While working from home may be a new concept to many, I have been a home worker for 13 years. I thought I would share how I structure my days and work set-up to make sure I am very productive.
Set your hours
Be strict with yourself. If your working hours are 9am to 5pm, honour these. It is what you are being paid for! That means being ready to work at that time, taking your lunch hour and finishing at the correct time. In the current climate, you may need to stagger lunchtimes to cover certain elements of your responsibilities. For instance, I take a different lunch break to my colleague so one of us in available on our web chat facility to enable our customers can get hold of us when they need to.
Create a work space
I have a desk all set up at home but that will not be the case for everyone. Whether it is the spare bedroom, kitchen table or sitting room, make sure it is in a space where you will be relatively uninterrupted. This is critical now schools are closing. You will need to explain to your children that you are working and when you are at your PC or laptop, you are not available for hide and seek, baking, etc.!
Be mindful of your work set-up. You may use a PC with a screen at work, but a laptop at home. This means you will be largely looking down at your screen rather than straight ahead, which may mean you need to stretch your neck and back in your breaks. Desk and keyboard should be at a right angle to your elbows too, so pay attention to your desk and chair height.
You may be used an open-plan office, so working in isolation may seem very quiet or lonely. Background noise will break up the silence. I have the radio on in a different room, so it is not too distracting, but gives me both music and speech to half listen to. I think the TV is way too distracting.
And get dressed. A day in your PJs may seem like an ideal scenario but having a shower and getting dressed gives your brain and body the signal that you are ready to work rather than just rolling out of bed...and then rolling back again at the end of the day. You need clear delineation between work and home life to be effective.
Just as you would make a cup of tea or coffee for your colleagues as a natural break, make one for yourself. Take the opportunity to stretch your legs, neck and back. Take your lunch break as usual and use it as an opportunity to speak to friends, read a book, have a walk (if you are not self-isolation), do a yoga or fitness video (there are plenty of free ones on YouTube) etc. so you get a break from your screen.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
This is critical and works on many levels. First of all, I am in constant contact with my team. We have a video conference at the start of every day. We can do this whenever we want with a click of the mouse. I also used the screen-sharing feature of our unified communications app today to show my colleague how to improve the way she was carrying out one of her tasks. Aside from the video conference, we have a group chat open at all times for instant messaging.
We list our tasks for the day and keep each other up to date on what we are working on. This is not only critical among team members but also to inform my manager of what we are doing. Managers can often feel quite blind to their employees’ activities so keep those channels of communication open both ways.
I use instant messaging, calls and email to keep in touch with my other colleagues and customers. Today, I have already had a call with our sales manager, emailed the sales director and messaged the postsales manager. The sales manager called my extension at work but this call was forwarded to my mobile, via Alcatel-Lucent’s Rainbow app, at home. I can access my email via Office 365 on my PC and mobile, but also through the remote working solution afford by a VPN connection, and I use the Microsoft Teams instant messaging facility.
My real top tip here is to be responsive to all messages. If you are working from home, you cannot see your colleagues and it can be frustrating to not be able to just walk over to them, so quick responses are key...even if you say: “Thanks for this, I will get onto this later.”
Check in with your colleagues too. If you were at work, you would be asking people how they are as part of passing conversations. Reach out to your colleagues with messages. Some people may be feeling a little stressed or lonely right now.
I am lucky. I am an established home worker and am employed by a business that sells home working solutions and was ready for this unprecedented scenario. If you need advice on home working options, get in touch with me and I will pass your details onto one of my colleagues to see if they can help. If you are all set, get yourself a cup of tea, stretch your neck, keep focussed and stay well!