Working 9 ‘til 5, what a way to make a living, eh? Not for much longer – the classic daily 9-5, chained to the desk, is soon becoming a thing of the past. Dolly should be smiling.
Employers are realising more so that, in today’s modern world, that this rigid approach isn’t the best way to get the most out of your staff. Our lives have changed; societal expectations and the roles we all play have shifted meaning that it's no longer viable to demand staff be clocked in and sat ready to work as the clock chimes 9.
Technological advances now mean that work is possible from pretty much anywhere and, with the ever-increasing demands on our lives, both professional and personal, flexibility towards location and working hours is needed more than ever. Life is no longer grounded in the traditional routine. Well, not the routine we once knew.
The last few years have seen me working from home full-time. I love it. I’ve occasionally worked from home before but with much of my time spent in an office, so felt I had a good grasp of what to expect. The reality of a full time home based position brought a few surprises.
First and foremost, you must be extremely disciplined to successfully and productively work from home. This, however, for me, was not in the way I expected. I expected distraction to be a factor that would impact my production rate. I’ve never been a fan of Jeremy Kyle but I can binge-watch Netflix like the best of them. What I actually find is that the pendulum swings the other way – I find myself working more than I plan to. The pull of my laptop, my enthusiasm for my work, and my commitment to the job means that, often, I am ferreting away as the night draws in.
I’m ok with this.
I’m doing it because I choose to; because I enjoy what I’m doing – it is a “want to” not a “need to”. I’m also aware so I can actively implement ways of making myself to take a break. Reminders on my phone tell me when it’s time to stand, go for a walk, make a brew, take a short break away from the computer. Allow yourself time away from the screen, time to stretch, and refresh, prompting yourself to do so, if necessary. Set boundaries for yourself – and stick to them!
We often take for granted the pool of knowledge available when surrounded by colleagues; the luxury of simply asking the person sat next to us where that document is saved, what’s the best contact number to get hold of so-and-so? When did Richard need the report? 30 seconds in an office and you can get an answer; the cat isn’t quite so forthcoming. It's easy to feel isolated. Remember: you may be working alone, but you are not working on your own. Pick up the phone, speak to team members, your line manager, your client. The temptation, always, is to send an email, but that isn’t necessarily the best tactic. Picking up the phone and having a conversation can help forge and strengthen relationships while setting precedent and inspiring others to do the same.
A colleague of mine told me that she worried that she may be interrupting. In an office, you can visibly see whether someone is available to talk, whereas you can’t when remote working, so I understand the apprehension. A quick check of diaries beforehand can determine whether your colleague is engaged, but even so…what’s the worst that can happen? They don’t answer! 9 times out of 10, I find that my colleagues welcome the interruption and interaction. It also forces them to take 5 away from their own desk (see point 1) so it can be a double win.
Working from home brings a degree of flexibility. It’s one step closer to that elusive work-life/home-life balance we are all desperately trying to achieve. It means I am no longer a part of that mass-movement of city-bound people, cursing each other as they watch that clock tick closer to the top of the dial, while the traffic seems to be moving slower and slower to its final destination, knowing they have to repeat this awful journey again at the end of the day.
This is not the best start to anyone’s day.
I have always struggled to understand how we can be our best selves, our most productive, creative, positive and inspiring when the act of merely getting to work is such an ordeal. Public transport isn’t much of a better deal. Yes, the time can be used productively but is an this really the best environment for encouraging your best ideas? The world is slowly adapting, and I see more and more people are adjusting their working hours to optimise productivity time; working from home is just another option. It allows us to use those 4 hours at both end's of the day in a useful way – be that time spent having breakfast with the family, or time used to reconcile those figures. Integrate your work and home life – It’s all about balance.
But what about the office culture, I hear you say. Being a remote worker doesn’t mean you are locked away from the world. Make sure you factor time into your schedule to meet with your connections. Get together for coffee for a breakfast meeting, organise a networking event, get together with like-minded professionals and exchange success / support stories; communication is key and all involved will benefit from regular, scheduled face-to-face time.
Modern technology allows us to be anywhere in the world, at any time we want to be. It has opened more opportunities; time zones aren’t the hindrance they once were and working from home is merely an extension of that. There are some great apps available; apps that can help you organise your time when working remotely, allow project sharing and task delegation in live-time. Explore what is available and trial them - see what works for you, and use it. If you find that diamond, shout about it! Share your find with your team and your peers and encourage your team and your network to do the same.
The biggest challenge when considering remote working is employer trust. As a manager, how can you truly know that our staff are working as they should when we can’t physically monitor them. Well, I ask in return, why did you hire them in the first place if you feel you cannot trust them? It’s well documented that an employee that feels trusted will be productive, loyal and aspire to be better. A good employee will always show the work they are proud of. Output can be monitored, whether staff are physically present or not. Communication, again, is the cornerstone to success. Regular interaction can assuage any fears that staff are not committed, can prevent employee isolation, can encourage knowledge-sharing, and can nurture team spirit.
Be open to conversation, pick up the phone, share learnings and challenges alike and factor in time to meet with your colleagues.
Be disciplined: Many find it helpful to get into work-mode by getting dressed as if you would when going into the office before starting your day – it helps manifest a professional attitude. Having a dedicated space for working can help separate your work-life and your home-life, the simple act of closing the door on your work-space can help you to switch off at the end of the day.
Listen to your body – it will tell you when you’ve been hunched over your desk for too long. Go outdoors, breathe fresh air, go for a walk to help clear your mind at the end of a productive day.
Make sure you consider your mental well-being just as much as your physical health; your mind is your money-maker – why wouldn’t you nurture and care for it?!
Working from home isn’t being sat in your pyjamas all day, with Netflix in the background. With the right approach, it can be an extremely positive and productive way of modern working.
It isn’t for everyone, but me? I love it.