It’s challenging to try and maintain a sense of normality when our current situation is anything but. There’s a whole lot of adjustment happening in almost every industry. One of many significant changes to come from the Covid-19 crisis is that most of us are now working from home.
In the past, remote working was seen as more niche than mainstream. Sure, with a plethora of collaboration apps, the IoT, modern hardware and superfast home fibre, it’s been possible for a while. But the general attitude was, we’d rather you’re in the office so we can keep an eye on you.
With that now no longer an option, millions of workers around the world had to set up their home offices for the foreseeable future.
It’s with that in mind that we bring you seven important factors of making remote working successful.
Ideally, your office should be in a quiet part of the house with some privacy. That’s even more important if you share your home with children, a partner or a roommate. If there’s a spare room, then claim it. Especially if you’re going to spend time on the phone. If you need more room than the spare can offer, consider the garage, your outside shed, or the dining room.
If you telecommunicate, your employer may require you to have a dedicated area, with a door that closes and locks, for confidentiality reasons.
When choosing your workspace, consider the following:
For many, a space that ticks all of these boxes is an impossibility. Especially if you’re in an apartment, a shared home or one inhabited by other members of your family or roommates.
Above all, your comfort is of the highest priority. Productivity suffers when you’re not comfortable. There may - and probably will - need to be a few compromises. But as long as there’s room for you to move, a good internet connection and some natural light - you should be okay.
A carpenter isn’t much without his or her tools, and you won’t be either without the correct tech set up in your home office.
The beauty of technology is its scope and variation; it can also be its downfall. There is such a thing as too much choice. That’s why knowing exactly what it is you need to get your work done before downloading or paying for anything is vital.
There are a host of Unified Communications or UCaaS providers around. The best of them combine VoIP capabilities, audio, video and web conferencing, cloud PBX, and fax tools in a single bundle to minimise disruption and maximise output. Whether you need such solutions, of course, depends on your organisation’s needs. It’s worth having a conversation with your IT team about the best way forward when it comes to the precise software that you need to get your job done.
It’s also crucial to nail down the specific hardware you’ll need in your role. For example, if you’re handling a multitude of workloads, do you need a laptop with better processing power? Do you need noise-cancelling headphones to ensure you hear every word from a meeting? Is a second monitor or a wireless keyboard a priority?
A comfortable chair will let you concentrate on your work instead of on your aching back. The best chairs keep your screen at eye-level, while you maintain a straight and supported back, and your feet flat on the floor. If you don’t like sitting down for extended periods, a standing desk might be more your speed. That, or the kitchen counter. Switching between standing and sitting will also be good for your back and keep you alert.
If you’re in customer service - particularly for a larger retailer - would the addition of live chat make your life easier when it comes to the mass of incoming queries you’ll now be receiving? This may not be up to you, but don’t be afraid to communicate such ideas with management.
We’re in uncertain territory, and ensuring bottom lines aren’t affected too much means your employers must arm you with all the tools you need to succeed.
Working from home does allow for more flexibility, but that newfound time can soon turn into a distraction. Maintaining the same daily schedule, whether it’s the one you followed at your office or an adjusted one, can help separate your home life from your work life.
Try waking up and going to bed at the same time. Just because you no longer have to commute does not mean you should change your sleep schedule. Lie-ins are the biggest productivity killers.
In the same vein, get dressed and have a bath or shower. Staying at home may seem like an excuse to not take off your pyjamas. That’s not the best way to get into a working mindset, though. At the very least, put on a pair of tracksuit bottoms or joggers.
And lastly, follow an exercise routine (or start one). If you usually worked out before you went into work or after, keep at it. If not, you may want to consider it, if only because exercise releases endorphins that can combat isolation.
We’re (at the time of writing) allowed to leave our homes in the UK once a day for exercise, whether that’s a run or a cycle. Take advantage of this time, not just to get out of the house but to ensure you keep fit.
Without the hierarchical framework of a traditional office, it can become harder to prioritise tasks and organise your workflow. It’s, therefore, down to you to develop self-discipline. When it comes to organisation skills, no one hack will suit everyone, so find out what works for you.
Some handy tricks include making to-do lists, to-don’t lists, checklists, and so on. Stay in touch with your team or your superior, then structure your day around your objectives.
At home, you’ve not only got your workload to manage but your home itself. You may think that no co-workers will mean no distracting office chat. At home, however, you’ve got the dog, your partner, and your children who may demand attention.
Learn to identify moments when you’re getting sidetracked, and come up with ways to defuse the situation. List intrusive tasks like grocery shopping, walking the dog, or picking up the mail so that you can get to them once work is complete. Shop around for programs or apps to help with staying focused. White noise or ambient noise players to tune out your surroundings, or productivity timers to set the pace can all work well.
Data breaches often get followed by financial punishments and ruined reputations. It’s understandable, therefore, that organisations worry about unprotected business and customer data being processed outside of a more secure corporate network.
Source: Help Net Security
Here are a few things you can do to keep your company data safe while at home:
- Avoid public wifi
- Utilise a password manager to create and safely store complex and secure passwords
- Use a VPN for a secure connection to the office and when calling over VoIP
- Know which data is essential and be extra vigilant when storing or sending it
- Communicate and be open – if you suspect you’ve spotted a potential security risk, tell your IT team right away
Most offices have the radio or a Spotify playlist on during the day for a reason. Music, or at least background noise, helps most of us to focus and drowns out the constant tapping of keys. Don’t let the silence take over; match your music to the tempo of your work.
Source: The DSM Group
If you’re one of those people who gets lost trying to find a song to suit the mood, try putting on a video-game soundtrack or the now infamous Lofi beats mix on Youtube.
As mentioned above, following a schedule helps structure your day better. It ensures routine and will help maintain both your focus and your productivity.
Over the course of the day ensure you take regular breaks. Not only is sunlight and fresh air crucial to your health, but they’ll also clear your head and motivate you. Being indoors all day in front of a screen is detrimental to productivity. Make sure you take a proper lunch break, as well as regular five-minute intervals of you-time
Working from home does create a habit of overworking. With no bus to catch or traffic to beat, many people find themselves staying logged in, answering emails and completing work long past their usual scheduled hours.
You’re probably not going to get paid any overtime for staying online. If your workday ends typically at 17.30, then that shouldn’t change when you’re at home. It’s crucial you also set an end of day routine that includes turning on your out of office, logging out of all apps and shutting off your PC.
Out of Office Doesn’t Mean Out of Action
We’re all having to adapt rapidly to an uncertain and unusual present. Working remotely is just one adaptation that many of us are having to make to day-to-day life. Fortunately, if managed correctly, it’s at least one change to your routine that doesn’t have to have a detrimental effect.
It’s perfectly possible to be productive when working from home. All you need do is to approach the process of remote working as professionally as any other business task. Prepare properly by choosing the right space, and the right tech. Keep yourself motivated and focussed by setting goals and building schedules. Do all that, and you might just start wondering why you haven’t been working from home for years.
Sam O'Brien is the Senior Website Optimisation & User Experience Manager for EMEA at RingCentral, a global UCaaS systems provider. Sam has a passion for innovation and loves exploring ways to collaborate more with dispersed teams. He has written for websites such as MightyCall and Channel Partners. Here is his LinkedIn.