Making working from home work

We’re not going to dwell on the “C-word”, except to say we hope you and your loved ones stay well.

Considering the directive announcing that staff should work from home where possible, we wanted to share some tips. We hope these tips will help you or your workforce adapt if you’re remote working for the first time.

At Spherica, we’ve always supported remote working and have the capacity to deliver almost all of our services remotely. A significant proportion of our workforce already works from home. We’re familiar with the pros and cons and have developed an infrastructure and culture that embraces remote and location-based work.

We’re now in the thick of helping our customers adapt their IT infrastructure and transition their workforce to remote working. Managing the technology side of this comes easily to us because developing ultra-connected IT environments is what we do. However, helping individuals adopt new ways of working brings challenges that technology can’t always address.

Can it really work?

We’re more digitally connected than ever before. So in most cases, white-collar workers can work from home as simply and securely as they would in the office. Communicating via video conferencing is commonplace and chat tools have changed the way we interact and securely share information, even when we’re office-based. However, there’s still some resistance to making working from home the norm and not the exception. So, now that many businesses are being thrust into facilitating remote working, this may be the start of a sea change in the future of work.

Some business owners are concerned employee productivity will suffer away from the office, but research suggests the opposite is true. According to this OddsMonkey report, productivity, motivation and happiness are generally higher amongst remote workers. Although the current situation makes this far from a ‘normal’ experience for most, remote working really can work for many businesses that have not yet embraced it.

Having worked from home for many years myself, I’ve always been an advocate. I get more work done, I focus better because I have fewer distractions, and if I pop to make a coffee then I’m generally still thinking about work and not catching up on the latest office gossip with Karen! My mind is 100% on the job in my working hours – but I also know when to switch off and get back to my personal life.

There is a fundamental part that I do miss, and that’s the social interaction. The banter and human connections that come naturally in a shared workspace. Lifelong friendships can be forged in the office so that’s a big change to adapt to. However, with ‘social distancing’ (how I hope that phrase dies out along with this virus!), our normal relationships are being forced to change already. So, adopting new ways of keeping an emotional connection with colleagues is vital to making working from home work well.

10 tips on how to adapt quickly to working from home

Implementing new ways of working will always pose challenges and feeling out of touch is common for home workers. But the accessibility of technology to keep us connected means we don’t have to feel isolated.

Here are our top tips for making homeworking a success:

  1. Don’t forget the basics! Check with your IT support team to make sure you have all the necessary connectivity software, security and permissions to safely access the data and applications you need to do your work when you’re on an external network or shared WIFI.
  2. Be extra vigilant about cybersecurity. If this is the first time your business has had to support large scale remote working, the usual protection of your business network may not be as robust away from the office. We should always be hyper-vigilant about clicking links and watching out for phishing emails. However, it’s especially important when working outside the safety of the office network.
  3. Set up a workspace where you can mentally and physically get into work mode. It doesn’t have to be an office, but slouching on the couch with your laptop on your knee isn’t likely to make you feel “at work”. It’s also good to set a schedule that fits around your normal working routine, so your colleagues know they can reach you when they usually would.
  4. Ask for the right equipment. If you need extra equipment to do your job well, be sure to ask for it. If you struggle to do your work easily from a laptop then request a monitor and a wireless keyboard. If your home office feels like your desk at work, you’ll find it easier to transition to working from home.
  5. Have video meetings to avoid feeling out of touch. The one time when that ‘this could have been an email’ meeting might be more effective as a face-to-face call. Jump on Skype, Zoom, Slack or even Facetime to get that social connection that you’re missing at home. All of these communication tools have free accounts so it doesn’t have to cost you anything. That’s the beauty of cloud technology!
  6. Set up a chat channel for those water-cooler conversations. Slack, Teams or even a simple email group gives you a place to ask questions that would usually just need a quick chat across the desk. We love Slack because it’s designed for just that, so it’s simple and fun!
  7. Overshare! Communication is key to feeling part of the team and keeping abreast of the bigger picture. Send updates about what you’re doing and let people know if you’re going offline so they aren’t chasing you down! In our team, we share a weekly roundup in a dedicated Slack channel on a Friday. We then hold a follow-up video call on Monday to ensure everyone’s aware of each other’s priorities – it works!
  8. Take your usual breaks and get some air! There may be an overwhelming desire to demonstrate that you’re glued to your desk and not slacking off. But you need to get away from the screen as much as you usually would in the office.
  9. Separate work from home, so when you switch off at the end of your day you ‘leave’ work. A benefit of working from home is that you can jump back online if you need to. However, if you don’t create a habit of ending your working day then your work-life balance could be at risk.
  10. Look at the positives. Proactively use the time saved on your usual commute. Take a coffee break in the garden or a sunny corner of the house. Cook your lunch and enjoy it away from your workspace. Maybe even Facetime your usual lunch buddies for some break time banter! Pop a wash on so it’s not piling up at the end of the week. These are the simple but invaluable perks of homeworking.

As we face an unprecedented time of change and disruption, who can predict whether this unplanned experiment in large-scale home working will change the future of work. In the short-term, try not to fear the change and instead embrace the opportunity to try something different.

As the old adage goes, a change is as good as a rest.

Most importantly, stay safe, strong and try to remain focused on the benefits of not doing the daily commute.

If we can help you in any way during this challenging period, please get in touch.

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