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Make working from home, work for you

Andrew Hart, Business Development Manager, Capito

The continued spread of the coronavirus is causing much concern and some panic, with governments, businesses and individuals scrambling to prepare for a worst-case scenario while hoping for a positive breakthrough.   

Aside from the impending healthcare crisis, an unexpected possible by-product of this outbreak is that it may create long-term change in the workplace.  Enforced and voluntary office lockdowns have seen millions of people working from home for prolonged periods of time.  Will this be the catalyst for mass telecommuting, with working from home becoming the new normal?

Over the last few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to work in environments that both encouraged and discouraged working from home.  My verdict is – it’s great…end of.  Anyone who tells you any different has never tried it (or probably more than likely, hasn’t done it right). Overall, I am less distracted, more productive, happier, and I get stuff done!

There is a knack to it though, I won’t lie, and it did take me some time to realise this.  Through my own experience, I have identified a few tips that will make sure you are making the most of the opportunity you have at home.

First of all, do something with the time you have saved by not commuting. Some people like to dive into their to-do list as soon as they wake up – if that works for you, then go for it.  Personally, I like to go for a walk before I start. Not only do I feel healthier for it, but I am more likely to dress a bit more presentable which will also help to get me in the right mindset.  It’s far too easy to become accustomed to sitting in your favourite cat t-shirt and oversized joggies every day at home, but if you can get out first thing and there’s a chance someone you know will see you, you make a little more effort.  Trust me, you will feel better for it. 

Make sure your IT is up to the task. At a minimum, ensure you have a decent broadband connection and ways in which to communicate. A decent laptop, connectivity, instant messaging service and VOIP telephony will all contribute to you being more productive.   It’s also important to consider a backup plan in case anything goes awry.  For example, if your broadband goes down, how will you continue to work?  Can you use your mobile device as a hotspot or is there a nearby coffee shop with reliable wifi?  Do you have a spare laptop in case the one you are using malfunctions? 

Give yourself some structure.  I recommend prioritising your day by making a to-do list, ticking things off as and when you do them. Reward yourself when you complete a set number of tasks. Get up, move away from your desk, make a coffee. And when it comes to lunchtime, put your feet up and relax. You’ve earned your break, so do what you like with it.

Consider what level of background noise works for you.  It might not be important to some people, but having music playing quietly in the background definitely helps me. Some people have the TV or radio on in the background to feel less alone.  Others like to get out of the house completely as they find that the white noise of coffee shop chatter helps them to be more productive.  On the flip side, some people like the peace and quiet. Do what’s right for you.

Set boundaries with friends and family. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean that you can be disturbed when you are at the ‘office’.  Granted, it will get some getting used to and everyone must learn to give you your 8 hours (or more) a day so you can get things done. You’ll get there.

Communicate with your colleagues.  Ensure that your voice is still heard and that you still feel part of the team, even if your physical presence isn’t felt.  This is particularly important to do before logging off for the day – find out if there’s anything else you can do or if there is anything else they need so that you can end your workday with a peaceful mind.  Luckily, the ubiquity of video-conferencing and messenger chats mean that it has never been easier to check in with the rest of your team, no matter where they are based. 

There are lots of other ways to improve your working days at home.  These are just some of the ones that I find particularly useful and hope you will too.

Studies say that it takes 66 days to get used to working from home – I can believe that. Hopefully, by reading the above, it may be a lot less for you.

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