The 12 days of working from home over the holidays

The 12 days of working from home over the holidays

How to be (seen as) productive working at home.

Coffee and laptop
Image credits : 
freephotocc via Pixabay CC0
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Disclaimer: The author refuses to take any blame for any resulting disciplinary or legal action taken against readers who follow any of the suggestions in this article.

There’s a good chance that things slow down for the holiday season at your organisation or company1, and as they do, there’s a corresponding2 chance that you may end up not going into the office for some of the upcoming days. Some workplaces expect you to turn up to work in the office unless you’re officially on holiday, while others allow or encourage workers to be based at home and perform their duties there for all or some of the period. It’s those people who will be spending time at home who are targeted by this article.

Working from home is an opportunity to bunk off and is a complete wheeze a privilege and responsibility to be taken seriously. There are, however, some important techniques that you should take on board to ensure not only that you continue to be productive but, even more important, that you continue to be seen to be productive. I’ve split my tips up into helpful headings for your ease of use.

Video calls

Tip 1: (for those who shave): You don’t need to. Yes, the resolution on webcams has increased significantly, but who’s going to care if it looks like you’ve just rolled out of bed? The fact that you’ve even bothered shows your commitment to the meeting you’re attending.

Tip 2: (for those who wear make-up): Far be it from me to dictate whether you wear make-up or not to meetings. But if you choose to, there’s no need to refresh last night’s make-up in the morning. If you’ve staggered home late, you may not have got round to removing your party lipstick and mascara, and it may even have smudged or run a bit: don’t worry. It’ll look “festive” in the morning, and will encourage a relaxed atmosphere at the meeting.

Tip 3: (for coffee drinkers): You may need an extra cup of coffee in the afternoon, to get you through the day. Who’s going to know if you add a shot to it? It’ll keep you warm, and possibly upright. My wife swears by Baileys. Or Irish Whiskey. Or gin. Pretty much anything, in fact.

Tip 4: (for non-coffee drinkers): Cocktails are a no-no for video conferences unless approved by management (sorry). However, there are a number of other options to explore. A Long Island Iced Tea looks like, well, and iced tea. Whisky (or whiskey) can look like normal tea, and my personal favourite, cherry brandy, looks like a child’s fruit cordial that you didn’t dilute sufficiently. And tastes fairly similar.

Tip 5: (for clothes wearers): Few organisations (of which I’m aware, anyway) have adopted a non-clothing policy for video-calls. Clothes are required. My favourite option is to wear a festive jumper, but this is only fun if it has woven-in flashing lights which can distract your fellow participants3. Coordinating the periodicity of the flashing with colleagues gets you bonus points.

Tip 6: (also for clothes wearers): Wear something on your bottom half. I know you think you may not be getting up during the call, but when a small child vomits in the background, the postal worker arrives at the door, or you just need another cup of coffee or "beverage" (see Tips 3 & 4) to get you through the next two hours, you’ll be grateful for this advice.

Teleconferences (non-video)

Tip 7: Use a chat channel to have a side conversation with your peers. You can have hilarious discussions about the intellectual capacity and likely parentage of your management, or even better, play a game of meeting bingo.

Tip 8: The mute button is for cowards. Yes, wind can be a problem after an over-indulgence at the pub, club or party the night before, and microphones can be quite sensitive these days, but who’s to know it’s you4?

Emails

Tip 8: The best time to respond to an email is when you receive it, right? This will show everybody how devoted you are to your job. So if it arrives after you’ve already partaken of a brew or two down the pub, or sampled the herbal opportunities recently decriminalised in your state in your bedroom, then replying immediately will almost certainly be considered responsible and professional. And auto-correct will almost certainly act in your favour: after all, your boss really is a complete duck, yes?

Tip 9: Pepper your emails with poor festive puns5. It’s just what you do.

Family

Tip 10: You may have agreed to “work” over this period as an excuse to avoid spending too much time with the family6, but there’s always the chance that they will barge into your office, throw up in the hall (see Tip 6), or just fall asleep on your keyboard7. Invest in a lock on your office door or work somewhere out of range8. Your work is important, and you must guard against unwanted interruptions, such as being awoken from an important doze.

Productivity

Tip 11: It’s your responsibility, when working from home, to ensure that you maintain your productivity. But breaks are important. There’s a tricky balance here between protecting your time from the family (you don’t want them to notice that you’re not online 100% of the time) and taking sensible amounts of breaks. Assuming that you’ve taken my advice about locking your office door, then placing an XBox or similar gaming console on your desk next to your work computer is a great way of allowing yourself some downtime without risking the wrath of your family (assuming careful monitor placement and controller handling).

Tip 12: if you’re not careful, too much time hidden away from the family will get you in trouble. My piece of advice here is to offer to help. But on your own terms. Rushing out of your office9, looking harried and then announcing, “I’ve got ten minutes until my next call, and I’m feeling guilty: is there anything I can do?” can gain you useful credit without the risk of your having to do anything too taxing.

Summary10

You can maintain a productive and professional workplace at home if called to do so by your organisation. It is your responsibility to balance the needs of work with your needs and, of course, the needs of your family.

Have a Merry Christmas (or other festival) and a Happy New Year (whenever it falls for you)!

And finally...  There were two number 8s.  You didn't notice, did you?  You need to take a break, so enjoy one now!


1 – this is generally a Judaeo-Christian set of holidays, but I hope that this article is relevant to most holidays: religious, national, regional or secular.

2 – and possibly correlateable, though check out one of my favourite XKCD comics: https://xkcd.com/552/.

3 – owners of luxuriant beards or heads of hair may prefer to weave flashing fairy lights into their hair for a similar effect.

4 – except for the small matter of the little indicator against each participant’s name which shows who’s “talking”.

5 – “Your presents is requested.” “But wait—there’s myrrh.” You get the idea.

6 – “Sorry, darling, I know your parents are here, but a really critical bug came in, and I’m the only one who can look at it in time…”

7 – mainly a problem for owners of cats or teenagers.

8 – try searching for “Where’s a pub near me that’s open now?”.

9 – don’t forget to lock it again, in case a child notices and purloins that gaming console.

10 – in the Southern Hemisphere, at least. Sorry: see 5.

This article was originally published at Alice, Eve and Bob – A Security Blog. Reposted with permission.

About the author

Mike Bursell - I've been in and around Open Source since around 1997, and have been running (GNU) Linux as my main desktop at home and work since then: not always easy...  I'm a security bod and architect, and am currently employed as Chief Security Architect for Red Hat.  I have a blog - "Alice, Eve & Bob" - where I write (sometimes rather parenthetically) about security.  I live in the UK and...