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Working from home? Whether it's a blessing or a curse, here are some tips to keep you productive

For some people, the chance to work from home is the greatest gift that you can give: autonomy, self-sufficiency and the chance to focus….but for others, solitude can be a daunting prospect, full of questions. Here are some hints and tips to help you make the most of working from home.

Should I bother getting dressed?

Some say that you should dress to work from home as you would dress in the office. We say wear whatever you feel comfortable in! As long as it’s decent in case someone calls you for a video call, the more comfortable you, are the happier you will be.

Take a break from the old routine?

Try to keep the same routine that you would in the office – start work at the same time (although this may mean longer in bed, as you won’t have the commute – Hurrah!), and make sure that you finish at your usual time.

Solitude: bliss or hell?

If you usually have a chat and a cuppa with your colleagues for ten minutes before you start work, try to replicate this, and call one of your colleagues for a chat. Lots of people will miss the social contact, so try to keep it where you can.

Get ready for 4million emails?

Make full use of technology – we sometimes forget about it and default to communicating by email, but picking up the phone and talking to each other can have much more impact.

Camera shy?

Voice to voice is a good way of keeping in touch, but often using FaceTime, WhatsApp video, Skype or video calling can be even better. People groan when we suggest this during workshops, they worry what they look like etc, but it’s a really helpful substitute for face to face. You can see people’s expressions, get a better idea of what they’re thinking, pick up on visual clues and have a stronger connection.

Go with the flow?

Be clear about what you want to achieve for the day. You need to be focused and clear on what you’ll be working on. Steven Covey says “today’s not finished until you plan for tomorrow”, so take this advice and spend a few minutes planning for the next day before you finish.

It’ll be done when it’s done.

When you have established the important things that you need to focus on each day, plan in a set time for each activity to take, or they can have a tendency to roll on and on and on…… Also build in some time for unexpected interruptions – they always seem to happen, so we should expect them and plan for them!

I can’t take a break!! People will think I’m dodging work!

Make sure you take breaks. It’s easy to sit at your desk for hours and keep going, but we’re more productive if we take a stroll, make a cuppa or walk away for a bit. Make sure you take regular breaks, even if just for 5 minutes, and come back fresh and ready to go again. Productivity drops if we don’t take breaks, so it’s a false economy to keep working.

You’re not my type…..

Think about the people in your teams and their personalities. For example, Introvert types may be happier working from home, thinking things through and having little interaction for a few days. Extrovert types may struggle with this, they typically love talking things through, chatting about problems and having social contact. They may struggle a bit if they aren’t having much social contact for a long period of time. I know I struggle to do more than 2 days without coming into contact with anyone else for work - I end up climbing the walls and am then very chatty to my husband when he walks in the door! Find someone else who functions well talking things through and arrange to speak to them at a mutually good time, so you have some company and someone to bounce ideas off.

Are you ignoring me?

Decide with your manager how often you want to catch up with them – do you want a call every day or will this feel like micro-management? Having this chat at the beginning is really important, or you could feel un-trusted (if you’re called too much) or ignored (if you’re not called enough). Be open and transparent about it and let you manager know what you need.

I’m not sure you trust me….let me get on with it!

Trust is usually the key to making remote working work well – usually these things are set up with a bit more conversation and room for employee and manager to plan. These are extraordinary times but trust still needs to be there. Talking about what you are working on and having clear guidelines about your priorities and what you should be working on will make sure you focus on the right things and can update people around what it is you’re doing. Focus on goals and outputs and not inputs, don’t worry about how stuff is getting done, just that it is being done.

Keeping in touch?

Create a communications strategy for your team – talk about how often you want to catch up, how etc and make sure you understand what each person needs to remain engaged and motivated.

I’m the multi-tasking master

Avoid multi-tasking – if you are on a video conference, be on the conference not checking your emails. If you are chatting to your team, be focused on this not what the cat in the garden is getting up to. People will sense you’re not listening and paying attention and trust and friendships will start to erode. This is a key time for focusing on each other, looking out for each other and checking we are all OK.

It’s a tricky and worrying time at the moment, you may have been told to work from home, or you make have requested to do so, but whatever the reason….Keep communicating, keep routine, build trust and focus.


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