As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the globe, we have seen millions of workers shift their offices and working practices, to working from home, but what does it take to achieve productive home working? We examine the top tips of the trade and the best software to help you succeed in productive home working.
From ‘digital nomads’ to teams distributed globally, working remotely is nothing new, but we have never witnessed anything on this scale before. As offices lie empty and HR departments wrestle with incoming social distancing measures for work spaces, some managers are realising that the landscape of productive home working could be revolutionised forever.
Working from home
Productive home working, also known as remote working or working from home is an arrangement between the employer and the employee, ideally in writing, under which the employee works at home regularly as part of their job, not just informally at weekends or evenings.
Previous to the C19 outbreak, around 1.7 million people in the UK were mainly working from home, which is 5.2% of the workforce. This is a rise of 0.9% over 5 years. A further 8.7 million stated that they had worked at home at some point.
What professions can work from home?
Not all industries can work from home, however 83.5% of the UK’s labour force is in service industries. Complemented by ever more efficient technologies entering the home and more residential areas receiving high speed broadband and home working can become preferential for a lot of workers. This depends on personal circumstances and it’s not always as easy to achieve productive home working as you might hope.
What are the challenges?
The main challenge is who you share your home with. Parents, children, housemates, pets, neighbours and your surroundings all pose their own unique challenges to your productivity while you are home working.
You need a dedicated work space, strong WiFi connection, dedicated computer or laptop, access to your work online and a strong sense of self-efficacy.
Your team needs to have regular check-ins and excellent communication to maintain productive home working. Some workers report feeling more isolated when working from home and feel distrust or suspicion towards coworkers, whether this is perceived or true, it’s a productivity killer.
Most home working mishaps fall into these categories:
Distractions and interruptions
Try to set a routine and stick to it. If others in your household know when you are ‘at work’ it will be easier to maintain regular hours and minimise interruptions. Ideally set up a dedicated work space, so you can start work on time each day without the need to clear space or set up. Some people report maintaining a regular morning routine including getting dressed into work clothes, helps them feel motivated.
Technology and connection failure
Some employees are provided with a laptop and mobile phone by their employer. Try to keep these dedicated to work and avoid downloading non-essential apps or social media accounts that are not associated with your working practice. A good WiFi connection is essential so make sure you have an optimal connection and position your workspace and modem accordingly. Good practice is to fully shut down your computer and leave your workspace tidy at the end of every session. This will help maintain boundaries between work and rest, and help you sustain productive home working from start to finish.
Management and communication
A good team leader will maintain a tight ship, even when isolated. Not to be mistaken for micromanaging. Regular check-ins with both the team as a whole, and with individuals will help workers to understand the individual challenges each other faces by working remotely. Recognising and communicating with workers about their achievements and overcoming challenges is a good motivator. Just don’t overdo it. Another huge challenge is workload. A major pitfall is not recognising that your usual productivity will be necessarily changed by remote working and could be subject to daily fluctuations, particularly during a pandemic situation like we are experiencing now. This can be due to professional circumstances, occurrences within the home, or as is the case for us, the regular updates from the Chancellor keeping our field on it’s toes. Workers are subject to a whole raft of unfolding information, that we are not as able to quickly meet and discuss with our colleagues.
Keeping a routine, with regular breaks is optimal. Try to take breaks away from your screen, standing up or walking around if you can. Work regular hours and alert your colleagues when you are and are not available for meetings. Things might look very different in your calendar while you are productive home working, but keep track of the hours you are working and highlight any disparities with management.
Motivation and self-efficacy
Absolutely key to productive home working is self-efficacy. Depending on our working practice, workload and management style of you or your supervisors this may come naturally. Try to focus on daily goals and acknowledge your achievements. Regular breaks and a manageable to do list will help you sustain your motivation. Regular communication with your team is vital to responding to changing workflow. But remember to report when you will also be knuckling down to your own tasks, to try to avoid diluting your focus. Remember nobody is perfect and these are some of the most challenging working conditions to face such a large proportion of the workforce at any one time. Give yourself credit where it’s due and remember, you’ve got this!
Think longer term
Start thinking longer term. We may have to work from home for longer than first expected, so think about ways you could improve how you work while at home. Perhaps try out different workspaces if they are available to you. Explore how you work with others. Maybe there are different ways to talk online, or new software you could use. Try not to worry about getting everything right straight away, it takes time to get used to your new workflow and changing work-life balance.
The Best Software for Productive Home Working
Here is our round-up of top recommendations for software you can use to support your working practice while home working.
By far the most used communication platform of the moment. Zoom allows you to prearrange your meeting and invite others via email with a simple link. There are a few different settings which allow the host chair or co-chair the meeting and either screen share or show a powerpoint presentation. Some interesting features are: the ability to cloak your background with a choice of alternative green screen type backdrops; lecturing from Hogwarts for example. The chat window allows others to comment outside of the dialogue and a number of standard etiquettes have emerged for zoom meetings to keep them productive, engaging and dynamic for participants. We’ll share some insights in a forthcoming blog.
Timely automatically records all the time you spend on work to a neat, private timeline. It effectively holds up a mirror to your productive performance, much like Apple’s screen time monitor. This reveals how long different tasks take you and when you are most focussed. Seeing the time you spend on specific app or websites helps to surface distractions and low value tasks.
A no frills time clock app with basic time tracking features – Hours is most suited for people who aren’t looking for advanced features. Available as a mobile app, Hours allows you to keep a running list of timers and quickly switch between tasks. Use colour-coding for tasks. Easily make adjustments to your timeline with drag and drop features.
DeskTime is a tracking app within which you can categorise web pages and applications as either ‘productive’ or ‘unproductive’. Your daily productivity is analysed based on these categorisations.
This highly popular team communication tool allows you to message with colleagues and partners concisely, whether you’re chatting in real time or asynchronously.
In an absolute sense, it’s hard to dispute that Slack makes communication not only easier, but better. The trick is knowing when to use it, how to use it, and what to expect from it. Slack is one of the best team messaging apps, and perhaps the most beloved by its users, because it offers more than any other team messaging app. As long as “more” is what you want, it’s a top choice.
Simple ‘to do list’ management. Available online and an app. Todoist lets you log in anywhere to add to do lists and projects and assign deadlines and even assign responsibility for tasks to others. You can easily tick off your tasks on the go, manage workload and collaborative projects. You can add team members to any project you are working on, who can then add, assign and complete tasks within the list.
At Prestige Business Management we can help your Business
At Prestige Business Management we can help your business during this unprecedented period of uncertainty. We take partnering with the right software and services very seriously. So we can offer you a complete and fast paced package of technologies, accounting and great communication that will be right for your business in the modern, economic marketplace. Talk to us to get unique offers and savings that we can access for you as official partners with these great platforms. Whatever advice or support you need Prestige Business Management can help. Call us today on 0203 773 2927 today.