’t for everyone.

For example, the deafening silence became a bit much for me after a few days. So to combat this I often have YouTube running in the background or a series I’ve seen before just to have some sort of noise in the background.

I would also recommend spending down time with friends and family to augment the long stretches of alone time you might have when working from home.

Battery banks are vital these days. These are the smallest of five that I have.

The importance of guidelines

Something that is rather important is for those working from home to know what is expected of them.

For example, at Hypertext our policy is that employees should be contactable at all times from 08:00 to 17:00. As all of us use Slack this is the defacto way of contacting colleagues. WhatsApp, Skype, Discord, SMS and phone calls can also be used but we’ve found Slack is a decent, free, way of keeping track of everybody throughout the day.

A shared calendar is also rather important so that you can be aware of who is doing what on a certain day.

Hypertext also has a regular meeting via Skype. Depending on your organisation you may want to do these as well but the frequency is very much at your discretion.

Sick-days and leave

While working from home you may feel as if you don’t need leave or sick-days for that matter and let me tell you, you do.

Sure, you’re working from home which means you’re likely more comfortable than working from an office but that doesn’t erase the leave you’ve worked for and earned.

Sick leave should also be taken as needed and don’t feel bad about it just because “you’re working from home”. Trust me, working when you should be getting better does more harm than good.

Something else I would recommend is less related to leave and more related to your commute.

Given that you won’t be commuting anymore a good slice of advice I was given (but ignored) was to use your commute time for personal things.

That means not sleeping until the moment you need to be online but rather waking up as usual and then spending a few minutes on yourself whether that be a workout, making a good breakfast or simply sitting on the porch with a cup of coffee.

Take it from me, having done this for three years already, working from home can be stressful but if you take some time to do it properly and put measures in place to keep you working and sane, working from home truly is a blessing.

My home office is also my gaming station so I’ve made it my favourite place to be.
[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]