The global Coronavirus pandemic has seen thousands of office workers instructed to work from home in a shift to remote working on a scale we have not witnessed before. “Working from home occasionally is something that most office workers have had some experience of but relocating your base from the office to home is a whole new ball game,” says Sonal Patel, CPO at Office Freedom.
“The coronavirus is pushing everyone into this kind of extreme working from home,” says Nicholas Bloom, a professor of economics at Stanford University. There are two types of working from home: short-term or occasional work from home, and permanent or full-time work from home. “It is kind of like comparing light exercise to marathon training,” he says.
The internet is awash with advice, tips and suggestions on how to make working from home a happier and more productive activity. However, until recently, that activity could be balanced with normal social interaction such as attending meetings, conferences and events. We could travel as necessary and work in relative peace, enjoy normal personal contact and socialise outside of working hours.
Now with familiar businesses and services shutting down daily, social distancing policies and lock-downs imposed, working effectively and happily from home is more challenging than ever.
Office Freedom scoured the internet and researched many respected sources to bring you the Office Freedom definitive guide to working from home happily and productively under today’s most challenging of circumstances. We’ve summarised the best advice to help you work safely and productively from home.
Create a dedicated workspace
Not everyone has the luxury of making a spare room into their office but it’s important to create a space that you and others recognize as your “office”, even if that’s half of a dining room table. If you share with others, let them know the boundaries in terms of physical space and your working hours. Children especially need to appreciate when you are “at work” and when you are not.
Try to create a space where you can feel comfortable and productive. If you can, get good ventilation and access to natural light, a regular dose of vitamin D from sunlight can really help your mood. Finally, the right equipment, like an adjustable chair and second monitor will help you feel more comfortable and productive. “Have a space you go specifically to work. It could be a certain table or chair – some place that’s consistently your workspace. It helps you get in the right frame of mind.” – Sam Mallikarjunan, CRO Flock.
Keep safe from computer viruses
Apologies for mentioning the “V” word but employers will usually want to conduct a risk assessment for home working to ensure your machine and remote access is secure and that you have the correct security and anti-virus software. Be extra careful with sensitive documents and be on your guard for phishing and scam emails. The Government’s National Cyber Security Centre has sound advice for all cyber security matters https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/news/home-working-increases-in-response-to-covid-19
Consider your mental health
Before the pandemic struck, we were all awoken to the importance of looking after our mental health. Even though these are extra-ordinary times, as an employee you can still raise concerns about your individual situation. If you are struggling with childcare challenges, feelings of isolation, connectivity issues or anything else you should raise your concerns with your manager and seek appropriate support.
Keep in touch with colleagues – supercharge your comms
Everyone knows that working from home can be very lonely and many people struggle with isolation. This risk is compounded with the social restrictions imposed by Government to tackle Coronavirus. WhatsApp, Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Facetime and the like can help humanise remote working, particularly with video comms but it takes effort to make contact. Do it and you will feel better. Don’t be afraid to call a colleague simply to ask how they are doing?
“Remote workers don’t get a “water cooler” so you have to make one. Set up regular support, chat, and gossip sessions with people in your sector”, says Aaron Balick PhD, Psychotherapist.
“Out of sight, out of mind can be a real problem for remote workers,” says Sara Sutton, CEO and founder of FlexJobs, “the very best remote workers will reach out to coworkers and managers regularly” through a variety of tools.
Are you a cheerleader?
Managers have a pivotal role to provide clear communication to the remote team and to keep up morale. It’s easy to become stressed and depressed in these challenging times and if workers are to remain at home for an extended period, the Manager’s role as “cheerleader” to keep spirits up takes on increased importance.
Work when you are most productive
We all differ in our levels of productivity during the day, no-one races through their work at break-neck speed from morning through until evening without waiver. Therefore it’s important to recognise your peaks and troughs and where possible, structure your work accordingly. Try to make the most of your productive peaks by tackling the tougher tasks on your list, then you can use the slower points to tick off some easier tasks. “For me the most productive times of the day are usually early in the morning or late at night. I recognize this and try to plan my day accordingly.” B. Leaning, Product Designer Funsize.
Work around the kids
With schools closed, one of the biggest challenges for parents working from home is meeting the needs of their children and getting their work done. It’s no easy task. Some of the best advice we have seen revolves around, 1. Establishing a routine, 2. If you have a partner, work with them to split your time. 3. Make good use of any nap time. 4. Use technology to your advantage to support child learning. 5. Be honest with your employer. 6. Keep positive, these are unique circumstances and very testing times!
Everyone recognises the temptation to stay in their pyjamas or wear their favourite well-worn lounge wear, but it doesn’t help with your productivity or motivation. The fact is you are at work and the old saying “feel smart, work smart” applies. Of course, there is no need to go over-board with smart attire but establishing a routine where you get up, get showered and get dressed for work will pay dividends.
Write a to do list
When you’re working from home a “to-do” list will help you greatly. Even if you don’t use them so much in the office, at home it will give you an agenda for the day to work to. Once you have written it, you get an immediate sense of satisfaction that you are in control and can see what’s ahead. Try it and see.
Psychologist and author David Cohen offers three reasons why we love to-do lists; 1. They give us a structure. 2. They provide a plan we can stick to. 3. They are proof of what we have achieved.
Take regular breaks
Once you’re engrossed at your desk, fully engaged with your work, it’s easy to work through lunch and not take breaks. However, breaks are important if you want to maintain quality of work and productivity, not to mention your own well-being. If possible, take breaks at regular intervals and don’t skip lunch. Make a point of moving away from your desk, go for a walk, water the garden or just go to a different room. “Breaks, like making and eating lunch, can recharge you to do better work. Don’t assume you need to be working 100% of the time while you’re home to be more productive.” – Ginny Mineo former Content Marketing Strategy Manager, Hubspot
The sound of silence
One of the advantages of working from home is you can choose your own soundtrack. In the office it might be too quiet or too noisy, or perhaps you were not a fan of the pop hits of yesteryear playing in the background? Experiment with different music for different tasks, talk radio stations can help combat the isolation that you might feel, listen to a podcast or perhaps simply enjoy the sound of silence. Get a Bluetooth speaker or a comfy pair of headphones and you’re (un)wired for sound.
TV or no TV
Some people prefer to work with the TV on in the background. Clearly the choice of programming is a personal one but there are no hard and fast rules. Whatever helps you focus, remain positive, happy and productive is the right one. Perhaps with the TV on in the background, when you hear the Pointless theme tune at the end of the programme, it’s a timely reminder to down tools!
Plan your meals
If you can, plan and prepare your meals the day before. If you were in the office you are unlikely to have spent long prepping a meal so it’s best not to get into this habit now. Making meals in advance will maximise the time you have to eat your meal and help ensure that you don’t skip meals or grab the quickest option.
Use the mobile sparingly
Whilst our mobile phone is an essential asset, it provides access to a world of temptation and distraction. If possible, it’s a good idea to put your phone out of easy reach. Logging out of social media accounts will also cut down on the amount of disruptive scrolling and enable you to re-focus on your to-do list. Some remote workers recommend removing social media links from the toolbar to prevent aimless browsing.
Ignore your housework
When you’re working from home it can be tempting to get ahead of some household chores but these can easily eat into your day and make you less productive. At least in the office there’s no way that you can succumb to this distraction. That’s not to say you can’t multi-task and work efficiently, like putting the washing on before you sit down to work, but draw a clear distinction between work and homelife.
When work finishes, finish work
Whenever possible set a time to finish your working day and stick to it. Sometimes workload means that you need to continue to work through the Evening, but it isn’t advisable. Just because you can work all hours doesn’t mean that you should. Use the fact that you no longer have to suffer the commute home to spend more time doing the things you want.
How Office Freedom can help
If you are at home worrying that your office lease is up for renewal or you’re re-thinking your office requirements for the future, give our expert property consultants a call. We’ll be happy to discuss your requirements, explore options to meet your workspace needs and most importantly, reduce your overheads. Call our team on 0203 603 2576.
Keep well and stay positive
We sincerely hope you have found some of this advice useful and it will help you through these troubled times. Above all, we hope you stay healthy and happy.