Over the past 10 years remote working has become more and more accessible, both from an employer perspective and technology aspect. Many companies offer working from home as both an incentive to employees and also to improve other factors including employee retention and for financial benefit. Technology has played a major part in making a business portable. All you need is a phone, laptop or tablet coupled with a Wifi of 3G connection and your office awaits. However, what was once a choice has since become a necessity following the worldwide pandemic of Coronavirus. Coronavirus has caused a devastating, long lasting effect on the World. Not only have we lost thousands of lives and seen families destroyed but we have also seen our economy suffer as a result of lockdown and our efforts to contain the virus.
Coronavirus containment measures have meant that many companies closed overnight, shops, restaurants, offices and many businesses closed their doors, uncertain of their futures. Such monumental changes have meant many businesses have had to rethink their strategies in order to survive. For many, this has meant working from home. The general consensus is that, when done well, it works and businesses do benefit. We will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of working from home and how to increase productivity. For those who may find themselves at home, it is vital to find the best ways to maximise productivity, maintain good physical and mental health and avoid spending all day in your pyjamas! Working from home can be made easier by distinguishing between work and home mode. We can all imagine lying in bed on our laptops however in reality this is counterproductive! Set your working week and your hours and agree them with your employer so you know what is expected of you and there you have your ‘new norm’.
Advantages of working from home:
Organise your work space:
Working from home can be a challenge for those who don’t have a dedicated office space. Having a desk set up that works for you is key. Try to create a small area at home that is a a dedicated space for you to work. This will improve your mindset and help create a clear separation between your work and home life. Creating boundaries will make it easier for you to switch off from work and ‘leave the office’ at the end of the day. Now you have yourself mentally and physically prepared you must adapt your routine. Only you know how you work best. For example, if you’re used to working with background noise, it may be beneficial to put on the radio for you to listen to while you work. It is important to stick to your usual productivity times.
Create your new routine:
You may discover during lockdown you have been starting work earlier so you can finish earlier in the evening. Alternatively, you may find once you are in the work zone you are working later into the evening. Remote working can be a great way to maximise your own personal productivity without the constraints of office hours. If however you are struggling to focus, it may be time to try a new work technique. Though you may not normally notice it, there are many distractions in a busy office that allow you some breathing space, some time to have a quick chat or pop to the kitchen. When working from home, it is important to factor similar breaks into your day. If you can, a midday change of scenery and stretch of the legs can do wonders for your afternoon energy and productivity. Another tip would be to avoid checking emails after your set working hours and learn to switch off and enjoy your home life.
Communication is key:
Working from home so far is sounding very appealing, however you must remember you are working alone. Communication is the key to any professional role and becomes more apparent when remote working. You’ll need to arrange and schedule meetings, check ins and updates so everyone is aware what is going on and how everyone is coping. Whether these are daily or weekly communications, they are critical for updating your progress and discussing any projects with your team. Video conferencing is ideal for this and can help keep up team moral. It may seem all work and no play and so it is important to maintain strong working relationships with your colleagues and keep up those non work related chats. Virtual team coffee meetings can be a great way to begin the working week and keep everyone in the loop.
Disadvantages of working from home:
We have discussed some of the benefits of working from home however as with everything, there will be some disadvantages which we will discuss.
As we have mentioned working from home is very different to your normal office environment. If you need to quickly run something past a colleague or pop to the printer, such tasks at home just aren’t possible. Some people find this lonely and the silence is more distracting than encouraging. The lack of immediate and easy communication can be problematic and stressful.
Sticking to your new routine can also require a lot of willpower. Some may give into temptation and spend their days watching Netflix, however; this will reflect in your performance and ultimately could cost your job. Your employer will trust in you carrying out your duties at home and you must demonstrate a level of respect and trust to fulfil your job role even in such challenging circumstances.
Paying attention is crucial! On a normal day in the office you would be monitoring your emails and making calls, you may now find yourself doing all of this, but on your mobile! It can be easy to miss a call or an email while you’re putting the washing on or making a coffee but scheduling your day can help make sure you are on top of your game and on the ball. Your productivity can be hampered while working from home. Your energy levels can vary and home life factors prove too distracting. Following our previous steps helps to establish your working day and can encourage your mental stimulation and make for a calm, relaxing evening once your work is completed.
Lack of equipment:
Many remote workers have found a lack of office equipment also affected their productivity. If your particular field involves the use of specialised equipment it may be difficult to replicate this environment at home. Even with today’s competitive prices, electronic equipment such as laptops can set you back financially. Your company may provide such equipment but should definately be something to consider. Each company will have their own protected documents and sensitive company information which only limited employees have access to. It is important these paperless documents can be accessed by those working from home in a secure and confidential manner. It would be necessary to investigate ways of accessing documents safely over the internet, such as Virtual Private Networks (VPN) or secure cloud access.
Is remote working our ‘new norm’?
To conclude, there are both advantages and disadvantages of “working from home”. There are mental health and financial benefits that are difficult to ignore and not to mention the savings you could make in childcare costs. However, there are also disadvantages to the concept that aren’t easily overlooked either. Finding the correct balance seems pivotal here, knowing when to turn off and equally when to get down to business! Coronavirus has thrown many of us into working from home through necessity rather than choice but moving forward this may just be our ‘new norm’ as we path our way through this pandemic. For some businesses, the benefits of employees working from may mean they no longer require a physical office space. Alternatively for other businesses, the practicalities of home based working just doesn’t work. We hope all businesses find an avenue which works for them and guides them through this difficult period and into the future.