With the ongoing, worldwide situation regarding coronavirus, many of us are currently re-adjusting to life based solely from our homes – including our work commitments.
However many of us may not be prepared for the sudden change of environment. Our daily routine is currently out-of-sync, but thankfully there are guides to help us adapt.
Click the link below for an audio guide read by Sam Christopherson on some tips, ticks, hints and suggestions on keeping your productivity up, as well as maintaining your health and well-being. The full text article follows below.
Working From Home
This information is intended to help those employees who are new to home working, and need to know the essential elements of working safely and efficiently at home in the short, medium or long-term.
Your company should have already briefed you about much of the below, but let’s bring it all together in one place just in case.
What will I need?
Work may have already provided you with the equipment, IT setup and guidelines for working from home, but here’s the essential elements of what you’ll need:
- A laptop or computer
- Any assistive technologies you use at work
- Stable and reliable internet access
- Secure remote access to the corporate network/intranet
- Access to corporate emails
- A work phone (if company policy)
For many companies, accessing the corporate email, intranet and file storage could be as simple as securely logging into one or more websites or cloud applications. Other organisations may require that you use a VPN (virtual private network) to connect to these systems – or indeed to the internet as a whole – to ensure that your connection is private and secure from attack. This is because IT cannot be sure that your home network is secure, or that you won’t decide to work using a public WiFi connection. If you need to use a VPN, your IT team should have instructed you how to set this up.
Designate a suitable space to work
As much as you might want to wake up and work directly from the comfort of your own bed, in the long term it’s not going to aid in your productivity.
This doesn’t mean you need to go and create an exact office space in your house with office furniture, office chairs, office desks and desk chairs; just have an area that can be used solely for working purposes so you can differentiate when you are in the ‘working zone’.
One important aspect is ensuring that your setup is safe for you to work at for longish periods. We’ll discuss breaks shortly, but the main priority is to ensure that the place where you’ll be spending many hours working on your computer each day is fundamentally safe from an ergonomic standpoint.
Let’s look at some top tips for a safe working setup.
Don’t work on a surface that’s too low or too high
You should not be hunched over when typing – so a coffee table is out for working for any length of time. Similarly you shouldn’t be typing under your chin so forget a breakfast bar with a standard chair.
A kitchen or dining table is slightly higher than a working desk, so you may want to add a cushion to your seat. If you do, it’s really important that your feet are still on the floor so as not to put pressure on the backs of your knees. You can avoid this by putting something like a thin box or thick book on the floor.
Top tip: Many people use a standing desk to avoid sitting all day whilst working. Recreate this at home by taking an ironing board and setting it at a comfortable height to type whilst standing up. To avoid wobble and a possible laptop catastrophe, put it against a wall to make it more stable. This should not be your permanent workstation, but for variety it’s an excellent option.
Don’t have a permanent twist in your neck or body
It’s really important not to work with a constant twist in your neck. If you often need to refer to a print document or a second screen that is over to one side, you may want to ask work for a document stand that you can easily clamp to the edge of your desk or table to hold the item behind your laptop screen or, if you have a computer with a monitor, position the two centrally side-by-side.
Change it up
Constant, regular changes to your working position is a good thing. If you want to work standing at your kitchen work surface for a time then go for it. If you want to spend the morning on the sofa with the laptop on your knee then go ahead (although this shouldn’t be your permanent workspace – it’s not great for your arms and nowhere near as comfortable as you might at first think).
Consider a laptop-raiser
If a laptop is your permanent computer when you’re at work, then you should be using a laptop-raiser (a stand that brings the screen of the laptop up to the right height – with the top of it somewhere near your eye-level) and a separate keyboard and mouse. Of course, this does not apply if you use a laptop in clam-shell mode (permanently closed) with a separate keyboard, mouse and monitor.
If you haven’t got access to a laptop raiser then a box or stack of books would do as well.
If it looks like you’ll be working from home with your laptop for long periods, you may want to ask work for a laptop raiser plus separate keyboard and mouse to recreate this optimal working position.
Take regular breaks
It’s important to take breaks from your work to maintain productivity and prevent injury. How many times do you sit down to get work done and find yourself “working” and yet getting little completed?
That’s not necessarily a tip specific to remote workers, but at home you don’t have the cues for lunch breaks or time away from your desk that rejuvenate you ready for the next challenge, so you need to schedule that time in. Taking regular breaks will help you remain focused and remove any kinks that are building up due to, what might be, a less than perfect ergonomic working setup.
Set Yourself Working Hours
One of the hardest aspects of working remotely is concentrating on the task at hand. There are many distractions that do not exist at work and it’s easy to become distracted by what’s happening on Facebook, the TV (that you decided to turn on briefly in a coffee break), visitors popping over or even the mound of laundry that needs doing. This can mean you find yourself working sporadically throughout the days, evenings or even weekends.
If it helps, there are apps you can use to block out distractions such as Social Media sites so you can really focus on work – although IT may need to give permissions for such apps to be installed.
One benefit of working from home is that you can break off if something important does actually arise, but keeping regular hours as if you were at work is key. So set yourself some rigid working hours where you shut everything off and try to remain focused on the task at hand. Ask family and friends not to call you during those hours and put off those household errands as if you were actually at work.
By the way, those rigid hours don’t need to be 9-5 so long as this is OK with your employer.
You know better than anyone when you do your best thinking and working so take advantage of it. Most employers won’t mind what hours you keep so long as you are getting the work completed on time and to a quality standard – as well as still attending all calls and online meetings, of course.
That’s the beauty of being flexible; you should be able to work the hours that suit you when you know you are most productive.
Use voice and video as well as text
When you are working remotely, what you are required to do can be lost in text translation and things may not be as clear as if you were discussing a project in person.
It is beneficial if you can supplement email or text communication with frequent face-to-face and voice interactions depending on what type of discussion you are having.
Video conferencing and talking on the phone helps convey tone of voice and body language that are fundamental to communication being effective and are better to use for more serious, in depth work challenges.
Be careful, though, to be properly dressed for a video call. Many an employee has been caught out when, on joining an online meeting, the video from their laptop camera was on by default and it caught them in their pyjamas.
Having problems with home working?
If you’re feeling uncomfortable, having difficulties staying focused or experiencing any other issues associate with working from home, it’s really important to let work know. It might be that you’re struggling with some aspects of your role without having colleagues at hand, or an issue with the physical or technical setup of your equipment.
One way to let work know (and explore more helpful tips) is to update your ClearTalents profile. This will help you ensure that your workspace is set up correctly, as well as guiding work to discuss and effectively address the issues you’re experiencing.
Here is an excellent guide to home working, published by ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service):
Editor, producer and social media whizz kid for Double Tap Online