Top tips from professionals already working from home – how to overcome self isolation
If you’re one of the thousands of people working from home for the first time due to the Coronavirus outbreak, you wouldn’t be alone if you’re finding the adjustment a little tough. It can be a challenge to remain focussed on the task at hand when you have limitless potential distractions all around you. Keeping your spirits up can also be hard with lack of social interaction.
However, for many other workers, this is just like any other week. Currently, more than 1.54 million people in the UK already work from home permanently.
Cartridge Save reached out to business leaders who know what it takes to make working from home successful. Here are some of the best tips to keeping your business productive, your team motivated and your mental health on track…
Set your team up for success
Ian Cowley, Managing Director from Cartridge Save says “Working from home on a mass scale may seem quite overwhelming to some businesses – especially if WFH days are not part of your current initiative. But with some smart thinking and investing in the right tools, you can make working from home a seamless operation. Here are our 5 top tips on working from home:
1: Set up file sharing tools: We use things like Dropbox and Office 365. The latter is brilliant for helping Accounts share large spreadsheets.
2: Use collaboration tools: Google Docs is great for helping your team work together in real time. Edits can be made on live documents, saving you from continually making draft copies, which could lead to error or something important being missed.
3: Introduce video chat to help reduce isolation: For a few years, my business partner and I worked remotely from one another but often had Google Hangouts running in the background. It meant we could chat as we worked on a project together, so it was like being in the same office space.
4: Invest in good quality office consumables: If you’re using a laptop, invest in a good quality keyboard and mouse as they will help maintain a good posture and prevent repetitive stress injuries.
5: Buy a printer: A printer is an essential part of any office set up, whether you’re at HQ or working remotely. I’d recommend a multifunctional printer with a scanner and a small footprint so it doesn’t take up too much space. You can get a great model for around £60 that won’t cost a fortune to run and that has Wi-Fi connectivity. Not all printers do and it’s unlikely you’ll want to plug your in your printer right next to your router.”
Never underestimate the power of trust
Juan Peri, Engineering Manager at software review company Capterra, is responsible for leading his whole team remotely. He emphasises the importance of trusting your colleagues to do the best possible work in these times: “Trust and training are the two most important actions when working with your team remotely.
“You need to train your team so you can trust their decisions will be good enough not to sidetrack anybody too much, until a second or third team member can take a look.”
Ian Cowley also says “Just because you can’t see staff working, it doesn’t mean they’re not. You can help maintain service standards by using the same suite of KPIs you’ve always had in place. For example, in our call centre we look at response times, number of calls taken and customer feedback, and ensure they’re in-line with normal working days.”
Give yourself a set routine
Fran Quendler, from London-based, female-led, ethical womenswear brand SABINNA, emphasises the importance of developing a set routine.
This is the daily-routine for her team and something you might like to borrow for yourself:
1. Get up early and develop a routine at home! Start your day with a workout, yoga or a stretch.
2. Get dressed! Put on real clothes – sometimes even simple things like shoes or a bra can help trick your brain that this is the start of the working day
3. To do lists are especially important! Make sure you set goals of what you want to achieve in a day and stick to them.
4. Do not procrastinate! The kitchen is close and so is your phone but make sure to focus on your work and limit distractions to a minimum.
5. Spend your free time wisely: If you’re feeling lonely in the evenings, why not plan a video call with friends over a cup of tea or glass of wine. Or catch up on that book you’ve been putting off or finally get around to trying that one recipe?
Make sure your workstation is fit for purpose
Alessandro Zanardi, Codeworks CEO and seasoned home worker, looks after a large student body who are now all studying remotely. He reminds us there are some practical considerations you’ll want to make sure you get right.
“Make sure you have lots of natural light, reduce distractions as much as possible, and drink lots of water. For me, I always pay attention to my posture as it’s quite easy to end up slumped on the couch, so I try to be aware of my posture and stretch regularly. I use a laptop stand and external keyboard to make sure my posture is good. The key thing is to stay mobile – don’t spend 8 hours working in bed.
“Another thing is to be aware that you’ll be making more video calls while working remotely, so make sure you have a good place to speak with people – as little echo as possible and a good light source in front of you. Don’t sit in front of a window or you’ll just be a blurry silhouette!”
Protecting your mental health
While the decision to close office spaces made for the good of people’s health in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic, it is important to consider the mental health consequences that can come with working remotely.
Mykay Kamara, CEO of Wellbot, tells us “We know that mental health can be adversely affected by lack of social interaction. At a time when isolation and quarantine is an essential part of day-to-day life we all need to look after our personal wellbeing as well as our health.
“Indoor exercise, eating regularly, hydration, routine and communication are all essential to helping keep on top of things. If you live alone then it’s a good time to schedule calls with friends and family – social media contact can be good too, but don’t overdo your screen time.
“House work contributes to exercise, so you can concentrate on doing tasks around your home. You don’t need a gym to keep healthy, simple tasks like tidying up and cleaning can help you get on top of your mood.
“People who work at home tend to work longer hours, so make sure you regulate your own time. Don’t be afraid to have a break for lunch and stop at a reasonable time. Having a good working routine will help you balance work and home life when you no longer travel to your place of work.”
Remember, you’re not alone!
Ian Cowley from Cartridge Save concludes, “You have to keep communication going. In reality, over the next few weeks or months you’ll be doing everything you already do, just remotely. So continue to ensure team leaders talk to staff every day. Make sure weekly meetings happen. Give them the professional and emotional support they need.
“Successful remote working is all about having good habits, the right tools and open lines of communication in place.”