Working from home successfully during the corona outbreak: 6 tips

23 March 2020

Suddenly everybody has to work from home if possible. VU Amsterdam researcher Ella Hafermalz gives some tips. She gained her doctorate for research into remote working. ‘Don’t be too strict and think about handy routines.’

Infographic working from home tips during corona crisisIllustration by Christine Brauckmann

Her main message is that things cannot run smoothly straightaway. ‘You need time to start up and you can't suddenly be an expert in working from home. Don’t expect that from yourself and not from others either.’ Another important tip: keep it simple. Avoid using too much Internet bandwidth because everybody wants to be online. ‘If you can use the phone, then why set up a video conference?’

Ella Hafermalz did research into remote working. For example, she took an interesting theatre metaphor that sociologist Erving Goffman made in 1956 and translated this to the current remote working situation. ‘In his book entitled The presentation of self in everyday life, Goffman drew a distinction between a life on stage and a life off stage. Translated to your work, your front stage performances are your contact with clients or your boss, for example. Backstage you can freely talk about that with your immediate colleagues. With them you can relax and joke and complain a bit together. That’s possible at the office, but what if you work from home via WhatsApp, for example? If colleagues have a WhatsApp group and the management joins this, then they will find an alternative space. There always needs to be a backstage place where you can laugh, complain and be your informal self without any concerns.

Suddenly having to work from home is not without stress. Especially because many people also have to teach their children and are concerned about the health of family and friends. A plus point is that you have plenty of room to experiment. ‘And thanks to background noises while phoning, you get to know each other’s children and pets.’ Hafermalz is providing education for 230 students who do not all have a quiet room or a laptop. ‘Everyone having online contact with each other at once is not feasible. I record short videos that the students can watch when it suits them.’

She maintains contact with her colleagues via Slack (cloud-based groupware), phone and video chats. ‘Next week we’re even going to try out an online after-work drink!’ It is important to determine good routines for structuring your day. Where and when can you work in a concentrated manner and when do you take a coffee break? Managers can phone their employees at a fixed time to catch up with each other and to deal with any questions. Hafermalz published her tips in this blog post.

More information

Ella Hafermalz is an assistant professor at the KIN Center for Digital Innovation at VU Amsterdam. Her PhD research was on remote working. She is now studying the development and use of AI in organisations through an NWO funded project on AI in Knowledge Work led by Marleen Huysman, Professor of Knowledge and Organization at VU Amsterdam.

Source: NWO