Many moons ago when I worked in London, I worked for an organisation that encouraged working from home. It was mainly so the company could save money by having smaller premises in London. Some of us loved it, some didn’t, but it did financially support our strategy. We were well-equipped and used to working from home, but not everyone is, so here are just a few tips culled from research I did for one of my master’s degrees.
With a capital T is key to any relationship between an employer and employee. If you are a manager, don’t keep checking up or monitoring, but also don’t leave people to feel isolated – particularly if they are not used to working alone. It’s all about balance.
Start at 9 and finish at 5. You could even set alarms or timers for coffee at 11, for lunch at 1, or to finish at 5. (Mine was always my TV set to come on for Neighbours at 5.30!) Otherwise , you will work much longer hours, particularly if you live on your own. Work-life balance matters even more if you are isolating currently.
Ensure you have a space in your house that is just for work (if you can), so you can shut it off, otherwise your family will feel pushed out and you might be tempted to keep going back to work when you are cooking the dinner! If you can’t have a separate space, then put it all away when you are done for the day. If possible, don’t work near where you sleep; research says that will disturb your sleep patterns.
Make regular times for virtual team meetings, water cooler moments, and catch-ups. You could book a team meeting for 10am on Mondays, so you can talk through the weekend like you would normally do face-to-face.
If you are intending to use Skype, Zoom or any kind of video conferencing, think about the background and try to dress for work, if you can.
Don’t beat yourself up if you take ten minutes to pop the washing on – you would take ten minutes out to talk to a colleague about what was on TV last night, wouldn’t you? That’s just the equivalent!
If you manage a team set up a WhatsApp group or equivalent with all your team in, so you can talk things through and not have to repeat. It can also make people feel less isolated.
If you head up a team and have the resources, make sure that everyone has the correct equipment and tech support.
Make sure that you have enough to do, which sounds strange. If you are used to being given work, request from your manager a list of what they are expecting you to achieve. This probably should be negotiated depending on the time that you may be at home. Even renegotiating objectives can be a good idea.
If you had a team lunch planned (maybe for a birthday or celebration) go ahead with it virtually, use video calling to ensure everyone is included. If you have enough notice, you could even get cakes delivered to houses, etc., so things don’t go unrecognised.
Don’t forget the health and safety aspect – take screen breaks, sit at your desk if you have one. Don’t sit on a sofa with a laptop.
Lastly, make time for fun. While it could be considered a distraction, it is only an extension of some of the office jokes we all share. Research tells us that most people will stay in a mediocre job because of the people they work with. If there are no people to share things with, workplace morale can slip.
Generation Next is a network for young business professionals, by East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire). It is a network for young people, to make connections, build new skills and advance their careers. You can find out more about Generation Next and see upcoming events here.