The shape of society is changing before our eyes with the COVID-19 outbreak. Businesses are having to rapidly find solutions to cope with the crisis and shift their ways of working in order to keep from grinding to a halt. For a lot of companies working from home is the most viable option for their employees, but obviously this cannot be suitable for all businesses and people are worried about their livelihoods, with the real prospect of not having a job because they are unable to physically be at work.
This is a scary time but hopefully the government will act on and execute their promises to support those unable to work during the shutdown, which is something the government should be prioritising now to avoid unemployment from escalating.
For those of us that are able to work from home, then working remotely will challenge our ability to adapt to change. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to work from home a couple of days a week for a few years now, but being at home for the whole week for me is a big change as well, and I’m already starting to miss being able stretch my legs and mooch about windowing shopping.
So here’s my survival guide to working from home full time without it feeling like you’re in witness protection.
1) Claim your work space
By having a dedicated area to work you’ll be able to switch between work and home mode more easily. It’s a good idea to consider the area as your personal office space, which helps when you’re trying to focus on working and self-distance from others, especially if you have kids or a partner at home with you as well. You may need to get territorial to prevent others from invading your established boundaries.
When you have a specific work area it also encourages you to step away from it and take a break, which is something that people often neglect to do when they are at home. Don’t feel obligated to stay tied to your desk, it’s crippling to your health and wellbeing and there is nothing wrong with taking a break away from your work on occasion, so no need to feel guilty about it.
Don’t be afraid to change up where you work. If you have an outdoor space, and the weather is nice enough, you can always work in your garden or a balcony. The change in environment can help to energise you and you won’t feel as cooped up. Try to keep your work space clear or at least organised in a way that it won’t hinder you. I’m not a fan of clutter, but I’m also pretty messy – so I try to tidy my makeshift desk as much as possible.
Don’t feel obligated to stay tied to your desk… there is nothing wrong with taking a break away from your work on occasion, so no need to feel guilty about it.
2) No man is an island – keep in touch with your colleagues
One of the most difficult aspects of remote working is the feeling of isolation. We are inherently social creatures and crave interaction, which means self-distancing can be a big adjustment. Some companies already have a well-built infrastructure for working from home, which includes instant messaging. Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams and other platforms like Slack are a great way to keep in touch with your team and make yourself accessible, they are versatile systems and a great tool to encourage collaboration and inclusion.
If you want to keep contact more informal, then setting up a WhatsApp group is a good idea and often a lot more fun, as you can share gifs and videos to liven up the conversation and it doesn’t need to be work-focused. Picking up the phone and speaking with your colleagues and manager is also a good way to stay connected. Video calls also help, but it’s good idea to let people opt out of this in case they don’t feel comfortable being on camera.
A couple of things to remember about privacy:
- Some video conference technology, like Zoom, is capable of capturing information from your computer that you may not want to share, so check your privacy settings
- If you have any Smart technology in your home, like Alexa etc. it’s a good idea to check your privacy settings so that it’s not recording any conversations you are having, or turn it off altogether
3) All clouds have a silver lining
Embrace cloud storage, it’s the best way to share and securely store your work. There are lots of options available, depending on what you need to store and how easily you want to access it. I tend to use Microsoft SharePoint for work, as it’s a great collaboration and storage site, and Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive or Dropbox for personal storage. These are free to use, but if you need larger cloud storage, they offer paid options available as well.
4) Get the ambience right
Setting up your environment to best suit you helps to be as productive and comfortable as possible, so it’s a good idea to figure out what works for you. Do you like to work in silence or prefer to have some background noise, like the TV on or some music playing? Personally, I’ve always liked to have the TV on in the background, but only ever a show or film that I’ve seen already, so that it’s not too distracting. If you have a busy household you can always wear headphones to block out the noise or to listen to music, which can often help you to focus.
The point is, only you know what is the best environment to be as productive as possible, and if you’re new to working from home it may take a few different attempts to find the best method for you, so try a few things out to get it right for yourself.
Remote Working Survival Guide – Part Two coming soon