There can be a number of reasons that employees either need, want or are compelled to work from home. In the UK, all employees with 26 weeks' continuous service have the legal right to request flexible working which includes the opportunity to work from home.
At Skillcast we have sourced talent and reduced risk by operating across a number of other locations outside of our London headquarters. So we've asked our teams from cities across the UK extending to the Czech Republic, Greece and Malta for some homeworking advice.
1. Re-create your working routine
The only way to stay effective and to get things done in the long term, is to behave as professionally as you would if you were going to the office. Brush your teeth, keep yourself well-groomed and don't spend the entire working day in your pyjamas. If you work in a role that has a dress code, wearing that 'uniform' when you work will help with transitioning between work and non-work time.
2. Try and create a dedicated working space
Separate your 'Home' and the 'Office' as much as you can. You need to have a dedicated corner, area or ideally (if space allows) a room that is your work-space allowing you to transition between work and home. This is important for your own well-being, and helps you to 'switch off' when you are not supposed to work. Trying to do your work at the kitchen table of a busy household will not be successful in the long run. You should also establish ground rules for other family members or roommates who you share your living space with.
3. Be your own boss
At home there are many more distractions than in an office. From daytime TV, to social media, your spouse, and more. When you go on break, set a timer to remind yourself that your break is over. If that's stressful, set the timer slightly short, so that when it chimes you still have another few minutes to transition back into your work mode.
Don't set unrealistic goals for yourself or others, and don't develop a habit of 'just doing ten minutes more' all of the time. If you were in an office, you wouldn't do it, so don't start now.
4. Establish protocols
Establish, communicate and follow protocols for communication with your team, the wider business and external stakeholders. This may take effort, but over time you'll feel the benefits.
Two important suggestions are:
- Agree how to display your availability/status
- Agree how to update & communicate the status of projects etc...
5. Stay in touch
There have never been more ways for you to communicate. So take advantage of them. With a bit of effort you can make it feel like you’re still sitting next to your colleagues. But don't rely solely on instant messaging and emails. Make voice calls when you can, and use video/screen sharing to keep that human connection. Don’t try to explain things in text-chat if you can call instead.
And remember, a virtual or phone meeting is no different to a physical one. Turn up on time and turn up prepared.
A huge range of free and paid communication tools are available from Microsoft Teams, Ring Central, Slack, Skype and Zoom to BlueJeans and Webex.
6. That water-cooler moment
When having a call with a colleague, invest some extra minutes to talk about non-work related stuff. This is an excellent way to combat any feelings of isolation or boredom which may creep up on you. If you sense that your colleague would rather not, then that's fair and you don't need to press the matter. However, you might find that your non-work related question is appreciated at the other end of the line, and you both can come out of the call feeling better.
7. Schedule breaks
Make sure you take breaks. Shorter, more frequent breaks have been found to be more effective compared to long hours of intensive work followed by a single long break. But do take that lunch break, you still need to eat, and it is too easy to drift through without remembering to.
Everyone's preferences are different, but it's worth noting that there's merit to the idea of doing a task, then taking a short break before doing another task and so on. A short break by the way, could be as simple as standing up and having a look out the window (to give your eyes a different focus-distance) before continuing work.
8. Don't stress unnecessarily
If someone reaches out to you on instant messaging while you are in your kitchen making a cup of tea or coffee, don’t stress, it’s fine. You’ll reply as soon as you are back at your desk. Mitigate concerns that you might miss something, by turning on desktop notifications with sound. Then when you are away from your desk, you will have the peace of mind that you've not missed any replies.
Simple mobility exercises and stretching have a big impact on your body's well-being. This is not about whether you're into exercise or not. It's simply a matter of extending your body's movement register to its natural limits every now and again, to avoid stiffening up over time.
10. Get out & about
Unless you’re in quarantine or lockdown, make a point of leaving your home at least once a day. Your body desperately needs to move, and the natural light and fresh air will work wonders for your mood and overall mental health. Go for a stroll, walk the dog, weed the garden, ride your bike – you get the picture.
11. Don't be a martyr
If you are sick, you are sick, whether at home or at work. In the past you may have been a trooper, dragging yourself into work, which is never a good plan. But if you are homeworking and ill, this can be even worse. Your work quality, speed and accuracy are bound to suffer and you may lengthen the time it takes for you to recover. So if you are ill, let people know and rest!
12. Seek out advice, and follow it!
By reading this blog, you are already looking for some ways to make the most out of homeworking. There is plenty of free advice out there, so don't stop learning. If your employer offers free resources then take them up on it! You have an opportunity to self-develop at your own pace. We have free training aids that could help, too many to list here.
First stop is our new Working from Home Training Module, a must for everyone...
Finally, our experts have provided some best practice tips
If you're after succinct, insightful advice, look no further than our expert blogs:
- Some tips for those working in geographically dispersed teams
- How to stay safe when using display screen equipment
- Tips on how to manage work-related stress
- Suggestions on ways to improve your time management skills
- And finally, how to stay on top of GDPR in times of disruption
And we also have a free training module for those who manage other people:
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We are happy to help!