Skip to main content
Published: 2020-04-03 10:30 | Updated: 2020-04-03 16:04

Tips from the researcher about working from home

Photo: Getty Images

The responsible authorities are recommending those who have the opportunity to work from home to help reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. Many will appreciate it, while others will find it challenging.

Kristina Palm. Photo: Ulrika Emteryd

Kristina Palm, researcher at the department of learning, informatics, management and ethics and lecturer in industrial occupational science at KTH, gives her best advice for working from home.

“The fact that we have different preferences regarding how we want to integrate work and other life, is important knowledge for managers and employees to have. What happens when we work from home is that the line between work and other life becomes blurred. Those who feel good having a clear limit may need to create new boundaries in order to be able to deal with everyday life,” says Kristina Palm.

One way of creating a psychological space is by using the so-called Pomodoro technique:

  • Set a time and during that time you concentrate on work. Write down any thoughts that go through your head about things other than work on a piece of paper. It might be something like, “is there anything good to eat in the fridge” or “maybe I should vacuum under the couch”.

“My suggestion is that you work in 45-minute blocks and then take a proper break for 5-15 minutes. It’s a good idea to move around during the break. Also set the timer for your breaks so that they don’t drag out over time,” says Kristina Palm.

Tips for maintaining the boundary between work and leisure time at home

  1. Set aside a room, or an area in your home for work.
  2. Make sure to differentiate between the times that you work and the times you are off work.
  3. Create psychological space for work, i.e. the opportunity to focus solely on the work instead of on other things that can easily be distracting at home.

Other ways of collaborating

She also raises the importance of finding other ways in which to collaborate when it is not possible to meet physically.

“Some issues for discussion include: Should you have set times or meetings as necessary? On which occasions do you have meetings using a digital platform like Zoom, Teams or Skype? And for which occasions and questions are SMS or emails sufficient?,” says Kristina Palm.

Several things that are important to think about with virtual meetings, but firstly the same things apply as for usual meetings: Have a clear purpose, a clear agenda and ensure that everyone has a chance to speak and be heard. Furthermore, only call those who are really needed at the meeting.

“What may be different is that the person leading the meeting may need to be even more prepared, even a bit clearer about what the purpose is, and even more effort is required for everyone to have a chance to speak and be heard,” says Kristina Palm.

Well-functioning technology

Calle Rosengren at Lund University, Ann Bergman at Karlstad University and Kristina Palm at Karolinska Institutet during one of their digital meetings. Photo: Kristina Palm

A well-functioning technology is important – if the technology plays up during a video conference – switch to a conference call.

“One advantage at the moment is that everyone is working remotely, which makes the meeting more efficient than if some meeting participants are physically sitting in the same room.

Working remotely also makes the need for follow-up and clarity from management even more important. As a manager, you need to talk to your team about it.

“I think that managers shouldn’t be worried that people will suddenly start covering up the work, if they usually do a good job, they will still do a good job when they are working from home, to the best of their ability and under the conditions present.

Digital "fika"

A couple of further things to think about: If the call to work from home lasts for a longer period of time, there will also be a bit less social life. The workplace is often a source of good social relationships and it can be a good idea to have a digital coffee together remotely.

“Make a cup of coffee, log in to the virtual platform that you are using and talk about how you feel and things are for you.” says Kristina Palm.

The home office often has a poorer ergonomic environment – there are often height-adjustable table available at the regular workplace, as well as a good chair and good lighting.

“The home office that you organise certainly doesn’t have to have these features – so be careful with breaks,” says Kristina Palm.

The knowledge is based on the project “Ways to a sustainable digital working life” funded by AFA Försäkring and carried out in collaboration with Calle Rosengren at Lund University and Ann Bergman at Karlstad University.