The coronavirus pandemic is acting as a catalyst for businesses across the country to test their staff, their IT and their flexible working policies. With the movement to homeworking, it is realistic to assume that it will become the new normal for many of us for a while and potentially change our working practices in the future.
For many working from home, it is a new experience and one that some may struggle with. There is much evidence to support homeworking brings positive benefits, including improved work-life balance and increases job satisfaction and productivity. However, all this evidence is based on studies of individuals who have made the choice to work at home. This decision is made in collaboration with their employer and appropriate arrangements are in place to ensure it is effective for both parties.
Coronavirus has changed all that, with many thousands of individuals now forced to work from home, with little time to consider any adjustments that might be necessary to make this work.
Ensure you get your staff set up from home quickly and efficiently, with everything they need to kit out a home office…
- Stationery – paper, books and pads, pens, stapler and desk accessories
- Furniture – desks, chairs and storage
- Technology – shredder, phone, printer, screen, webcam, speakers and mobile storage
- Accessories – laptop case, laptop and monitor riser, surge protectors, keyboard and mice
What else should you be thinking of?
Health and Hygiene
Wash your hands regularly with soap and running water, for 20 seconds. When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or use a tissue and then throw tissues immediately after use. Avoid close contact with others and seek medical care early if you have fever, cough and have difficulty breathing.
Staff will be forced to use personal devices and home networks for work tasks, which may not have strong antivirus software, firewalls and automatic backups. Ensure you provide your staff with the correct safety measures and tools to manage their IT security.
Communication is the key to successful remote working, for your team and across the business. According to one study, 38% of remote workers reported lack of information as one of the biggest obstacles of working from home. Look at using instant messaging through Slack or What’s App, or video calls through Skype or Google Hangouts.
One risk of moving to remote working is keeping track of productivity. Staff may find working at home distracting and find it difficult to concentrate, while others could risk burnout due to the lack of structure and boundaries. Try looking at the best ways of how projects are tracked and completed to deadlines.
It’s not time to panic, but time to prepare.
Maintaining your Wellbeing
Although over 50% of us work away from the office at some point in our working weeks; over the coming weeks and months we are going to see homeworking become the standard for a far greater proportion of the working population. Research has shown that although this form of working is both a necessity and a choice for many, it is also associated with increased mental ill-health; particularly if that homeworking is for more than three days a week. Although the current situation is unprecedented, in that many of us will experience enforced homeworking, and will also be working in an environment with many other distractions, we have drawn on existing evidence to compile these suggestions to support you in maintaining your mental health and wellbeing during this period.
Here are our 5 top tips to help ensure that morale, wellbeing and efficiency is maintained whilst staff are having to work remotely.
Get up, get showered and dressed, possibly in your working clothes (!), in time for your normal start time. This will psychologically prepare you to start work and get off to a positive mental start for the day. Changing out of your work clothes when you clock off for the day helps your brain to understand that the working day is over.
2. Set Structure and Boundaries
Structure helps to create boundaries around work, home and play, which helps boosts productivity. Many remote workers suddenly feel even more pressure to always be available, which can quickly lead to burnout.
Find a quiet suitable, and private space in your home to set up your laptop. Avoid the potential of your entire home becoming your office space, making it more difficult to differentiate work from home-life and to switch off once the working day is over. At the end of the workday, pack everything away and separate work from the rest of the household duties so that you feel that you can switch off, which can be more difficult when the lines between home and work become blurred.
3. Get out and about
Working from home shouldn’t mean having to stay cooped up indoors all day. So, as long as you are not self-isolating, get outside in the fresh air (within Government restrictions). Have a wander around the garden, listen to the birds. Sit on your balcony with a cuppa. Take a walk around the block. Being outdoors can also bring a fresh perspective, helping undo mental blocks and enabling you to come back to a task you were struggling with refreshed and re-focused.
4. Communicate & Interact
The sudden removal of individuals from their work-based (and indeed other) social circles could have a significantly negative effect on the welfare of some. It’s important that homeworkers make some time to pick up the phone and have a real conversation with colleagues, rather than relying on email and instant messaging. Having conversations are stimulating and makes homeworkers feel less isolated giving you a chance for a bit of social interaction.
5. Ensure regular breaks and time for self-care
It’s good to have a routine when working from home, but work shouldn’t become monotonous and it’s not good for you to stay glued to your screen all day. Take regular screen breaks and move around just as you would in an office. Get up, have a stretch and treat yourself to a cuppa.