Never has the wise Persian adage ‘this too shall pass’ been more poignant. Right now we’re living in what feels like a parallel universe. Off the back of Brexit sending the country bonkers, we’re now trying to work out how best to combat the coronavirus. Although many personal opinions are, as with everything, being constantly skewed by social media and a never-ending loop of news (switch off if you can, peeps, it’s not healthy or helpful), one thing we can rely on is good old science and science is suggesting that we self-isolate, or at the very least distance ourselves socially from one another, which means many of us are going to be working from home throughout the upcoming months.
For lots of people, the thought of remote working sends shivers down their spine – it’s a glib vision of routines going to pot, loneliness, crap lunches and not knowing who to turn to when the milk’s run out. Worry ye not though unbelievers, thanks to the rapid development of modern tech, working environments are shifting in terms of structure and accelerating with regard to productivity faster than ever before.
Today’s office is a far more inclusive model with a far larger talent pool. One that recognises parents that need to work around the school run; one that recognises that disability doesn’t equal inability; and one that recognises that a ‘team’ can be comprised of people that live as close to each other as the same town, or as far from one another as the other side of the world. As of 2019, statistics show that the number of companies with remote workforces is on an upward surge with 16 per cent now being fully remote and a considerable 66 per cent allowing remote work to employees that request it.
Rising popularity aside, the notion of remote working is still very much in its infancy, so businesses across the globe – like us, who are fully remote and so don’t get to physically see each other very often – are still working out how to create and maintain a positive, healthy and productive work culture. No two businesses are the same, so there’s no one-size-fits-all plan you can follow to make sure everything’s ticking along with a spring in its step, especially during these unforeseen circumstances, but we’ve got some ideas about how to get prepped for working from home and a checklist of essential dos and don’ts once you’ve started to make the transition as smooth as possible however temporary it may be.
Create a dedicated work space
First thing’s first, get your home office organised. If you have the luxury of a spare room to set up in, great, but if not don’t despair, you just need to find a corner of your home that can accommodate the basics – a desk and monitor stand, a supportive chair and a good lamp. Of course, a pen pot and a scented candle would add the finishing touches, but go with what works for you and create a clean, productive space. Resist the urge to sit on the sofa, or work from your bed – it won’t work and your posture won’t thank you either.
At home, you’re your own handyperson, so remember: safety first. Make sure you’re not overloading plug points and that your home computer and any other electricals are working as they should be. Once you’re set up, sit back in your chair and check for any potential trip or fire hazards – you’d be surprised how dangerous a rogue charger cable can be when you’re not used to getting up and stepping over it – and always turn off chargers etc. at their power point if you’re popping out.
Keep work, recreation and sleep separate
The lure of the sofa is strong when working from home – especially if remote working is a novelty – but use all of your power to resist sinking into it because the worst thing you can do is confuse your creative work space with your chill-out zone as you’ll never fully switch on or off from work. Stay away from your bed at all costs; you’ll open your laptop, log in to any necessary programmes and promptly doze off, which doesn’t exactly scream productivity.
Ambience is everything
Without the background chit chat and comradery that comes with office working, people can feel a bit too isolated working in complete silence, so if you need the debate of Radio 2 nattering in the background, stick it on, or if you have a Spotify playlist that fires you up to get stuff done, go with that – replicate the office environment that you’re used to working in, but don’t be tempted to turn the TV on – you’re at home to work, not to watch Loose Women.
Stick to your routine
As tempting as it may be to lounge about in bed until 10am, you’ll soon start to feel sluggish and demotivated so do your mojo a favour and stick to your weekday drill – get up at the usual time, have a shower and get ready for the day ahead before sitting down to work at the time you would usually do so. Don’t forget at least one daily dose of fresh air and exercise too; one of the very best things about remote working is the time you save where you’d normally be travelling. Use this time to get your home workout nailed, or stroll around the park.
Make time for meals and eat good food
To be fair this should speak to a lot of office workers, who all too often sit slouched at their desk rushing a sandwich while remaining glued to a screen. Use working from home to your benefit: make a batch of overnight oats to have for weekday breakfasts, and take a full hour for lunch that you spend away from your desk – prep some grains, salads and meat/fish the evening before, so you can take a break from grab-and-go bread-heavy lunches and nourish yourself in the process.
Stick to a to-do list
Working from home means you can no longer lean back on your chair and ask Susan to remind you what that thing was you were supposed to prioritise today, so the all-hallowed to-do list is now your best friend. Plan your day according to what needs to get done first and not what you’d rather do first, set daily goals and commit to completing at least three each day, and, at the end of each day take stock on what you’ve achieved; you’ll wake up motivated and knowing exactly what tasks need to be tackled first.
Show visitors the door
Would your mum pop around to the office for a cuppa at 11am? Nope. Not unless she’s mental. So, working on the assumption that neither your mum nor your close friends and family are mad, make sure they know when is acceptable to phone for a chat or ring on your doorbell. Breaks are essential during the working day, but so are definite do-not-disturb periods. Oh, and on a similar note, if this shake up gives you a taste for working from home more often, make it clear to your neighbours that you are not in fact an Amazon warehouse here to accept all the parcels that they can’t; stick to taking in post for your neighbours either side if that’s the done thing between you and them.
Limit social media
Another one for designated break time, just because your colleagues can’t see you incessantly checking Instagram stories, or shopping on Facebook marketplace for the free weights you so suddenly need doesn’t mean you should be doing it. Especially during times of social uncertainty such as these, social media can be more of a hindrance than a help – one minute you’ll be merrily watching a time-lapse recipe for inspiration and the next you’ll have fallen down a wormhole of opinions and pointed fingers. Choose both your platform and the time you spent on it wisely.
Chat to your team about more than work
Communication is key to keep everyone updated about professional matters and should be upheld throughout the day whether that’s vis Google Hangouts, Skype or Zoom, but don’t forget that your colleagues are still there to chat about last night’s TV, or what everyone got up to at the weekend. You might not be in the same office anymore, but you’re still all working towards a shared goal, so if you need to a quick break to chat about what everyone’s having for lunch, take it.
Remember, you’re not Mrs. Hinch
Lastly, but by no means least, don’t do your head in with the minutiae of domesticity while you’re ‘at work’ – if you’d normally be out from 8.30am until 6pm, unloading the dishwasher, folding the washing or changing the bed can wait until the time that you’d normally do it at. Remember, you are not Mrs. Hinch, so don’t set about deep cleaning the carpet, or obsessively tidying three times a day. You didn’t do it before, so don’t start now.