Like it or loathe it, working from home is the new normal. At least for the foreseeable future.
The internet is awash with advice on how to effortlessly work from home.
I’ve even thrown my hat into the ring here with my top 15 tips for working from home.
Helpful as this may be, the truth is that our working styles from home will be as varied as our ways of getting things done in the office.
What’s more, because there is no perfect home working routine, we will all have to adapt to our individual circumstances.
Which means of course that we will have to come up with our own unique solutions to get by in these unprecedented times.
One thing is for sure.
Working from home is more difficult than working at the office
This is likely to be the case even if you are fortunate to have your own home office and no distractions. Why?
Because having an optimum working environment still won’t shield you from dealing with the 3 big issues we all face, now and in the coming weeks:
- Staying connected
- Remaining focused
- Keeping fit and well
Let’s look at how we might overcome these 3 big issues when working from home.
Companies around the world have moved at breakneck speed to enable working from home. Whilst offices are now deserted business carries on. It’s a staggering achievement.
However, staying connected is not just about having the right IT infrastructure. Or the best remote working set-up.
It’s much more about how we remain emotionally connected to the hearts and minds of our colleagues and co-workers. And also, to our company’s mission and core values.
Importantly, working from home should not mean working in isolation. After all, we do our best work when we work together. This is because our human spirit craves physical and emotional connection.
So, at this time of being kept physically apart, we all have to work even harder to maintain the emotional bond between us.
It’s easy to forget Albert Mehrabian’s findings that over 50% of human communication is visual. A warm smile goes a long way towards helping colleagues relax in this strange virtual world of communication.
This being the case, let’s use the technology we have to be “virtually present”. I’ve been on many Skype and Teams calls recently. But, to my surprise, sometimes I was the only one with video switched on!
So please, don’t come up with excuses as to why it’s better to dial in or use “audio”.
Visual stimuli also help us to maintain energy levels, attention and a feeling of emotional connection and trust. These are vital for teamworking. Especially, virtual teamworking.
Therefore, let’s take the lead. Be visible, be virtually fully present and bring yourself and your team sessions properly to life.
Finally, it pays to keep virtual sessions shorter than your physical meetings. This is because there will undoubtedly be difficulties in maintaining attention and connection.
Make allowances for interruptions, distractions and technical glitches
At this time, we really do have to allow for interruptions, distractions, and even potential technology glitches.
To compensate for this and to keep the connectedness going it’s a good idea to:
- Communicate more frequently
- Have check-ins (so that everyone can share how they are feeling)
- Encourage icebreakers and humour (to maintain team spirit)
If you manage to stay connected, it’s a lot easier to remain focused.
You’ll have clear objectives to concentrate on. You’ll also have agreed tasks to complete for the team who’ll be relying on you as well as supporting you.
Nonetheless, working from home inevitably means managing distractions and avoiding temptations.
With less structure than at the office and the necessity to prioritise your family needs, you have to become more disciplined to enable you to achieve more with less.
Because you will have less time and fewer resources, you do need to focus.
A top priority must therefore be to agree with other members of your household how you will fit in your work with their needs. Armed with this agreement, you can remain focused by:
- Making a work schedule, sharing it and sticking to it. When you are working you are working, when you are not working, you are not
- Having a dedicated workspace. If at all possible, one that you can close the door on. Of course, your workspace may need to be used for other things outside of your normal office hours
- In this dedicated workspace and with your work schedule, be in the office. In addition, behave as you would in the office
Keeping fit and well
At the time of writing, the UK Government permits people to leave their home for a few very specific purposes. One of them is to take physical exercise.
This is so important at a time when gyms are closed, and all team sporting activity is cancelled. You can of course still go for a run or a brisk walk or get on your bike and ride.
Even if we become confined indoors at a later stage of the epidemic, it may still be possible to exercise at home.
Encouragingly, our favourite health and fitness providers are now making their yoga, pilates, and cardio sessions available online.
Staying physically fit helps us maintain energy levels and mental alertness.
Of course, mental health is every bit as important as physical health. Perhaps, even more so at this time of crisis.
Understandably, people are feeling anxious. Others are depressed. Learn to spot the signs in your work colleagues. If a colleague is struggling, it’s time to act with kindness and compassion.
For managers, humanity and helpfulness go hand in hand at this time of need. Ask specifically:
“What can I do right now to help you?”
Listen empathically before responding with hope and confidence. Give clear guidance and direction as well as a message that you care.
In the final analysis, you and your colleagues are not alone. You are going to get through this unusual and unnerving experience together.
Working from home when the crisis is over
We are now nearly 3 weeks into working from home. In all likelihood this will stretch to 3 months or more.
By overcoming the 3 big issues outlined in this article you’ll get through this extraordinary situation.
When the crisis is over, you may even opt to work from home as and when it suits your needs.