Working remotely has been around for longer than you probably think but it’s certainly something that has been on the increase for a while now. That’s thanks to faster internet and collaborative tools such as Slack and Google Drive. However, as the world continues to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of people working from home has surged dramatically.
For those among us who have worked remotely for some time, it might seem that little has changed, but there are vast amounts of people who are now having to deal with the unique challenges that working from home entails.
If you’re and your employees are among them, and you or they are struggling to adapt to working remotely, we’ve put together some tips to help remote workers cope with working from their home office (or kitchen!)
3 Tips to help employees cope with working from home
1. Don’t be a stranger
If you’re used to working in an office environment, the solitude of working from home can be fairly difficult to get used to. Of course, many newcomers to the working from home game may well be isolating with partners, parents and/or children in which case you may have found yourself desperately wishing for some true solitude at times!
The point is, though, just because your colleagues are no longer within shouting distance, you shouldn’t forget that they’re there - in the virtual sense of the word. When you’re working from home it can be easy to fall into the habit of not communicating with anyone you work with for days at a time.
But now, more than ever, communication is of utmost importance as you, your coworkers, bosses and company navigate these strange times we’re currently living in. For projects to be a success and for your customers to continue to have faith in your product or service, you need to make sure you and your team are all on the same page. Wandering over to someone’s desk and asking them a question is no longer an option, for now at least.
But you need to keep those lines of communication open by staying digitally connected. Use whatever method works best for you be it email, WhatsApp, Zoom, Skype or Line. Having said that, a company-wide solution, such as the aforementioned Slack - an online conversational platform that removes the chore of endless email threads - will help ensure that everyone knows exactly what’s going on.
The key takeaway from this is that over-communicating is far better than under-communicating when dealing with a remote working scenario.
2. Focus, focus, focus
One of the common complaints of working from home is that it’s all too easy to get distracted. Only you can be the judge of your resistance to getting sidetracked but it’s important to do all you can to limit the opportunities to become less diligent.
Maybe you find you work better with music on but it’s not possible to do so in your usual workplace, in which case crank up the tunes. However, while music can provide a pleasant backdrop to your work, we advise against turning the TV on!
“But it’s just for background noise...” you say. Maybe - but the temptation to keep glancing up to see what’s actually happening on screen will likely prove too distracting even for those with cast iron willpower! Another long held bugbear of remote workers or freelancers is that the people around you might have a hard time believing that you’re actually working.
This may be a little different at the moment, thanks to the coronavirus which means that many of us are working from home, but if you regularly remote work, or find that your company starts to adopt the practice post-pandemic it’s crucial that friends and family understand that, hey, just because you’re working from the kitchen table you still have a job to do.
And more importantly, a job that someone is paying you to do!
Yes, you might be at home to accept deliveries from all that online shopping you (or your partner/spouse/SO) indulge in, but that doesn’t mean you’re at their beck and call to run their errands. The same goes for friends who don’t work or who have a day off and pop round for a chat or suggest meeting for lunch or coffee. If it fits in with your work schedule, fine. If it doesn’t, don’t feel guilty about saying “I’m sorry, I’m actually at work.’
3. Flexibility is your friend
Advocates of remote work will tell you that one of the biggest bonuses is being able to organise your own time. And providing this works for your company and manager, we say if you can be creative with your schedule then go for it!
For anyone who is currently working at home temporarily, this may be necessary as you juggle work with childcare. But one of the real beauties of working remotely is that you can fit things into your day that otherwise may have had to wait until the weekend. Need to do the laundry? Stick the washing machine on and then get back to your laptop and take that break to rest your eyes when it’s time to hang the washing out to dry. The other great thing about working from home when it comes to organising your day is that you may be able to work at the times you feel you are most productive. Sure, you might need to be online at certain times to be available to your colleagues and manager, for online meetings, or to answer customer queries.
But if you suffer from a mid afternoon slump and find it hard to get going again, why not try logging on earlier than usual? Just because your normal office hours are 9am to 5pm, providing it doesn’t impact others, there’s nothing to say you can’t work 5am until 1pm instead. Not a morning person? How does a 1pm to 9pm shift sound?
Maybe you don’t normally work weekends but would like to take Monday and Wednesday afternoons off to do some exercise. Make up your time on Saturday and Sunday instead. Providing the work you do isn’t completely constricted by having to be online at certain times, and your boss is okay with it, play around and find what works for you best. One word of advice - keep a log of what hours you work so you can be absolutely certain you are working your contracted hours per week.
After all, working remotely comes with a responsibility. It comes with perks too, there’s no doubt about that, but for it to remain a satisfactory way of working for all concerned, you owe it to your company or clients to be honest, present and reliable.
Now go ahead and put that load of laundry on - just don’t forget that spreadsheet will still be waiting for you when you get back!