It is almost 12 months now since Covid-19 hit us and disrupted every aspect of our lives. We have since broadened our everyday vocabulary to include such terms as “socially distancing”, “lockdown” and “remote working”. This latter term (in the sense of home working) has become so pervasive that JFK might speak for many of us if he now said “Ich bin ein Fernarbeiter.“
Prior to our first lockdown I was a hybrid worker. I spent my time working remotely, using a worker space at the Digital Greenhouse and also working at clients‘ offices. In the future, I anticipate reverting back to this hybrid approach once we move out of lockdown. From conversations with colleagues both here and overseas it is likely that many businesses intend to adopt this blended approach of combining office and remote working in their future operations.
We in Guernsey though are fortunate that we have been out of lockdown for most of 2020 so we haven’t had that enforced period of lockdown that the UK, for example, has had. Nevertheless, our shorter experience of remote working doesn’t diminish our thoughts on it. Remote working is a bit like marmite. One either loves it or hates it.
So, if this to become part of modern working life, how should you get the best from the experience? In no particular order, I am sharing my own thoughts and a collection of observations from others as to how to make remote working work.
- Create some discipline and establish boundaries – create a routine that works for you and keep to it wherever possible. In the past it was easy to bring work home, but when the home is the office it becomes even more important to clearly define when you are working and when you are not.If you let work pervade every minute of the day it simply becomes unsustainable and not a healthy balance.
- Introduce a daily commute – instead of simply walking from the kitchen to the home-desk, try including a walk around the block so it gets you out of the house, includes some exercise and provides a psychological break to partition your day. You can repeat this at the end of the day as well.
- Take exercise breaks – even during the day build in opportunities to get away from the desk. If you have a diary with several zoom meetings in the day, take a break and fit in a short brisk walk to get some fresh air and exercise.You would have to walk to the next meeting usually so why not build this into your remote day as well.
- Don’t sit down for too long – in the same vein, avoid spending the whole day just sitting at the desk working on the tablet or pc in front of you. Perhaps try alternating meetings between sitting down and standing up. This will help to avoid pains developing in your back and shoulders. Variety is important.
- Invest in the home office environment – this is so important. Make sure that you have the office kit that makes working a pleasurable experience. Of course having a decent chair, desk, lighting is essential to make remote working enjoyable, but also fill the space with whatever will make your home office a pleasant space to be.Your environment will determine how productive, efficient and creative you will be. Use whatever it takes for you to create an inspirational working environment.
- Invest in digital equipment – you will need decent IT to support you. Is the screen large enough for you? Do you need headphones and a microphone for your online meetings? Do you have the right bandwidth that meets your needs. Would you be better served plugging in with a cable instead of relying on wifi? You will make your work less stressful if the digital technology works for you rather than holding you back.
- Focus on outcomes – particularly with team members. It doesn’t really matter when they are working so long as the desired outcomes are being delivered. I have heard of businesses monitoring when pcs are being used to check up on staff and perhaps this is an urban myth. We are all different.We have different working styles, preferences and home arrangements. So imposing a single solution is unlikely to be practical or sensible. What matters is what gets delivered on time not the time put in and when that work is done.
- Allow flexibility – and I mean this in two senses. Firstly things happen at home that you can’t plan for. This is particularly the case if you have young children at home. So you need to create some flexibility within the guidelines of your working schedule. Secondly some of us are “night owls” and some of us are “morning larks”. This in fact isn’t a choice, but is hard coded into our DNA. In the pre-covid world the night owls who were last in to the office were frowned upon and judged as lazy and not hardworking enough. In the hybrid world of the future if the night owls perform better in the evenings then let them work at the time of day that suits them.
- Communicate often and stay connected – time spent in investing in relationships will pay dividends. Work has certainly become something we do as opposed to somewhere we go, but we are social creatures. We will all respond differently as we have different needs and preferences so find out what works for your team members and personalize the experience for them.
- Be kind to yourself – remember you are human and you don’t have to be perfect. So make sure that you take time out to look after yourself. Ask yourself, what is it that you need at this moment? Schedule time for yourself as well. Be that at a personal or a professional level. We are human “beings”, not human “doings” – take time out to be.
These are just some observations after almost 12 months of remote and hybrid working. These 10 suggestions create a palette for you to create a picture that is unique for you. There is no right or wrong answer. We are all different. We have different needs and different preferences. Its time to celebrate that diversity and the future of work is going to get better.