Picture the scene…it’s 2010 in a conference room in the Village Hotel, Shirley. We’ve just joined agencies with a local development agency we’ve worked closely with for the last year. But we’ve never met them as there was no office, with all communication over email and/or Skype…and it’s fair to say, there’s a bit of tension.
Fortunately, the ice was broken and the day was productive as we got to know our new workmates face-to-face. Shortly after, we got our first office in Birmingham and as more and more staff started using the office we got to know each other, how each other worked and ultimately how we could work better as a team.
Ten years on I’d like to think we’re a tight operation…however, we’re about to go back to fully remote. Given that memory from 2010 still fresh in the mind, why on earth would we make that decision?
Well, the Government is advising it (at time of writing), our lease was ending, many of us work from home full-time or part-time anyway…and working from home has been working really well for us since March. We therefore thought we’d share the love and tap into those tips and tricks to pass on (and hopefully get some in return, to help us improve in the process).
Find it, define it and design it. This will help you get in the ‘work-zone’ but also, most importantly help differentiate the home from work. Make it your space and keep adding to it with that photo from Glastonbury that makes you smile, Incredible Hulk figure to motivate you or bunch of fresh flowers (just because).
Go for a morning walk
Whether you have a dog or not, a morning walk can be beneficial. Even if it’s just down the road and back, it’s a good way to clear the cobwebs, click the limbs back into joint and also totally convince your brain into thinking you’re on your normal commute.
Most work from home policies would highlight taking a break during each working day for at least 20 minutes, during which you must stop work. This should really be the absolute bare minimum. This might be a tea break or just a stretch of the legs, but please make sure you ‘STEP AWAY FROM THE SCREEN’ people!
Enjoy your lunch
Plan your lunch and what you’re going to have or what you’re going to do either at the start of the day or, even better, at the start of the week. You’re laughing? OK, even if you’re not as planned as you would like, just make sure you get away from your desk at lunch and ideally go outside – go for a run/walk/cycle or sit in the garden.
Get out your PJs and get dressed. Yes, even the items not visible on video conference. We think if you’re in your lounge-wear you’re more likely to lounge. A shirt and tie or power-suit isn’t necessary, but work attire will help get you in the zone psychologically.
Limit personal distractions
Set some expectations with others you live with. Just because you’re at home, you are working, so a list of chores to complete and general disturbances need to be treated as such. Keep that mountain of laundry, whipping out the Dyson and/or even catching up with others in the household to those non-work hours you’ve set yourself.
Management of meetings
Because you’re not face-to-face in the office with people, there is the danger of meeting overload as they become the replacement for those quick catch ups. Use your meetings constructively and your online chat/video conferencing for the quick catch ups.
Work from home tax relief
Sounds boring, but £6 per week in the pocket can’t be bad. Did you know you are able to enjoy tax relief on £6 per week when working from home to cover additional household costs? Ask your employer about this if you haven’t been communicated about this already.
Set working time boundaries
The attraction to work whenever you want seems great, but very quickly you can get burn-out and focusing becomes harder. Retain power of control over your day, setting your work hours and sticking to it.
Every business with staff working from home, should have a homeworking policy. For many businesses who have had to respond quickly to the pandemic, these might not yet be in place. However, there are standard policies available that should be in place asap. Having a policy can also guide a business to put processes in place and set expectations.
There is a duty of care and legal obligation the employer must take to ensure the equipment you use is safe. This should form part of a risk assessment that will most probably be an additional component to your homeworking policy. However, it is also important that you ensure the equipment you use is safe and/or you flag anything you are concerned about.
Telephone and internet
If you haven’t been contacted already, ask your employer about contributions to telephone and internet if being used for work purposes. This might not be much, but as a great person once said…every little helps :/
Standing up regularly
If you’re not a runner, cyclist or even a walker, at the very least you should be standing up and moving regularly. Sitting down all day isn’t good for you physically or mentally so, if you don’t get up for tea breaks naturally, set alerts to prompt you to move. You might even choose to stand up and move whenever you’re doing a certain thing…like taking a phone-call.
Ergonomics is important for everybody. There we said it! Because of the quantity of time you spend at your desk, every tiny adjustment counts. Make sure you work with your employer to ensure your workstation setup is as ergonomically sound as possible.
Use your video function
It’s easy to get into a routine where you use video conference without the video. Where possible it’s good to see each other and it can make a big difference to that feeling of connection over time. Rightly so, some people just aren’t in the mood for video at certain times…or all the time. But even having it on a few times each month can go a long way.
Love and enhance your playlists. You don’t have any others to please with your music taste in your own workspace. You can even throw in a guilty pleasure (yes, I’m looking at you S Club 7) without fear of ridicule.
Get out of the house
When the walk from downstairs to the ‘work zone’ becomes the commute, and the walls begin to close in, get out! Even if it’s to walk a letter to the local post box, a stroll around the block or if, like some, you’re on the nursery run, use it as your commute and preparation for the arrival at work.
Always have a drink. Keeping hydrated throughout the day is important to keep focus, feel refreshed and ready to go. And no, tea doesn’t count as water! However, you can use your tea and water ‘refill’ as your excuse for a walking break.