Julie Robinson is Impact’s HR Manager. She shares her top tips for making the most of working from home.
Whilst working from home once in a while is a luxury and most people are excited by the prospect, the reality of working from home being imposed upon us under lockdown as a ‘full time obligation’ will mean a departure from the norm, and the potential struggle of working in a situation where there is the chance of feeling isolated and reduced wellbeing.
To help navigate these challenges, including managing a remote workforce, we have put together some suggestions on how to adapt to a new way of working in a safe and positive way.
Distinguish between work and home mode
For some people, the prospect of staying in their pyjamas all day is the most tantalising aspect of working from home. Creating a routine and distinction from work and home will not only improve your state of mind, it will psychologically prepare you to start work.
Create a routine that works for you. Leaving your house for a walk or run or doing an online exercise class will help set the boundaries between work and home.
Setting the scene: your home working environment
Creating a dedicated workspace where you can concentrate will help to unlock the benefits of remote work. That means not setting up shop in your bed or from your sofa, but actually sitting at a table to ensure you have good posture and, if possible, near a window.
Risk assess before working if the setup you have is safe and manageable, keeping it as clean and clear as possible.
Frequent laptop users should also minimise the time they spend using the laptop and ensure they take regular breaks. A stand or footrest may be necessary. It is not essential to have either, but search within your home for alternatives such as large books and pillows.
Maintain regular hours
Set a schedule and stick to it. Have clear guidelines for when you work and when to call it a day. Structure your day; when you are working from home you have to be your own manager and therefore you have to manage your productivity (and perhaps those in your team if you have to manage others).
At the end of each day, decide your to do list and goals for the next day for clarity/ focus, so you do not have to waste time in the morning.
If you worked an extended shift to accommodate a different time zone, wrap up earlier than usual to compensate. Installing a time tracking app will allow you to keep track of whether you are keeping to your schedule.
Research highlights that sitting is the new smoking and recommends you stand up and stretch every 20 minutes to reduce the risk of back, neck and shoulder strain. When taking a break, put the phone down and take time to reset. Looking out of the window is a good way to do this. It lowers our cognitive load by doing nothing for a short amount of time compared to swiping through our phones.
In addition, give yourself adequate time during the day to walk away from the computer screen and phone. At least a lunch hour and two 15-minute breaks. Ensure you do not short-change yourself. You can use an app such as TimeOut for Mac to lock yourself out
Set Ground Rules with the people in your space
This is a challenging one for those who are carers and/or have children who are being home schooled.
Try to adapt and explain to your children as much as possible what your working time means. If you are able to share childcare with a partner set ground rules for when you are working and when you will be available to answer questions so they know what they can and cannot do during that time. If your company understands then even better.
It may well be that you will have to practise flexible working and work split shift hours to enable you to keep on top of tasks.
End Your Day with a routine
Just as you should start your day with a routine, create a habit that signals the close of the workday. It might be a sign off on a business messaging app, if you haven’t already been out, an evening dog walk or a 6pm run or online yoga. You might have a simple routine such as shutting down your computer and turning on a favourite podcast. Whatever you choose, do it consistently to mark the end of working hours.
Stress and mental wellbeing
Mental wellbeing is the ability to cope with the stress of day to day life, work productively, interact positively with others and realise our own potential.
We anticipate that with the continued isolation created by Lockdown, we will see a dramatic rise in anxiety and mental health problems. In light of this, how people are treated and managed on a day-to-day basis will become even more of a priority.
- For managers it is important to reflect on your managerial style and tailor it to suit the needs of each team member and task. A good approach is to proactively ask your staff what support they need from you.
- Be supportive, approachable and responsive, ensuring that you are available for regular work-related conversations and increasing the frequency of supervision or catch-up time with the team member if required.
- Empathy; we have 17 offices at Impact, and we are learning from our Chinese colleagues who have already faced the challenges we are now seeing and are now returning to something more like normal life.
- Connecting – in addition to our normal knowledge sharing, learning and coaching opportunities we are encouraging people to have some fun.
Virtual spaces don’t just need to be used for work meetings. At Impact we are now hosting:
- Yoga and HIIT exercise classes at lunch time by Zoom
- A virtual canteen; we are encouraging our staff (globally) to connect if they wish at lunch time via a virtual canteen and Teams to link for coffee breaks
- Wellness Wednesdays’ an hour set aside each Wednesday afternoon to connect and share best practice.
- The creation of a company music video (where everyone shares a clip of them dancing to a nominated song, currently is taking shape)
By nature, we are very sociable and this week we have witnessed employees using the fantastic platforms available to us to set up wine (or whine nights) to let of steam and connect in addition to quiz nights so we don’t dampen our competitive spirit!
It won’t be long before we return to the norm, but will the norm ever be the same again? The positives are that we are protecting our planet and avoiding unnecessary travel. Let’s get through this time together by supporting each other and come out the other side with a healthy and engaged mindset. We are all in this together.
Julie Robinson is Impact’s HR Manager.