Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Five top tips for making the best of working from home

Many of us are having to spend more time working from home. Here is a guest post from Susan Moore, who writes the HuonView blog, on some of the best paths to follow.


I have worked from home full time for almost 10 years now and in that time I've learned a lot about how to do it successfully. But for many people currently in self-isolation or working remotely due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it may be the first time they've worked from home or at least the first long-term remote work stint for them, so I thought I'd share my top tips.


1. Get used to being on video. Not all of us are comfortable being on camera. I confess it's not my favourite thing, but I am a convert. In almost 14 years with my current employer, I have had regular video calls with my manager and my team, who are all based in other countries. Until the last year or so, it was mostly optional. Now, almost every meeting I am involved in is a conference call using video, often with 10 or more people on the call. Being able to see people helps to build relationships and reduces the temptation to multitask or tune out during a meeting. You can see reactions, smiles and gestures which can make a big difference. If you're a small business and don't have fancy collaboration tools, Skype or WhatsApp work just fine.

2. Do not work in your pyjamas. It's the cliché about working from home that I hate the most. Apart from during a few 6am conference calls, I can honestly say I have never worked in my pyjamas. I get up, shower, wear proper clothes and make up. It's a job, and you will not feel professional or motivated in your PJs. And related to the first tip above: you may be invited to a video call at short notice and sleep or leisure wear is not a good look. I usually go for the 'newsreader approach': hair brushed, makeup on and a professional top/jacket paired with comfy jeans and ugg boots.

3. Take breaks and move. It's very easy to sit at your desk for hours and then realise you haven't moved. I sometimes even forget to eat, especially seeing as I often have meetings during normal lunch hours due to time differences with the US and Asia. Set a reminder on your PC, smartwatch or Fitbit and make sure you get up and stretch regularly. Book exercise into your calendar. Having a dog means I walk for 20 minutes twice a day even if nothing else. I also love my standing desk.

4. Set up a work space. Where possible, find a dedicated space for your PC and other work equipment, ideally one that's not shared with your partner or kids. Recently I've taken to moving to different locations in the house during the day, just to mix it up and get a different outlook - or to get the best background and lighting for that important video call!

5. Stop at the end of the day. I am much better at this than I used to be, but it can still be a problem during peak periods. However, one of the top benefits of remote work is the flexibility in hours. As long as you get the work done and deliver results (agreeing what those are is a key to successful management of remote workers), it's up to you to determine when and how. Especially in winter, I usually stop work at 4pm to walk the dog before it gets dark, then go back to work afterwards. I might go out for a haircut or medical appointment during the day and make up the time later. As long as I am meeting expectations, that is fine. I get much more done working from home than I do in the office, so I don't feel guilty about taking time out.Remote work isn't new. The technology is available and not hard or expensive to set up anymore. It's not possible for all jobs of course, and even for work that can be done remotely, I understand it's not for everyone. However, I hope this current crisis serves as a wake-up call to organisations large and small who still do not allow employees to work from home or other locations largely for cultural reasons or a lack of management maturity.

I'm not unusual in the company I work for. In a crisis, our leadership team can tell all staff to take their laptops home and work from there indefinitely. It's been useful more than once, even as far back as during Japan's earthquake and tsunami disasters in 2001. And it's proving critical in the extended and constantly shifting COVID-19 crisis.

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