The coronavirus pandemic has inadvertently sparked the largest ever workplace experiment; how effective and sustainable is working from home? Will this be something that changes the face of office work and will the effects be long lasting?
When people first think they will be working from home, it is usually met with an overall positive response. The perception is waking up at 8:55 for a 9am start, leisurely making cups of tea and coffee, watching Netflix on your lunchbreaks and not even needing to change out of your pyjamas.
As you can see from just a quick glance at pretty much all of the social media platforms, the novelty doesn’t take long to wear off. So, what can you do to help yourself, your team, and your business survive the pandemic? Working from home and the effects this can have on your own and other’s mental health can be far reaching. Life as we know it feels very unfamiliar, so we have a responsibility to help those around us.
VerriBerri, a PR and marketing agency from the UK have been working from home and want to share some tips that they have found helpful so far. Company MD Sarah Kauter has written an easy to implement checklist that VerriBerri have found to have made the world of difference.
Clarity. One of the key points that must be adhered to when remote working policies are in place is good practice when it comes to delegation. It can be very difficult when you cannot see someone’s body language and facial expressions. Text can be misinterpreted and if your instructions are woolly then the entire process will become frustrating for everyone involved. Make sure that any directions you give are clear and easy to understand. If you don’t, you’ll end up with incorrectly executed tasks which is a waste of company time and money, and not to mention it’s exasperating for all parties involved. A lot of the stress involved with working from home can be alleviated through this simple point. If you find it difficult to articulate yourself on paper, pick up the phone and explain exactly what you want verbally. I would suggest following everything up with a short email where possible so there is a paper trail if anything is wrong.
Prepare for change. We are in a fast-moving world at the moment and it can be unsettling, especially for people who aren’t naturally ‘Type A’ personalities. Don’t let yourself get stuck in any processes because the chances are they will have changed in a few days time. If you make a point of being more flexible than usual you will be more relaxed as time goes by. In the same vein, remember that with schools being closed, there are likely to be members of your team working from home with children. It’s highly unlikely the work they put out will be the same standard it normally is. Take the time to talk to them and discuss what changes can be put in place to help. This could be, for example, changing the 9-5 routine and allowing them to work evenings when the children are in bed. Only you know your business and the intricate running of that but there are always ways and means.
Routine. It’s amazing how much a solid routine can help your mental health. Of course, you can’t go out and about but encourage your team to get up and dressed for the day like they are going to work. A suit may be taking it a little too far but don’t work in your pyjamas. You will find that your productivity and your wellbeing will both fall. Along the same lines, discourage your team from watching TV or listening to podcasts whilst they work. It’s disruptive and will not help them. If you can, encourage people to go outside when they can. Although social distancing must be the priority, if your team have gardens they should (in an ideal world) take the opportunity to go outside, get some fresh air and a change of scenery. If they can, an area of the house solely for work would be fantastic so they can draw a definitive line between home and work. If they cannot, we would advise against setting up in the bedroom as this should, as much as possible, stay a place of relaxation to promote well-being and a healthy sleep pattern.
Remember you are still a team. I still encourage the team to join a group Zoom call every morning. This means they can all update each other on the previous day’s occurrences, keep up team morale, and remember they are something bigger than who lives in their house. This is especially important if your team live alone. If you do have anyone who doesn’t live with anyone, make the effort to ensure they have a support network that they can lean on. This is a time to come together and support others.
Be a good employer. Last but certainly not least; do what you can to help the people you work with. Be sensitive to the team’s needs, have a listening ear if they need it, and try to do things to keep spirits high. People will look to you for guidance so try and keep positive. Don’t lie, if you are finding things difficult be open about it, as this invites others to speak up, but equally express ways you are combatting that and open the floor to discussion. VerriBerri run a weekly lottery line, which two of the team who have in some way done well that week are put forward for. This inexpensive way of working offers the opportunity to reward good work whilst lightening people’s mood.