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Working From Home

By Mark Ainsworth

As the Coronavirus crisis continues globally, it is becoming clear that the majority of businesses are likely to move their operations to remote working for the foreseeable future.

Major corporations including Google, Apple, Spotify and Twitter have all rolled out mandatory work-from-home policies in recent weeks, and this number is being added to by the day.

With information given by the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggesting that we have still not reached the peak of the pandemic, companies who want to stay active over the next few months are making the switch to home-working. Whether you have already started working from home, or are about to, for those who have never worked from home the idea can be intimidating.

To ease the transition, here are some tips for ensuring productivity and a positive working environment from your home.

 

Dealing With Conference Calls

It is likely that you will have been part of a conference call before, even from an office environment. But business meetings that require every participant to be on the phone or part of a video chat can be far more tricky.

With video chat software there is often a lag, meaning that it is easy for people to talk over each other, and without clear visual cues to indicate where you need to focus your attention it can be hard for anyone to be heard.

The most important element of a conference call is that someone is appointed chair, so that they can invite people to speak in an order that they have set out, and then signal the end of this ‘turn’ by speaking again. There are certain software solutions that allow participants to signal that they would like to speak next without interrupting the person speaking, but even if you do not have access to this, a meeting plan with a specific order will help.

Every participant should be online and ready to talk at the start of the meeting, so that it isn’t interrupted by constant joining and greeting, and everyone should have their phone/microphone on mute when they aren’t required to speak. This will allow everyone to hear what is being said, and avoid distractions from background noise.

 

Keep Communicating

It is easy to communicate with your boss and colleagues when you are all in the same office, as you can all see and speak to each other throughout the day. When you are working from home you need to make a more concerted effort to stay in touch with your boss every day to confirm what you need to do that day, what your goals are, and ask any questions you may need to.

In a BBC article, Barbara Larson, a professor of management at Northeastern University suggests: “Ask [your manager] if they don’t mind having a 10-minute call to kick off the day and wrap up the day. Oftentimes, managers just haven’t thought of it.”

Not only will this keep you up to date with what is expected of you, and reassure your manager that you are getting your work done, but it can also help with the feelings of isolation that many report in the early days of working from home.

 

Create A Work Space

When first offered the opportunity to work from home, a lot of people foresee themselves curled up under a blanket on a laptop all day. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t conducive to working, as it makes the day feel unstructured and can prevent you getting into a working mindset. Not only this, but working from the sofa in your dressing gown can actually make it much harder to wind down at the end of the day.

Experts suggest that getting up, showered and dressed just as you would to go into the office actually helps to signal to your brain that it is time to work, as well as creating a disconnect between ‘home life’ and ‘work life’.

Setting up an office space is also crucial. Sara Sutton, CEO and founder of FlexJobs, a remote job listing site, says: “Not having a well-equipped home office space when [people] begin remote working can cause a temporary decrease in productivity.”

You will want to set up a desk and upright chair, just as you would have in the office, even if it is just at the kitchen table. But make sure that you are far away from distractions, as often partners and children will interrupt your work if you don’t set firm boundaries.

Your makeshift workspace can help you to feel ready to work, but can also signal to your family that you are working and not available for their needs at this time. If you make it clear to children that you are available for them at any time, apart from when you are sat at your ‘desk’, this will help them to cope with the transition to having you at home, but not constantly available to them all day.

 

Avoid Isolation

Studies have shown that isolation can be incredibly damaging for people. Even if you are surrounded by family at home, losing the network of friends and colleagues you have in the office can be a shock, and this effect can be even more profound if you live alone.

Whilst checking in with your boss and colleagues about work issues is important for the running of your business, it is also crucial to enjoy the camaraderie that you are used to at work. Larson suggests hosting fun activities that staff can enjoy together outside work hours, such as virtual pizza parties or after-work drinks.

“It’s a good way to bond – it’s kind of weird, but everyone’s feeling weird, so it’s fun,” she says. “It adds a little bit of levity and lightness to the otherwise difficult environment.”

Sutton agrees, and suggests smaller activities to celebrate the small moments that you would without a second thought if you were all in the office together. “Celebrate birthdays, give public praise for goals reached and projects completed,” she says. “Make time for casual conversations and ‘water cooler’ chat.”

 

Can We Help

If this crisis had happened 25 years ago, before the widespread growth of the internet, then the impact could have been even more catastrophic as there was no viable way to work remotely as there is today.It is still an extremely challenging time for all business and employees as the switch to home working has happened virtually overnight, so we hope the suggestions we have made in this article will be of help.

MaxWeb can help you with all your online requirements, so please do get in touch if you need any assistance.  You can get on touch via phone on 01516524777 or email us at info@maxwebsolutions.co.uk.

 

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