Greetings from my new office: my dining room table!
Although it’s a far stretch from my office back at Dobbins, there’s still a lot of work that can be done from home. If you’re like me, you may have found yourself working from home for the first time in your career thanks to the upgraded Force Protection Health Condition. With COVID-19 spreading rapidly, many folks around base are being asked to telework a few days a week to reduce the amount of people on base. If you’re also like me, you know there are unique challenges to working from home that are unexpected, but with a little motivation and creativity, they’re easily surmounted.
Here are some tips to improve your productivity and make working from home feel like, well, a home office.
Treat your Home Office like your Real Office
Find a comfortable place to set up your laptop and other work-related items. Don’t try to work while lying in bed. Not only will it be hard to stay focused and not fall asleep, but it’s bad for your back! You’ll preferably want somewhere with a door so you can shut out distractions. Even if you don’t have an extra room, find a quiet area of the house and work from there. Our extra room was recently converted to a nursery, so I work from my dining room table. Luckily, it has a nice view of the backyard so I can look out on well-timed breaks.
Create a Work Schedule
Creating a work schedule based on the tasks you’ve discussed previously with your supervisor will ensure you’re making good use of your time. This works both ways as it ensures you spend a good amount of time on each task, but also helps you not work too long. It can be tempting to use the extra time you’re saving from your commute towards work, but don’t look at it like you have all day to finish the task at hand. There’s a principle called Parkinson’s Law, which says that the amount of time you assign a task is the amount you’ll spend doing it. So if you give yourself all day to work on a task like writing an EPR, it’ll take you all day. But if you only give yourself an hour or two, you’ll complete it much faster.
Put on Pants
As tempting as it may be to wear pajamas to your new work center, experts say it pays to wear the same clothes you’d wear to the office. This is common advice for those who have to interview over the phone for a job, but it is sometimes overlooked when working from home. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control advises people to maintain their regular routines to help manage anxiety and stress that comes with living through a crisis. The closer you can make it feel to everyday life, the less extreme all these new changes will feel.
Make good use of online tools
Thanks to new developments in technology, it’s easy to remain connected to the network from home. One of the ways is through a Virtual Private Network, which can be accessed through a government laptop. Through a VPN, you can access .mil sites, SharePoint sites and email. If you’re having issues with VPN, you can access your email through Outlook Web Access. Although these tools are available, just like anything else at work, it’s always good to have a contingency plan in case you can’t access your work through these tools. You can save important files and emails to your desktop so you can access them without connecting to the network. Be sure to follow information awareness and cybersecurity guidelines though.
Choose the right projects
Regardless of potential IT issues, you should plan to work on projects that are conducive to your new work location. There are just certain tasks you won’t be able to complete at home. Maintenance, you won’t be able to rebalance a C-130 tire in your garage. This is of course an extreme example, and I say so jokingly, but you get the point. There are tasks where you need a certain tool, or access to a certain drive that you just won’t be able to get from home. This can be very frustrating, but if you work with your supervisor ahead of time, you can find a way to get other tasks done that might have been put on the backburner for too long. For instance, maybe you’re coming due for a CBT or other online training. Completing this training from home is easier in a lot of cases because there are less distractions. I knocked out a bunch of training for additional duties I recently acquired and worked on several EPRs as well. In fact, I’m writing this commentary from home. Take the time to find those tasks unique to your work center that can easily be accomplished from home.
Bring your family to work
Working from home can be a great opportunity to help your family understand what it is you do and how you fit into the overall Air Force Reserve mission. You’ll of course have to keep operations security in mind, but there are plenty of ways you can help educate your family on what you do as an Airman. For example, if I’m editing photos, I can use the opportunity to talk about the photos and the different mission sets that make up Dobbins. Maybe you’re working on an inventory and can talk about how these items are important in helping Airmen complete their mission. You get the idea. Don’t wait until Family Day to bring your family onto base for them to learn what it means to be an Airman. Share your knowledge and experience with them so they too can understand what an important role you play in defending the nation.
These are just a few of several tips for finding teleworking success. Although it can be frustrating at first to find your groove, be patient and focus on making your at home work center feel as close to your actual work center as possible. Whether using online tools or picking a great location to get that project knocked out, there are several benefits to working from home. Like anything else we do at Dobbins, it’s our job to remain ready to win the fight whenever and wherever, whether that be from our work centers or our very own dining room tables.