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Blog – Working from Home: Best Practice Tips

By Raheela Rehman and Rukshana Jaman

Remote working had quietly been reshaping our lives; part or full-time. From coffee shops, public libraries to living rooms at our dining tables. The emergence of digital office rental services has led to changing attitudes around where we work or manage teams, and to whether we should. Today in 2020, unprecedented times bring us to a mass digital remote working era.  With the shift, we explore how best to coordinate our lives, weave in work-life balance, staying efficient and productive.

Establish a Routine

A structured routine establishes a mindset which separates working hours to personal time. For some this means hopping into the shower first thing in the morning and dressing as if you are going into a physical office, psychologically preparing you to start work!

Set the start and end times of your day and stick to them. A sharp initiation point removes grey areas of procrastination and delay. This allows you to focus on tasks for the day ahead and know when and how to juggle other demands accordingly. Incorporating simple tasks such as clearing emails or piles of accumulated paper help to building confidence in your working environment.

Dedicated Workspace

Ensure your workspace is comfortable, and set-up for what will work best for you. Your workspace should provide an area for productivity and comfort. Minor adjustments can boost productivity: a well set out desk; a well-adjusted chair; plugging in a keyboard to a laptop; sufficient ventilation or correct temperature. And should you decide, during your video conference, to wear a top half of a suit, but your home-casual bottoms, with your coffee just out of the video frame – we promise not to tell anyone.

Communicate

Communication is key in ensuring your message is not lost in translation. It can take a few seconds to convey a message when you are physically present in an office, the urgency of a request, reading your colleagues’ body language, or a message conveyed in the tone of voice. However, when communicating through text, it can be easy to miss subtle cues, therefore it is vital to communicate with clarity. Set agreed times to meet with your manager and teams, maintaining regular meetings and one-to-ones via phone calls or video conferencing.

It is worth noting that although you may not physically have to travel for a remote online meeting, it can be tiring. As you cannot ‘see’ the whole room, it maybe harder to judge an appropriate moment to talk and listen to others, or their reaction. There isn’t the small switch off walking to the next meeting, which might otherwise have diverted your thoughts to different things for a short time. Your brain may be doing extra work to fill in, which in turn means you may feel mentally fatigued. It is again important to give yourself time and rest.

Time Block and Remove Distractions

To help focus to the task at hand, and get the most out the your time whilst working on an activity, it’s useful to protect your time. Divide your day into blocks, each slot reserved to achieve a specific task. Make it harder for yourself to be drawn onto social media, remove them from your browser shortcuts, as well as logging out of accounts. For those for whom social media is an integral part of your job, if feasible block your time and check at your assigned times.

Reducing distractions also means you retain your routine. In the recent CamAWiSE workshop, “Boosting Emotional Intelligence: Secret to thriving in a world of distractions and tension” with Kalai Vanii Jayaseelan, delegates worked through practical steps of cultivating Emotional Intelligence for success and wellbeing in the workplace. Read the Blog – Thriving in a world of distractions on how to focus for success in a world rife with digital distractions and changing political, social and economic landscapes.

Security and Confidentiality

Ensure your devices are protected with up to date software. Keep confidential data and papers in a secure place, compliant with data protection laws. Agree with your manager or team, a secure location for all shared or non-shared files. Be wary of disclosing sensitive information to family members or visitors. Check if your employer has ‘working from home’ guidelines and seek to follow protocols. 

Breaks, Exercise and Connecting

Regular physical and mental breaks away from your screen and desk are important. Take care of your wellbeing and mental health. Adjust your posture and stretch whilst sitting or standing. If you have a garden, go outside for a change of scenery and get some fresh air. It is recommended that you rest your eyes five minutes out of each hour away from the screen.

Connect with others to break up any monotony that may arise, allowing you to return to your task refreshed. A short call, alternatively to sending an email can provide a welcome change. There can be a tendency when working from home of over-working and over-delivering, which crosses boundaries. Therefore, keep track of guilt, and your achievements.

You might want to pencil in a virtual coffee with colleagues and friends to create your own water-cooler moment. Finally, keep water close to hand and ensure you regularly replenish your water levels. You might find when working from home, you don’t drink as much water as you may have done whilst in an office!

Managing Family

When there is limited childcare or older person’s care, working from home raises challenges of juggling workloads, whilst providing the best care for younger or older family members. A thought-out strategy, aligned with creating your daily routine and workspace, is useful, especially for unplanned circumstances.

You may want to consider a quieter workspace which is at the other side of your living quarters, away from the children’s space. Schedule quality time you will spend with your children during your day for activities. These can be exercising together, cooking and mealtimes together or sharing household chores. For older family members, shop online together or if not living in the same habitat, timetable virtual visits.

Embrace the flexibility!

Managing Teams, Teamwork and Being Managed

Managing teams remotely will require tweaked skills to ensure you have a happy team, whilst achieving agreed goals. Be empathetic to team requirements, understanding during periods of lockdown (2020) that team members may have conflicting priorities, balancing work and family. Embed a culture of transparency and trust, so that the team feels supported.

Managers may worry the increasing prevalence of remote working may lead to a lack of collaboration or a disconnect between team members. Have regular one-to-ones as well as online face-to-face team meetings to foster team spirit. Be mindful of employees not logging in, they could be struggling: be flexible; provide coaching to help manage stress and anxiety; be open and be honest. Consider how to build-in social aspects for the team, such as sharing personal stories of their day’s events, or a personal-photo slot where members share their photo of the day – this could be a time to get creative.

With our current times, being kind to others and to yourself is important. Working from home will be an adjustment for many, and giving it time and leeway will make it a healthier way to work. Don’t be hard on yourself, on team members or those you manage if productivity dips. It is inevitable that settling into a new routine, whilst juggling non-work demands, means we have to get comfortable with a new way of working until for those who it is new, it becomes familiar.

Stay Healthy, Stay Safe and get Connected!

Related article: Remote Networking: Relationship Building In the Time of Coronavirus.

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