23. 03. 2020

How do we manage home office for more than 15 years?

Due to the present coronavirus epidemics, many people have started working from home. It may be a big, intricate change for someone and that is why we decided to share our experience and perhaps some advice from our employees who have worked this way for several years now. To us, home office is the standard.

Tomáš, Senior Developer, 6 years with ExTech s.r.o.

When I applied for this job, I found the idea of working from home very interesting. I was a student with no proper experience, finding self-discipline a difficult task. Nevertheless, having worked from home, I learned better time management and, with time, my studying routines actually improved because it is home preparations that count most when studying a university.

Naturally, the fact that I truly enjoy work I am doing is of essence. Behind almost every project I see people whose work becomes easier and whose work conditions improve by what our company does (whether they are managers or branch office sales force).

Though I do not sit in an office with people with similar interests and experience, I can connect with them and consult any problem or make a phone call any time. And actually, by not seeing each other as frequently, our reunions become all the more precious and we certainly do not get in each other’s hair.

What helps me cope with home office?

1. What helps me is my family, or more precisely the time I can spend with them during my work breaks that I need to stretch my body.

2. The thought that if I did not have a home office I would have to spend like two hours extra commuting helps me.

3. Naturally, my morning coffee, home-made lunch and freshly made afternoon sandwich not brought to my work in a plastic box help me as well.

4. A good team of people one can rely on and a tolerant supervisor help a lot (especially when the alarm clock fails).

5. One of the most important things I had to learn to tackle working from a home office was to make draw a strict line between the time designated for work and my time simply at home.

Michaela, Quant Consultant, 4 years with ExTech s.r.o.

I started working in ExTech when I was in my first year of the university and I adapted to having a home office very quickly as it really is a great advantage for a student to be able to organize your working hours as needed. An advantage of home office in ExTech is surely my instant communication with my colleagues over Skype, which means we keep in contact all the time so I do not feel isolated from the world. Here are several points of advice that people starting a home office could find useful:

1. It is very important to set exact hours reserved for work - start and end. It helps me avoid procrastination when I know that, for instance, I have to work from 9.00 to 12.00.

2. It is very helpful to set a space at home which is specifically reserved for work.  

3. It is a good idea to keep in touch with your colleagues over chats so as to keep connected with people even though you are at home.

4. I recommend cutting in few short breaks during your work to clear your mind. Just going to the kitchen and making tea or coffee does the job. 

Gergely, Senior Developer, 14 years with ExTech s.r.o.

I joined ExTech when I was still in the university and, at that time, I had to commute to the company offices. I was able to work and study at the same time quite easily as the management was tolerant and working hours flexible.

Now, for as long as 10 years, I have worked from home, which allowed me to relocate to my native soil and makes me independent of a big city to be able do my job.

Working from home has indisputable advantages but also several challenges one has to face. Here below are some of them.

Advantages:

1. The comfort of your home even when you are at work.

2. It is an easy task to plan for short errands (mail, delivery service, electrician, getting children to the kindergarten/school) as I stay at home.

3. My family are close so when they need me, I am here for them.

4. Time saved by not having to commute to work or to go for lunch.

5. Flexible working hours. When I miss an hour of work one day, I can stay longer to make up for it in the afternoon or start an hour earlier the next morning.

Challenges and advice:

1. It is important to have a designated space for work. It should not be a bed or any place in front of TV where one is used to relaxing.

2. When children are at home (I have 3), my office space has to be behind a closed door.

3. It is great that one can be with his/her children (or partner) any time during the day. Still, one has to keep distractions leashed. Otherwise the result could be working for half an hour then getting distracted for 5 minutes than for another 5 minutes and before one gets back in the picture, all work efficiency is down.

4. The most difficult challenge is to find balance between work and leisure time when a person is actually home all the time. Hacking around instead of working is not a good idea but the same wrong is not being able to “switch over” to a home mode and keep contemplating over your unfinished work in the evening. There is only one way to cope with that: self-discipline and strictly adhering to your designated working hours. 

Adéla, Tester, 4.5 years with ExTech s.r.o.

I joined ExTech 4 years ago to work part time during my parental leave. Before that, for 7 years, I had been commuting to get to my job every day so home office is a great relief for me, not only in terms of time. If I am to say what helps me when working from home, it is the following:

1. I occupy my mind with other things than children but, at the same time, I have enough time to give them my full care.   

2. When working, I try to completely detach from other chores that “must” be done (e.g. cleaning up, doing the laundry, ironing …)

3. I try to regularly see my friends and compensate for the partial loss of social interaction.

4. If a home office is to work right, there is a strong need for mutual trust between the employer and the employee, which I believe we have in this company.

Nikola, Quant Consultant, 2.5 years with ExTech s.r.o.

To me home office has a special meaning as I am still a student so my perspective is a little different. To me a great advantage and a positive aspect is the efficiency with which I am able to use my time - I see as a huge plus that I do not have to commute and I am able to make the best of my time in other ways, for example to spend it with my family.  Another great plus is that I am the boss of my own time - when I need to see a doctor there is no need to apply for a day off as I can make up for the time another day. Or when I have a bad hair day I work less and make up for it the next day. When my brain refuses to work well, I can go for a walk and work later.

If I were asked to give advice as to how to tackle working from home, I would especially mention:

1. Be strict with yourself - this means setting into a distinct daily routine, setting clear, exact working hours.

2. Create a pleasant atmosphere - play your favorite, soothing music in the background or lit a candle, which could be a problem when sharing an office with colleagues.

3.  Do not work in your pyjamas - brush your teeth, comb your hair, get dressed and start working in order to separate your private life from your working life.

4. Schedule your meetings at fixed times - this means that you avoid unexpected visitors keeping you from the work planned or debates with your colleagues in the kitchenette, which actually take up a lot of your time when working in an office.

Jitka, Quant Consultant, 6 years with ExTech s.r.o.

Having worked from home for some time now, I have heard various opinions that are worth of reflecting. They would be opinions like: “you are at home so you are not doing anything” - those are situations when someone asks me for something and I politely refuse, telling them that I am working. Or the opposite situation: “You are at home. Why is this not finished?” Other people think that working from home means that you are at home and you can really do whatever you please so they do not quite understand that I have to prepare stuff for children’s clubs at nights or sometimes even until very early morning hour and they respond with a puzzled expression: “Why, you are at home all day long!?” Nevertheless, I am aware of the many advantages that home office offers:

1. The possibility to take care of children - an advantage primarily for working women. The possibility to look after your children when they fall sick, not having to take a leave from work. 

2. Chores during the day - it is possible to turn on the washing machine, the dishwasher and other. Women who do not have a home office commonly do these chores at nights or on weekends. 

3. Comfort - home environment. The comfort of housewear. It is not required to look your 100 % (make-up, hair). 

4. Flexibility - largely appreciated by mothers with young kids - shopping and picking up children from the kindergarten/school, driving them to various clubs and also flexibility for your personal needs such as a visit to the doctor or a hair dresser. 

5. Finance - saving of money that would otherwise be spent on commute but also in situations when you or your child fall sick. You can have your child stay at home and attend the child continuously. 

Though, I understand that working from home is not for everyone so here are some recommendations from me how to tackle a home office better.

1. Set the rules (especially for parents with children that are still too young to go to kindergarten/school).

2. Set your routine and stick to it.

3. Do not work in your pajamas. Though there is no need to wear make-up or style your hair to perfection, it is very important not to feel like you can go back to bed any time. 

4. Do not sign in to social networks during the day - especially in this situation. You could get easily distracted by many unimportant or “I will tell on you” posts (everyone should put their own house in order first) or sucked in and then you suddenly find out how fast time can fly. 

5. Make an office; Sitting on your couch with a laptop on your knees for days is neither healthy nor productive. An office desk or an office corner are quite enough. It will also set the rules for your children as they will know that they are not to doddle around your work. 

6. After consulting your management, you can work hours convenient for you both or adapt your working hours to suit your kids and time when your spouse returns home and can take the kids over.

Curd, Chairman, 19 years with ExTech s.r.o.

The greatest advantages of working from home, in my opinion, are:

1. Flexibility: you become very flexible as to running private errands. For example it is easier to adjust to the opening hours of authorities, the post office and others. Young couples can benefit when renovating or building their house of apartment. And it is possible to direct workmen/handy men during one’s working hours.

2. Time savings: one saves a lot of time by not having to commute for work. I know that some employees take as long as 60 min to get to work and then the same amount of time to get back. If you consider there are 200 workdays per year, it saves weeks of your life each year.

3. Money savings: this relates to the previous point as you do not have to commute for work.

4. More time for your family. Working from home allows both parents to see their kids growing up.

5. Work and life balanced: you can spend more time on your hobbies such as playing an instrument as you are able to practice whenever you need a little rest, which is actually a very good way to reduce stress.

 Petr, CEO, 17 years with ExTech s.r.o.

I grew up in a village and I have never found city life appealing. So when I was studying software engineering I was looking for the possibility to work from home in the long term.

When there were only three of us left in ExTech some years ago and we made the decision to direct our efforts at developing our own system Quant instead of developing custom-built software, there was basically no other choice than to work from home. We had no money left to hire an office then anyway. 

I would frequently hear then that with growing big we would have to leave this model as unsustainable but we managed to grow into a company with a two-digit number of employees working from home and, so far, it does not look like we could not keep that trend up. 

I am writing my notion as last and I would only repeat the advice and tips given by my colleagues. So instead, I would rather wish everyone who has read as far as here to be able to cope with their imposed work from home the best way possible. Perhaps some of our advice given here will be of help.