Tips For Working at HomePublished on 12th June 2020 2020-06-12T11:00:00+00:00 - Last update on 15th June 2020 2020-06-15T12:07:10+00:00
The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the world of work. Offices and businesses closed across the country, leaving more than 8 million people on furlough and many more working from home.
But are most of us actually desperate to get back? Cramming onto a packed train, sharing a kettle, microwave and cutlery with colleagues and sitting around a table in a stuffy meeting room are all aspects of life we don’t actually like.
Before lockdown, working from home was seen as a permitted adjustment for a small number of employees, but the fact that businesses have seen productivity actually increase when staff work from home has meant that they are reconsidering their own policies. Working from home means happier staff, more work done and cuts the cost of - or even the need for - the office itself.
We may be seeing a wholesale move away from commuting and the traditional 9 to 5.
The coronavirus crisis has forced many firms that were initially reluctant to allow home working to adopt the practice. It has also forced them to ask if the office is necessary for modern businesses to function. It may have made sense at a time when offices depended on typing pools and paper documents on in-trays to function, but office technology has moved on. Many businesses are seeing that it makes little sense for their staff to travel into city centres and take up costly space to work alone, two metres away from each other, at desks or in cubicles, every single day of the working week.
The majority of workers claim to be happy to work from home at least two days per week in future. The ability to reduce exposure to public transport is crucial for health and safety until the pandemic has become a distant memory. Even those who currently don’t use public transport have come to realise that a drive to work can be bad for their tempers, their bank balances and for the planet.
But is not just your workers and the environment that will benefit from working at home. Your business will too.
While it is always tempting to think that working from home actually means not working from home, the opposite is proving to be the case for most businesses. Staff are more relaxed and more productive. They get more done as a result and it is always easier to spend a little longer getting a task finished when there is no train to miss and no traffic jam to avoid.
Businesses also benefit when they don’t need so much expensive office space to accommodate everyone in the team at once. The high cost of office space - along with all the overheads such as heating, lighting and security - is another reason why many are seriously looking at making WFH part of their standard operations for at least part of the week.
So what do you need for working at home?
You have probably already started working from home as part of your business operation - and you will have already overcome some of the basic challenges. Your team need somewhere to work - a desk is ideal - and suitable IT equipment for the tasks they perform. They also need a good internet connection, which fortunately is becoming the norm for most people wherever they are in the country these days.
As a business owner, your first responsibility is to provide dependable technology that would enable “work anywhere” collaboration. Investing in hardware with Asset Finance, and financing the construction of your business network with remote access, high levels of security and easy access to a shared pool of data may be essential.
But the costs may not stop there.
You may also need to invest in training and in developing new management procedures which will make it easier for you and your team to ensure everyone is working in the same direction – staying focussed and motivated.
Here are some tips which can help you and your staff make the most of remote working.
Set a schedule...
Some people will overwork at home. While this can sound like a good thing, it can lead to burnout and should be avoided. Knowing when to work and when to (virtually) clock off helps many remote workers maintain an important work-life balance. Working remotely sometimes means extending your day or starting early – but staff need to make sure they don’t overdo things. Installing an automatic time-tracking app can help.
Develop a Morning Routine…
Helping people develop the skills of remote working is important – and a morning routine is key to helping them see they are at work, and the day has started. A virtual morning meeting when all staff can be briefed and any problems shared can be the perfect solution.
Encourage using a dedicated space…
Working from the kitchen table is never ideal – but having a dedicated office, and a work computer that is dedicated to work only isn't always realistic. Instead, get your team to dedicate a desk and some peripherals only for work use. Make sure they use work emails, rather than their personal accounts too.
If other family members, children and pets can be kept out of the home office area, it can make things easier for all concerned.
Working from home is still working, and the usual rules for breaks should apply. A lunch hour and two 15-minute breaks seem to be the usual in most offices. Keeping to them at home makes a great deal of sense. Workers also need to get up and walk around -and rest their eyes from the screen every hour.
Workers can use their timer apps to schedule breaks as well as work.
For physical and mental health, workers need to get out of the building every day – even if the building is their home. Fresh air and natural light are essential, and a walk to the shops or similar should be part of the daily routine.
Provide the right equipment…
You need to provide staff with the equipment they need. They might not expect you to provide a desk and a chair, but it is reasonable to expect you to provide the laptop, monitor, keyboard, mouse, chair, printer, software, and so forth. You may need to invest in equipping your team, even if they are not in the office.
Provide a Separate Work Phone Number…
Using your team’s mobiles is tempting – but it makes if har for them to tell the difference between a work call and a personal call. Set up a phone number that you only use for calls with colleagues and clients. You may not need to buy them another phone. A free VoIP service, such as a Google Voice, can help separate work from private life.
Use a VPN…
Security can be a worry in any business, and the worries can be worse when workers are remote. A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, can provide a secure connection to your network wherever your team are working.
Companies with a remote work culture can benefit staff – and themselves – by offering ways to socialize. Informal chats help build good teams. Providing a virtual equivalent of the coffee machine where people can meet and talk about things that are not work-related can be a powerful asset.
Make the most of meetings…
Video conferences and conference calls are part of managing your business when workers are remote. Be sure to talk to everyone in the meeting, and include those who are shrinking violets. Encourage everyone to speak – the need to know that you recognise the work they are doing, and value it. Overcommunicate. Tell everyone who needs to know about your schedule and availability and ask what they are doing – it is the chance for everyone to know what is going on – and to feel involved. Thanking everyone by name at the end of the meeting is a sound tactic.
Video calling is not something that has taken off in the UK in the past - although it is very easy to do. Try making it a part of your management routine. A smile and encouragement are more effective if they can be seen – and people need to see faces to remember who it is they are talking to. You can also take the opportunity to see how people are looking, just as you would in the office. Happy and relaxed, or stressed and heading for crisis? Make sure you know.
Allow Sick Days…
You can’t expect people to work - even from home - if they are unwell and, in the coronavirus crisis, we all know how devastating illness can be. Don’t expect your staff to power through illnesses. You will find that they are more productive in the long run if you let them rest and recover when they are unwell.
Business can never stand still and training is vital to maintain your competitive edge. Give your staff online training whenever possible – they will appreciate the chance to learn something new which will help them do their work better, while you can see the results in increased capability and efficiency. You may need to invest in online training – there are plenty of suitable courses available.
We all need to be clear and businesslike, but the psychological side of communication must not be forgotten. Being positive may be difficult for us reserved Brits, but it really does help motivate staff who can otherwise feel isolated and demotivated. It makes it a please to speak to you as the boss rather than something to be avoided if at all possible.
Some staff will take to remote working like a duck to water, while others will struggle. You need to be patient with people who say they are having problems with equipment, routine tasks or remembering all the things they need to do. These can be signs that they are struggling with the new realities of working, and finding that they are in need of extra support. Be patient and provide the support they need. The chances are that they will overcome their resistance to remote working.
Finally, remember that we live in unusual times and that many people working from home will have extra responsibilities, such as childcare, to take care of. Introducing flexibility in the hours you expect people to be at their desks can pay dividends. The chances are those who realise that you are making special arrangements for them will reciprocate by putting in extra hours for you and your business.
Paying for it all
Getting started with remote working can be straightforward, but producing a robust working model for the longer term may require investment. New IT equipment must be acquired and new systems set up. You may need the help of external experts to ensure that you have the security and systems in place to do business effectively.
You also can’t afford to delay, even if money is currently short. At Rangewell, as experts in business funding, we know the fastest ways to secure the funding you need.
During the current crisis, we may be able to provide the most effective way to secure the funding you need - whether that is with a government-funded loan, or with any other kind of lending.
Our expertise can work for you. We can help streamline applications - ensuring that your business can receive the funding it needs in the shortest possible time.
We can work with you to find a short-term solution - and help you secure all types of business funding - and as your business starts to recover, we want to work with you to ensure that you have the funding you need for the future of your business too.
Call us now – our experts are ready to help you with your finance challenges during the coronavirus crisis - and with the changes that will come after it too.
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