This is the time when keeping yourself safe can help save others. The COVID-19 situation has been devolving into a bigger mess by the day, becoming a global pandemic the likes of which we haven't seen often in the history of mankind. Despite the instant availability of facts and figures related to this crisis, it makes me sad to see that many people are still not taking it seriously.
Being in the IT industry makes it easy for most of us to work from home. In fact this holds true not just for the IT industry but for most of the knowledge workers in the world that don't need to rely on big, heavy equipment and dedicated labs to get their work done. Still, many businesses in many countries are still willing to take the risk. I see people who're terrified - scared for their own lives as well as those of their families - who can't do much to change their situation as they are being forced to commute to offices for work that can be easily done from home with minimal systemic changes.
If you're in the same boat, I urge you all to request your respective authorities to allow working from home for the foreseeable future. We have some difficult times ahead of us and this is the least we can do to ensure we survive this.
Next, if you are already working from home or already working remotely, do keep a few things in mind. This is not like your regular remote work arrangement; things are different. Here are a few crucial things you must remember in order to be safe and productive during this time of crisis.
1. Don't work from cafés ☕️
This is the most obvious one. However, in countries that are not yet under lockdown but have reported cases of COVID-19, this is worth mentioning. I know you love that warm, soothing vibe of cafés, but by making some slight adjustments to your work-setup at home, you can replicate the same vibe (or at least close enough). The primary motivation for working remotely should not be personal comfort, saving time, etc. It should be keeping yourself and others safe. AVOID CROWDED PLACES!!!
2. Create a Productive Vibe 🕯
No, you can not sit on your bed and work for hours because, best case scenario, you will feel sleepy and won't get much productive work done, and worst case scenario, you will have terrible posture and develop a bad back ache.
Maintaining a good vibe is the next big challenge, so that you don't get distracted. Being in a new environment can confuse our brains, derail our personal productivity habits, and even throw off our body clocks. Here are some pointers to avoid that:
- 🪑 Proper desk- You already must have seen many videos on the subject, but here is one more anyway.
- 🚪 Isolation- This is not only good for productivity but also recommended by doctors right now as it decreases the chances of spread significantly. Convey this to your family members in a calm but firm manner that you are not on a vacation. You're working from home, which means they shouldn't bother you with trivial things during your regular work hours as much as possible.
- 🗑 Clean room- The room that you choose to work in should be clean. If it happens to be the same room you sleep in, make your bed when you wake up. This will any urges to go back to bed for a quick nap when you're tired. Trust me, it works.
- 🛋 Proper lighting- If you have windows in the room, that's great! Natural lighting not only keeps you active but it also kills germs. If you don't have natural lighting, however, make sure you set up the room to have sufficient light. It should be enough to work comfortably but not so bright as to be distracting.
- 🪔 Aromatics- Well, this one's completely optional, but from personal experience, I can tell you that having some kind of aromatics or humidifier in your workplace definiely helps to perk up "the vibe". But hey, different strokes for different folks. You can choose to have candles, flowers, or even a desk plant. Go with whatever works for you.
I know that a lot of remote-work pros who've been doing this for years might disagree with me on one or more points, but they've had a chance to experiment with this and settle down into routines that work for them. People who are new to this may not have the same luxury, so I need to stress the importance of maintaining a good routine and hygiene. The newcomers need as much help as they can get to maintain focus and productivity.
3. Establishing Systems 🗃
Systems always make you productive, and I am a huge believer of establishing systems for yourself. So the next thing in your list should be to make a system that keeps you productive, but more importantly, sane! Consider creating one, or if you think that's too hard, I have a few tips for you that could help. These same tips are being used by my team as well at this very moment.
- ⏰ Set fixed working hours:
Communicate openly with your team on this and tell them your available hours. This not only helps you be disciplined but also helps you to not unnecessarily over-work yourself to the point of exhaustion. Also, communicate the same to your family as well so they know when you can be expected to do household chores and such. Doing this clearly and consistently can make sure everyone around you respects your time and personal boundaries.
- 🛠 Use common tools: Sit down with your team and decide on common tools you will use to plan and execute work-related tasks. Then stick to them.
- ☎️ Communication protocol:
This will ensure that you are neither over-communicating nor under. You could use Slack, Asana or any of the thousands of other productivity tools out there, but this system will help you find a balance with your team. So discuss with them what kind of communication channel to use for what purpose. I recommend having two levels of contact for everything. Use the first level, and escalate to the second one only if your problem isn't resolved with the first level or you haven't received a response within a reasonable period of time. Here is the communication protocol my team is currently using:Name1st Contact 🟡2nd Contact 🔴For Low Priority TasksMattermostAudio CallFor High Urgency TasksAudio Call-For General Task UpdatesClickUpMattermost
- 📝 Be descriptive:
- User GIFs for feature or bug-fix previews
- Add proper comments in code
- Include message threads if necessary (don't assume recipients have all needed information)
- Create Wikis whenever possible to minimize future effort
4. Be there for each other 🤝
Sometimes, isolation can also lead to stress and loneliness in our lives. We're not all wired the same, so if you feel lonely, reach out to your teammates and have a video call. Talk to each other, let others know what you've been up to. If you know some of your team mates are prone to this, take the initiative and reach out to them yourself. In hard times like this, it becomes even more important.
5. Good time to gain new skills 👩🏽🏫
You will have a lot more free time on your hands now that you won't be commuting to work. Utilize this time to pick up some new skills. Learn that new language, library or framework you've been meaning to for months. You can also pick up a new hobby, like learning an instrument or other creative endeavors you may have been putting off for later.
The possibilities are endless here. That said, here are a few of my personal favorites that not only make for great pastimes but also improve your quality of life:
- 🍲 Cooking: No, instant noodles don't count. If you want to be serious about this, cooking has so much to offer. Cooking can not only be extremely relaxing, it's also a supreme life skill to have. Being able to feed yourself tasty food is no joke.
- 📚 Reading/Writing: These are very distinct but also tied together in a unique manner. I feel like reading should expand your mind and inspire you to write down your thoughts, and conversely, if you love writing, you should always be reading more in order to write better.
- 🏋🏿♀️ Exercise/Sports: The benefits of intense physical activities are well-known and I don't think I need to mention them here. That said, don't limit yourself to conventional physical activities like going to the gym or running. Do something that makes you wanna do it over and over. There's plenty of tutorials on the web.
6. Contribute to Open Source
We talked about learning new skills in the previous point. What better way to test your knowledge and improve your skills than to contribute to an open-source project? It's a great way to gauge your level while also doing something productive. Here at Team XenoX, we're huge proponents of OSS, and we build cool, open-source projects all the time. Check out some of the projects we're currently working on:
- Caligator: An open source kickass cross-platform Calculator with the power of alligator 🐊
- Ovuli: Ovulation calendar and calculator app
- CoDoc19: A bot to fight COVID-19 myths and misinformation floating around the internet.
Personally, I love to mentor budding coders who're excited about learning and contributing to the world of OSS. So if you need any mentorship or are simply looking to contribute more in open-source development, join us at XenoX Multiverse or simply drop me a message on Twitter!
7. Do not panic!
It's very hurtful to see that people are hoarding up supplies. This won't fix the problem; it will only create more panic. You should know that others may need something more than you, and they might not be able to afford hoarding it. When we are in panic mode, our brains stop functioning normally and our survival instincts go into overdrive. However, that is not the right way to tackle this pandemic. You must remain calm and remember to:
- Wash your hands frequently.🧼
- Avoid touching your face. 🙊
- Sneeze and cough into a tissue or your elbow.🧻
- Avoid crowds and standing near others.🌆
- Stay at home as much as possible, especially if you're sick.🏘
- Follow the advice given by your government's health authority if you have a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing.🩺
It's a hard time we're going through, and it's going to get worse before it gets better. But we all need to make sure we stay informed, fight the myths and misinformation, and keep our heads. Keep your loved ones close and educated on the latest facts.
Remember friends, this isn't a normal time. Everyone is stressed because of some or the other reason, but we need to stand together and fight this without panicking.