A Founder’s Guide to Successfully Working from Home (Version 2.0)

“Summoning up the courage to take action is always the same regardless of how seemingly big or small the challenge. What may look like a small act of courage is courage nonetheless. The important thing is to be willing to take a step forward.” — Nichiren Daishonin

The recent outbreak has inconvenienced the entire world, rapidly changing how people work, communicate, and interact. With multinational companies and businesses — from Amazon to Google — implementing work from home policies to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

There were too many variables that made my co-founder (and friend), Mayank and I hesitant — how would the teams co-ordinate, how would the tasks be assigned, what criteria should be set for the number of tasks to be completed in a day, and so on. After considering the pros and cons, the safety and well-being of our employees trumped. It was official — University Living would be moving into uncharted waters. From face time to FaceTime (pun intended), our entire team would be working remotely. After all, it isn’t the tough who make it through difficult times, it’s the ones who learn to adapt to the changing times.

I knew it would take some time wrapping my head around the concept, so I began my own research and set some ground rules. After reading a few articles online (there are tons of them on the web) and reaching out to my mentors (they had plenty of tried and tested methods), I was sure about what to do and not to do. Wake up early (you don’t want to sleep through half the day), keep a designated workspace (the place that turns into the Bermuda Triangle when you need a file), and so on.

The first day began with lots of enthusiasm and zeal, it was finally time to put all my research into action. Let me go ahead and share my checklist for boosting productivity when working from home.

1. Freshen up and dress up

I know waking up and taking a shower seems like a good idea if you actually have to go to the office, but trust me, it’s an even better idea to do it when you are working from home. You wouldn’t want to initiate a meeting on Skype (or any other platform) wearing your pyjamas. Also, seeing you dressed up will only inspire your employees to do the same.

My advice — Even if you’re not going to the office, dress the part.

2. Have a dedicated workspace

Whatever you do, do not work from your bed (just don’t). Find a place for your desk and chair, whether it’s in a separate room or a space in the corner of your kitchen (or lounge). All you need is a place where you can get into work mode. Then you need to make sure that all your equipment — laptop, notes, phone, and so on are within easy reach.

My advice — Try out different places to set up a workstation before you final in on THE SPOT. A little secret though, my spot is a table and chair in the living room.

3. Schedule breaks during the day

Begin your day with meditation and yoga (or exercise), as it will keep you fresh throughout the day. But that doesn’t mean you stay on your seat for the rest of the day. So, talk a walk around your house. Or outdoors. Or the terrace. You get the picture, right? Your body needs to move. Since you’re at home, spend time with your family during breaks. It will help you focus better when you resume work.

My advice — Leave your workstation, take a break. Not once or twice, but multiple times. A reminder to take breaks is as important as a reminder to finish your tasks.

4. Plan ahead

Instead of waking up in the morning and deciding to just tackle tasks as they come along, try to schedule them and stick to them. I know when you’re handling multiple teams and delegating multiple tasks, you tend to miss a few, but that’s what you get better at. As for the rest of the umpteen things that come along, you can always get them done.

My advice — Note down everything in a diary or create a note on your phone. Call me old school, but I prefer writing things down in my diary and checking if I’ve crossed them off from the to-do list.

5. Communicate with employees

As the founder, it is important for me to be in control of any and all communication that takes place with the managers and their team. At University Living, we ensure that a continuous flow of positive and motivational talks is conducted through Skype meetings amidst jokes being cracked to keep things going. Even our HR team is checking up on the mental and physical well-being of our employees. This encourages them to stay productive throughout the day without hampering their quality of work.

My advice — Try out different types of tools available like Slack, Hangouts, and Skype. And then pick the one that best suits you.

After my first week of working from home, I can safely conclude that this is a time for reflection — into the past and into the future. What started off as a two-man show in Jan 2015, has now grown into a team of 80+ employees. Seeing how far the organization has come, I think it is necessary to hit the pause button and go back to the basics.

Aren’t the best businesses the ones that strive to give their customers an experience that remains with them for life? Absolutely. This is why, we’ll be going back to the drawing board, focusing on our product and services. Think back on some of the strategies we came up with then, that may or may not have worked before, and give them a try again.

The way I see it, working from home is a step forward. It shows employees that they are cared for, having put trust in them which in turn encourages them to be work harder and smarter. It is through each employees’ (from the top-level management to the junior staff) contribution that the success of the organization is shaped, by working diligently, whether it is in the office or from home.