From day one SYKE has been a business without fixed office premises and most of our colleagues regularly work from home.
Many of you will be doing this long term for the first time so here are a few pointers to help you get the most of your new way of working:
The key for a happy home working life is to maintain a boundary between your home and your work. By setting up a distinct office/working space, you will maximise productivity when you are working and be able to switch off at the end of the day.
Working in front of the TV might sound fun but, in reality, you’ll get nothing done and daytime telly really isn’t what it used to be – spoiler alert, Doctors is somehow still on and most of the cast of Neighbours remains unchanged.
Be disciplined with when you are “on” and try and keep to your normal working hours. The benefit of working in an office is that your availability is predictable and you and your colleagues can work to each other’s schedules – try and replicate this at home as much as possible and you’ll all feel the benefit.
A lot of us will be trying to juggle childcare too, so make sure that a pattern is set as soon as possible and that this is communicated to your colleagues. If you are sharing this with a partner, working for an hour then taking an hour to look after the kids sets quite a good rhythm and adds a bit of variety to the day (for everyone involved!).
Everyone is different but a lot of people find that they can work fairly efficiently away from the office and all of the distractions that go with it. Homeworking can be frustrating however as very often you don’t have the facilities that you would do at work. Getting this in place early on is key.
If you usually work with two monitors in the office, having to work on a laptop screen at home will drive you mad. A second screen and the right cables will be a game-changer, both in terms of productivity and making sure you keep your work to a set place in your home. Remember the old-but-perfectly-functioning TV you have in the loft? Chances are it has an HDMI input and you will be able to use it as a second screen if need be. iPads also make excellent second screens using either Sidecar for Mac or by downloading an app like Duet Display.
In the UK, employers are obliged to support home working staff in setting up their home office. Get in touch with your HR team to see what’s on offer.
You’ll probably realise after a couple of days that your WiFi isn’t as reliable as you thought it was, particularly if you are connecting via a VPN or conference calling, both of which rely on a stable connection. Where possible use a wired connection; that thick yellow cable that came with your router, it was in the box that you’ve just found in the loft with the old TV, use that.
Finally, remember that your IT infrastructure team will be flat out in keeping this all going. Be patient and considerate if you need to contact them, you really couldn’t work without them!
The dreaded conference call
Make sure that if you need to use something like Teams or Skype, you know how to use it and that everyone can hear you and you can hear them. Most services will allow you to make test calls beforehand to make sure everything is up and running which avoids every meeting starting with “can you hear me?!”.
If you don’t want to be seen, turn your camera off – no one will be offended.
If you have pets who have an incredible sixth sense of knowing when you are on a call, put them in another room or let people on the call know beforehand (chances are they are in the same boat).
Working from home gives you a chunk of your life back. Done right, you will work as, if not more, efficiently as you would in an office. If you normally have a half-hour commute, you now have an extra hour in your day – that’s five hours a week, 20 hours a month – what could you do with that time? If you value that commute as “switch off” time, try and replicate it at home by turning the laptop off and reading for half an hour before going into “home” mode.
If you usually listen to music while you work, congratulations you can now turn it up to 11.
It can sometimes feel isolating and technology is one of the things that will get us through this. If you have coffee breaks or just need a chat, have a virtual fika and keep connected!
These will be very testing times for all of us but settling into a routine and a new ‘normal’ will give us a solid foundation to find our feet again.
As ever, stay safe and keep in touch.