By LOU WILIN

FOR THE REVIEW TIMES

Working at home not only is cushy and convenient. The coronavirus has made it an act of conscientiousness.

But it’s harder to do than one might think, said John Navin, dean of the James F. Dicke College of Business Administration, at Ohio Northern University.

Our homes are filled with distractions that can pull us away from our work.

“The problem that most of us run into is that, when you’re working from home that’s not an environment where you’re generally used to being focused on the office,” Navin said. “So, one of the things we tell people is, you want to segregate kind of your work area at home and your home area at home.”

Some people may not have a separate room to dedicate for work. But they still need to be ready to mentally focus on their work.

“It may just be that when I’m working I’m sitting at the kitchen table with my laptop and I’m focused on work,” he said. “If you don’t do that, you tend to get distracted with the other things that are going on. You have to be disciplined. It’s real easy when you’re at home to say, ‘I’ll do that later, since I don’t have to be in the office between 9 and 5.’”

Navin suggests you set a schedule for yourself: “‘Every day from 10 o’clock until 2 o’clock, or from 8 to 4, I’m at home, I’m working and that’s what I’m doing.’”

“I may get up a little bit, go do some laundry or something like that, but for the most part, I’m glued to work,” Navin said. “You really have to focus on it because if you don’t, you’re going to get behind. It’s just a really different environment.”

You probably follow a routine at the office. Follow that same routine at home.

“So you sit down at your desk first thing in the morning. You check email. When you’re done with email, you go to phone messages. When you’re done with phone messages, you go down your list of projects due today,” he said. “It makes the transition easier when you go from office to home if you follow a very similar routine, one that you’ve done for a long period of time. Otherwise you are kind of grasping at straws, kind of in a new reality.”

The office can have a social aspect that will be missed by many when they work from home.

“For many of us, we spend more time at work than we do with many of the people that live in our household,” he said.

The absence of water cooler chat and office banter will likely be felt more by Baby Boomers than millennials.

“For the younger people, who are used to communicating electronically, they can do a lot of the social interaction and not lose a whole lot electronically through email and through Skype and various other video communications,” Navin said. “For many of us who were raised on face-to-face communication, it’s much more difficult to feel like that’s an accepted form of social interaction. So that, for many of us in the older group, we really see that as a loss.”

Employees working from home also involves downsides for the employer, he said.

Maintaining a corporate culture is harder. Rules, policies and attitudes can be written down, but without new workers seeing leaders and more senior associates setting the examples, a culture can get lost.

So, too, can the employees.

“Sometimes people feel a little disconnected and that may make it harder to retain employees because they can work at home for just about anybody sometimes,” Navin said.

 

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