In attempts to keep to the government’s advice, many companies are turning towards remote working in order to delay the spreading of COVID-19 whilst allowing employees to keep up to date with their tasks.
How many times have you said to yourself ‘gosh, I’d love to work from home’? You fantasise about working from your bed – still in your pyjamas perhaps – and swapping your commute for a longer lie in. But is remote working all it’s cracked up to be?
Well, it can be difficult to focus as you’re surrounded by more distractions without a manager watching your every move. Plus, many remote workers will often tell you about how much they miss the social interaction within an office environment. It can become easy to feel down and isolated when there’s no one around to socialise with.
The pros and cons of remote working
– No commute. You can literally wake up and get straight to work- eliminating the amount of time you waste travelling into work and the costs associated with that.
– Costs. For the employer costs will be saved on renting office space, electricity, air-conditioning, heating and equipment.
– Flexibility. Remote working means that employees can set their own hours and breaks, whenever they need to, provided all the required work is completed. In general, staff are happier in being more able to control their work-life balance.
– Lack of face-to-face contact. Those who enjoy social interaction with their co-workers will lose this aspect. No coffee machine chats and interactive conversation time when walking down the corridor.
– Long hours. We can be contactable 24 hours per day and if we don’t have the self-discipline NOT to look at our emails every minute, then we are continually on ‘duty’. And even if you do have this discipline, it could be that your boss requires to contact you at any hour, so there can be a challenge here.
– Distractions. You may have to deal with friends who drop in for a chat, house repairs, children or domestic items that need to be attended to, so one has to be very disciplined.
Now that you know the downside to working from home, let’s discuss ways that we can minimise this and guarantee the best results…
Create a workspace
Many people’s first thought when they start working from home is that they can get all of their work done from the comfort of their bed. I would never encourage people to work from the same place they sleep, but even working within your bedroom may be a bad idea. But if that is the only space you have, then put a screen behind you so that it encloses your office area and it also looks better if you are carrying out a virtual conference call.
You need a dedicated space to work so that you know when you’re there, you’re there to work, and when you leave, you’re off the clock. Don’t let the places where you spend your downtime crossover with where you complete your work. Creating strict boundaries will help your brain to get into ‘work-mode’ and function more effectively.
Make sure you can be free from distractions and that you can make yourself comfortable. Think of this as a permanent situation. Set out a proper procedure that you think you could stick to if you were to work from home long-term.
Find someone in the same boat as you
Although you might find yourself with extra time on hand now that you’re no longer surrounded by chatty co-workers, the psychological effects of remote working are often overlooked. Working from home for long periods of time cuts you off from social interaction which is essential for our mental health and wellbeing.
Humans are very social creatures and it’s something we are used to including in our every day lives. For all of this to suddenly go away can force us into feelings of loneliness, anxiety and/or sadness and it is at times like these when you may like to speak to someone outside of your friends and family.
Look to fill this social gap with a buddy / colleague who you know you can get in touch with whenever you need a chat. Or maybe you have other friends who are also working from home due to COVID-19. Hop on a video call when you fancy seeing a friendly face. Even texting can be beneficial.
You should aim to have an even more structured daily routine than when you head out to work in an office. Although many of us believe that we don’t like structure and routine, a lot of us fall apart without it. It can become difficult to get the simplest of tasks done when you think you have all the time in the world.
And if you think about it, usually most of our day is influenced by other people. You go for lunch when you’re told to. You might go to the gym because you go with a friend. You have dinner when the rest of your family eat. Suddenly, you are the one in control of your own time, so you need to be strict and set deadlines.
It’s important to set out the times that you will actively be working. The upside is that you can do this in the time of day you know you’re most productive so this might be early morning or maybe late in the evening. Plan your breaks in advance and plan how you will spend your break time – whether you take your dog for a walk or you read the newspaper.
Communication is key
It can be tempting to rely on email whilst remote working. However, relying on email alone can increase feelings of isolation and loneliness due to the lack of actual contact whether that’s seeing someone’s face or hearing a voice.
Don’t be afraid to increase communication within your team using apps or video conferring. Screen-sharing is also effective at keeping everyone on the same page and working together. Even having a video call with a colleague whilst you eat your lunch can give you that same sense of belonging to a team and staying connected. Better communication whilst working from home helps to maintain relationships with colleagues and managers.
During this time away from the office, you might feel the need to speak with somebody who can allow you to talk through some of the struggles you’re currently facing. It is better to do this sooner rather than later so that steps can be taken to help you overcome your challenges. I encourage my readers to get in touch with me if you would like to have a chat or just need someone to listen to you.
With the increase in employees needing to work from home, it is vital that communication is maintained and that managers do everything they can to help support the wellbeing of their employees and help them navigate these unchartered waters.