Remote Working Advice

It’s certainly not gone unnoticed that there have been some big changes in the working world of late.

The most notable of these is the huge rise in people working from home or remotely. In a bid to contain the spread of Covid-19 many companies are asking their employees to work from home wherever possible.

Monday saw the biggest rise in this trend as many companies ran trial runs of remote working in anticipation of a full government mandated lockdown approaching in the coming weeks.

For most, this will be their first experience of home working and while on the outset may seem like a novel and exciting new development, many others are left feeling a bit lost over how to manage the experience.

I have worked from home for the last 18 months with one day a week office based. For me this the ideal situation as I balance work and a young family.

I’d like to share with you some tips that I find help me navigate the complex world of remote working.

1. Get up on time! This is a definite 100% no compromise piece of advice. You need to start the day with the right mindset to work, that means getting up on time as if you were getting up to go into the office. No rolling out of bed at 8:50 to start at 9:00!

2. Get dressed. Following on from the previous point getting dressed is vitally important to getting you into the right frame of mind to work. You obviously don’t need to be suited up (I’m normally in tracksuit bottoms and sweatshirt) but sitting in your PJ’s all day doesn’t help you feel productive.

3. Prepare the house the night before. This is a big one for me and I would hugely recommend it to anyone who has children. I make sure any housework that needs doing is done the night before. This takes away any potential housework distractions for your working day. Get the washing put away, layout breakfast things for the morning, get the vacuuming done, clean the bathroom– anything that you might feel the need to do during your working hours if its left. OK, no one is going to mind if you bob the odd washing load in the machine but don’t let yourself become side-tracked with housework. Oh…and get the breakfast things washed up before you sit down to work!

4. Create a designated work area. I am lucky enough to have a home office where I can work comfortably with everything I need at hand. If you have a home office then great, but this isn’t the case for everyone. Find somewhere you can sit comfortably and have everything you need around you. This could be a kitchen table or a desk in your bedroom. When I first started working from home I had a desk set up at the top of the stairs, it wasn’t perfect but it was my working space and I knew that when I sat down there, I was there to work. Just make sure you are comfortable enough to be able to work there for the next 8hrs.

5. No distractions! A lot of people think ‘great I can have the TV or music on all day whilst I work’ this is not a good idea. You will not be fully focused on your work and before you know it you will sitting of the sofa watching your third episode of Friends. This also applies to mobile phones, it is incredibly tempting to sit scrolling through social media every 10 mins, but you will gain nothing from this other than lost time.

6. Write a ‘to do’ list. Planning out exactly what you need to do for the day will help you avoid the dreaded procrastination. Seeing you have a full day of tasks ahead will put you in the correct frame of mind for work.

7. Take a lunch break. This is the other side of working from home – not taking a proper lunch break. When you are working from home you can sometimes feel that a break away from the laptop isn’t necessary and having a quick sandwich whilst you work is a sufficient lunch. Don’t do this – you have been working just the same as you would have in the office and you deserve a proper break! If possible I would recommend getting out of the house. Go to the local gym, go for a walk to get some fresh air or out for a quick bite to eat somewhere, anything that gets you out of the working environment for short a time so you can come back refreshed and ready to work again.

8. The fridge hasn’t altered since the last time you looked 10 mins ago! This is a big one – the fridge stare; needlessly walking to the fridge to open it, look in and close it again. Avoid at all costs! A good way to do this is plan out your lunch and snacks for the day in advance.

9. Keep in touch. Working from home can be at times a little bit isolated and lonely, especially in the winter months when getting out on your lunch break may be less desirable. Feeling like you are not fully part of the office team can be an issue. If at all possible then try and take one day a week working in the office. This will help you feel like part of the team, have face to face conversations and meetings and help with team bonding. The rest of the time, combat this by keeping in touch with your colleagues. Emails and calls to your manager to let them know what you are working on and any progress you are making really helps with a feeling of inclusion. Microsoft Teams is great for this as you can hold face to face meetings with your workmates.

10. Have a defined start and end to your working day. A major issue to tackle when working from home is not knowing when to stop. As you essentially live in your office it can be hard to make that distinction between when you are working and when you’re not. The temptation to just keep going back to something long after your working day is done is a huge temptation. Try and be strict with yourself otherwise you work/life balance will start to drastically tip.

I spoke to our newest recruit, Grace on her first experience of homeworking this week and this is what she had to say about how she managed the situation

‘I would say try and set a plan out for the day is definitely the way for me, hourly plan, 50 minutes of solid work, then a 5-10 minute break for a drink then back to it. Would say that is definitely working the best!

Also, just getting up normal time and doing all the normal routine of going to work even down to doing my makeup. Makes you feel like you are less at home if you know what I mean.

I set up in the kitchen in a quiet environment at a table, rather than like a sofa etc, more officey environment, but overall has gone quite well’.  

This change in the working environment also has an impact on managers as they try to navigate through the implications of their entire workforce working remotely.

Here is what our Managing Director, Richard Deas had to say

‘If you have the right team in place, home working can be a useful tool to negotiate the elusive work/life balance equation. By the right team I mean one that is self motivated and that you can trust. Trust is key when it comes to remote working. Some companies go down the route of monitoring activity and even key strokes. I think if this is needed you are already fighting a losing battle. If deployed correctly your home working employees can prove more productive than if they were in the office. Remember to have regular catch ups however so the team still feel connected. Microsoft teams is a fantastic tool for this. A morning web meeting can add focus to the day and stops the urge to work in your pyjamas!’

I hope these little bits of advice and information have given you helpful insight into the world of working from home and that you can manage this change effectively.

Keeli MacMillan