Here at the Diversity Agenda, we’re lucky to have some team members who are experts at being productive remote workers. With most of the country set to work from home for at least the next month, we thought we’d share our expertise on how to make this huge transition slightly easier. Here are our top tips!
Flexibility is key.
With schools now closed, employers need to be conscious of the disruption this will cause to working parents who are forced to balance caring for their dependants and work. In addition, many schools are looking at remote teaching, so parents have the added responsibility of juggling their own work, whilst also making sure kids are focused and assisting when needed. Listen to your employees’ needs, and work out a tailored approach that’s manageable, given the unprecedented situation. Who knows, it may work so well, you adopt it full time!
Another example is employees might be sharing an office space with flatmates, so your regular 10am meeting on a Tuesday might not suit your employee whose flatmate has already requested use of the quiet office space during this time. The key is having some flexibility to work out new routines and see what works for you and your staff.
While it’s important to keep each individual team member’s situation in mind, setting expectations regarding how work will be conducted and organised during this period is a useful strategy. Remote working means employees have greater flexibility in their work hours and dress code. If you want to enforce a ‘no PJ policy’ during a virtual team meeting, state it directly. Being upfront about expectations will help smooth the transition.
Create a good working environment.
If you don’t have a home office, do as much as you can to create a space exclusively for work. Not having a designated, well-equipped home office space when you begin working from home can cause a decrease in productivity. For example, instead of lying in bed with a laptop, try something more deliberate, such as turning your dining table into your temporary working space. Create boundaries within your home so that others living with you understand when your door is shut, you’re ‘at work’.
Just because you can lounge around in your pyjamas doesn’t mean you actually should. It can be really helpful to take a shower and get dressed. Treat it like a real job and establish a new sense of routine for your new situation. For some, you’ll find little things like wearing shoes instead of bare feet or socks helps distinguish that sense of work vs. relaxation.
Work in sprints.
When we work at the office, although it might feel like we work consistently, this usually isn’t the case. Throughout the period from morning to lunch, things like making your morning coffee, chatting in the staff kitchen, conversations with colleagues at your desk, can end up accounting for an hour of your morning. When remote working, you’ll find sitting at your home office set up for four straight hours at a time is painfully long. Our advice is to work in sprints. Sit down from 9am, work until 10.15am, then perhaps make a coffee. Resume working, then at 11.30am hang out the washing, and so on. This pattern of working in sprints will increase productivity and make the day to go quicker. Also, when making that morning coffee, or hanging your washing, don’t take your phone. Switch off for those 10–15 minutes – don’t check your emails. This will also help to increase your productivity when working resumes.
Establish structured daily check-ins.
Many successful remote managers establish a daily call with their remote employees. This could take the form of team video chat, or individual calls. The important aspect is that the calls are regular and predictable. During this time, employees know that they can ask any questions and express their concerns. It also gives employees an incentive to have work done by these check-in times so they can raise any queries regarding the work, and so they have something to report.
Provide encouragement and support.
Especially in this context of an abrupt shift to remote work, managers need to acknowledge stress, listen to employees’ anxieties and concerns, and empathize with their struggles. Asking questions such as “How is this situation working out for you so far?” can prompt important information that you might not otherwise hear. If an employee is having difficulty with the new arrangement, try and come up with solutions together to help ease the situation.
Get out in the world when you can.
Get up and move around in between your chunks of allocated work, at lunch, after work – whenever suits. Try and go for a walk outside when you can – while ensuring to keep that crucial two-metre distance from anyone you pass. All this will help you to be more productive, and also feel more balanced. For some, getting up earlier than necessary and doing something before work (such as a walk or some form of exercise) can help to distinguish work mornings from the slow waking weekend mornings.