Let’s start with the pep-talk…we can do this! As individuals, as small business owners, as corporations, as a nation this is our opportunity to show what we are made of. Flexible, opportunistic, growth-mindset sort of stuff. As a freelance health writer who also doubles as a secondary school science teacher, I promise there are practical ways we can make almost any corporate workplace a productive work from home force.
Working from home is a complex formula with many variables, from ‘should I get out of my pyjamas for work?’ to ‘Is it wrong to mute my kids with masking tape on their mouths?’ But if we balance the equation of expectations vs output, it IS possible to continue with minimal interruption to workflow. Moving towards that glimmer of light at the end of the viral infested tunnel this could be the start of a whole new way to look at how we operate.
Encourage employees to borrow stationary supplies or other useful items that may be hard to come by in strict lockdowns, such as computer cables or power boards. Create an honesty system where employees log their supplies on a shared document.
Before your office goes into shutdown, ensure your new-to-working-from-home employees are all on the same page, literally! Set up systems of communication using specific tools and procedures. Make your files accessible and easy to navigate but give your employees a chance to familiarize themselves with using new software. Asana and Trello are great project management tools that may help managers assign tasks and track progress where it was previously done in meetings.
What are your expectations of start/finish time? How do your employees let you (or the team) know when they are/ are not available – long lunch anyone? What is appropriate or acceptable attire for video meetings? This is a great opportunity to restate project objectives and expected outcomes.
Yes, I can hear the collective groan! Audio-only meetings may seem the easier option for those shyer employees but being ‘present’ on video is more necessary than you may realise. It encourages employees to really ‘show-up’. It’s a means of staying connected, avoiding feelings of isolation and allows for the all-important body language cues to be visible. Plus, you can create cool brady-bunch style team photos! For those who haven’t video conferenced before, it’s helpful to set up the etiquette at the beginning of the meeting.
At the moment we are self-isolating and social distancing according to best health practices. This means that gatherings of less than 100 in indoor places can still occur. If there are physical files and equipment that needs to be accessed, set up a roster to allow a certain number of people to temporarily visit the office.
Find out about the legalities, insurances, costs and payment of various employee benefits. Be proactive in discovering and supplying information around leases, sick pay, long service leave and leave without pay. Also be open to addressing any concerns employees have in a systematic way. If employees are aware of when they will receive information they are more likely to remain calm and productive.
Have your staff utilize the time for professional development. Offer online courses that will benefit their skill set now and in the future.
Ok, well at least a work-inducing workspace. Start with somewhere that is out of direct sight of Netflix! It doesn’t have to be huge but something that mimics your work environment or at least enables good work practices. Think clutter free, organised with folders/ boxes that you already have at home and all the stationary supplies you will need within reach. If your space is limited, get creative – a desk in the garage, corner of a veranda or even a closet can make a great temporary home office. This allows you to separate your work time and your personal life. Without it you may find you never ‘escape’ work.
Despite the enticing stereotype of working from the couch in your pyjamas, you will quickly learn that your couch has a special energy sucking/ productive work sapping quality. Not to mention the sore back, crumpled paper and the disappearing pen having a less than beneficial sheen to it. Shower and dress as though you were heading to the office. Prepare yours (and the kids) lunches before you get stuck into work and take your regular lunch break. Here is your chance to set your work hours. If you’re a weirdo like me who finds that you’re more productive from 5am to 8am then let your company know and clock on at this time, remembering of course to knock off earlier too.
This goes beyond a simple to-do list. Working in a communal workspace is often more structured and prompted than you realise. If working from home is completely new to you, you may find that distractions at home are a little more abundant or the whole ‘alone’ vibe is not as conducive to your productivity. If you’re lucky, it may be the opposite and you can get through a whole lot more work in absence of the watercooler chats. Either way, set out your new routine as the action steps you need to keep your workflow moving in the right direction, at least for the first few days. Make sure you build in break times. These may happen a lot more naturally in your regular work environment. Without them you will often feel more drained at the end of a work-from-home day than your normal day.
Taking the glass is half full approach will always set you up for a more successful experience. Learning new systems and following different procedures can give you a set of skills that change your career options. Be patient with yourself and your colleagues. Not everyone learns at the same rate and there are always those who are resistant to change. You will quickly see where your strengths lie and where you need to build a little more resilience.
If you would normally spend part of your day ‘chatting’ to colleagues, there’s nothing stopping you doing this. Give them a call.
Working from home has just as many benefits and pitfalls as working from an office. You can make the most of your time or you can complain about it. The choice is yours and the impact of that choice is also on you. Either way, good luck!
If you want any further tips about working from home or need some health, fitness and wellness content writing for your business then call me anytime…I’m *probably* not in my pajamas on the couch or lazing with the laptop by the pool, I’m sitting at my desk working from home!
For now, here are some hints related to staying healthy (or at least away from the pantry) during times of working at home:
Have you got any practical work from home tips you can share? Let me know and I’ll happily update the article!
Tags: health writer, productivity, work from home