It’s amazing how quickly something seemingly alien can become the norm. When the UK government announced a lockdown on 23rd March, many of us went into a spin about our impending loss of ‘liberty’ (I confess, myself included).
How would we cope without the daily commute, the on-the-go barista coffees and evening rush to the gym? What would we do without the routines and rituals that make our lives what they are? And for those who had never experienced remote working on such a scale before, how would we adapt to the plethora of tools, technologies and platforms we’re expected to juggle to connect with our leaders, colleagues and teams?
For many COVID-19 has triggered a fight-or-flight stress response. Confronted with an unknown, unforeseen threat has triggered radical decisions fuelled by the intensity of the situation.
Beyond the crisis I believe many people will reconsider the way they work and question what’s right for them long-term. So will you stay and fight, adapting to the new normal, or does the thought of it make you want to run for the hills?
Before you make a snap decision, consider this; working remotely is in itself a skill. If you thought you could simply lift-and-shift your job to remote working, think again.
As someone who has worked from home for over 20 years, I believe you have to ‘learn’ to work remotely effectively, and to do it well, you have to discover what works for you – often, the hard way. If you are a leader then I believe it is even more important that you accept that you need to ‘re-learn’ how to engage and lead in a virtual world.
On the flip side, there will be people who simply don’t feel the sense of liberation presented by remote working, and miss the structure of a workplace, face-face human contact and the clear separation of work and home lives. I believe these are the people who will fight the trend towards long-term home working and may even opt to change direction completely, attracted by some of the professions that have been lauded throughout the crisis.
My personal estimate is that around 20% of people won’t return to their previous roles (no scientific evidence – just a perception). As a result, we will see a surge in recruitment of ‘key workers’ from other sectors, more mobility across industries, and a greater mix of diversity, skills and talent where they are much needed.
The truth is that we have all learned a lot about ourselves from the COVID-19 experience. Whether we flee or fight the trend towards home working, it’s likely that we will know instinctively by now if it is for us or not.
Businesses, too, are already reconsidering how they operate. COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst – where previously there was some suspicion of home working, concern about employee productivity and insistence on ‘line of sight’ to employees, remote working has actually been a revelation. In recent research* around 60% of employees said they are working more than their usual working week and are more productive than ‘normal’. Businesses can’t ignore the savings they stand to make on property costs if they embrace remote working on a long-term basis, as well as the many softer benefits.
There are endless traps in remote working life, which (if you are new to it) you may already have fallen into. Here are my nineteen top tips for working remotely (it’s no coincidence that there are 19):
- Keep some sort of morning routine before you sit at your desk. If you don’t before you know it you will be working in your pyjamas at 11.30am! Get up in time to take a shower and brush your teeth.
- If you don’t get into the office at 7am, don’t head to the laptop at 7am. Keep a semblance of your ‘usual’ logging on time. If you are not an early bird, you’ll find it messes with your body’s natural rhythms if you try to work before you are ready.
- Make sure you have had something to drink and eat (at least a drink) before you start working. Otherwise your energy levels will slump by 10am.
- Make sure you have a defined space for work and if it’s not a specific room, make sure you can clear it away at the end of each day so you’re not encroaching on your living spaces and blurring home/work boundaries.
- If you have diary control, block out key slots in the week to plan, regroup, review and remind yourself what you still need to do.
- There’s a plethora of software to facilitate remote working and team collaboration – find the ones that work best for you as in practice you may not need them to all be ‘always on’ and it can become overwhelming if you have multiple channels sending you notifications all day.
- At the end of the day, try to take 5 minutes to summarise where you got up to with key tasks, so you know what you achieved and feel a sense of satisfaction.
- Make a short list of priorities for the next day so you can check it before you start the day and get focused.
Food and drink
- Easy to say, I know, but try not to eat your meals at the laptop. Even if it’s five minutes, eat elsewhere.
- Clear your coffee/tea/water/food equipment away as you go along. If you let it accumulate through the day it will annoy you!
- If you have a tendency to visit the fridge frequently (even the most steely-willed do!) then buy and prepare a stash of snacks and put them in the fridge ready – just as you would pack a lunch box or snack for the office.
Wellbeing – mental and physical
- Take breaks – if you are the sort of person who gets engrossed in a task, put a post-it note on your screen or set an alarm on your phone every hour to remind you to move!
- If the weather is good and you have gaps in your diary and it works for you, use an hour in the day to grab some free time and go outdoors, then work for an extra hour later if it fits.
- Take the occasional conference call on your mobile phone/device so that you can walk and talk or listen in to calls in the outdoors rather than being glued to your desk.
- If you manage people, check in with them frequently and for shorter times to maintain energy levels and motivation (both ways).
- If you are someone who likes to use social media, try to find slots in the day when you can check your feeds – maybe once every few hours, or during breaks.
- Make lists on paper/offline – using ‘right brain’ thinking is useful for planning and for creative tasks, and keeping a record helps with the beginning/end day productivity tasks (covered under the ‘productivity/satisfaction’ section).
- If you hear from friends and family during the daytime, give them times when it is appropriate to contact you – for example at lunch time, rather than feeling your work and personal life blur into one another.
- Know when it’s time to stop – when you have summarised your day, prepared for the day ahead, tidied your workspace, do something different – whatever that may be – basically, break the cycle and don’t go back.
Remember, we’re only human. Give yourself time to ‘learn’ to work from home. It is a skill, it’s not a straight transition from one to the other – you’ll get there, and you will work out what’s best for you.
And finally, whether you have decided working remotely is for you long-term or not, it’s definitely here to stay. I have been very fortunate to work for an organisation that promotes flexible working and equips its people with the tools, policies and flexibility to work in a way that suits them individually. Fujitsu is a leader in workplace and workforce solutions (according to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant) and I am proud to work for a company that practises what it preaches when it comes to agile and flexible working.
If you would like to find out more about Fujitsu’s workplace solutions, perfectly suited to thriving in the COVID-19 world, visit our website.
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