Working from home – the new normal.

With high-speed broadband and modern PCs and Laptops, there really is no reason for many office workers to trudge into the office on a daily basis.  Recent events have proven to many businesses that staff can be just as productive working from home, however some people find it easier than others. So here are some observations, thoughts, and tips which I hope will help.

Firstly, think about your ‘Office space’.  If working from home is going to be a regular part of your working life, make space for it.  Designate an area that becomes your ‘office away from the office’ and configure it exclusively for this purpose.  You should replicate everything that you expect to have on hand such as your desk, filing trays, a comfortable chair, etc. Some simple mistakes include locating your computer screen awkwardly or in front of a window or trying to share your workspace with other family members.  The rule of thumb here is – If you wouldn’t do it in the office don’t do it at home!

Next, get into the mindset of ‘going to work’.  I always advise people to dress as if they were going to work and work to a schedule so that you can easily separate work time and home time.

It is easy to fall into the ‘always on’ trap i.e. you keep dipping in and out of your emails at any time of the day to the point where you never get any down-time.  The problem becomes worse when others begin to see you as always there and send you an email or call you at any time of the day or night.  This is where voicemail and autoresponders can help by informing the sender or caller that you are not currently available but that you will respond when you are back in the office.  There is no substitute for having a published start and end time that you, your colleagues, and your boss know and respect.  Anything that reinforces this will help so consider putting your worktime on your email footer.

People often complain that they find keeping focussed difficult when they are working at home. This is often due to lack of self-discipline, routine, and not anticipating (and dealing with) inevitable distractions.  The most prevalent of these are family interruptions.  Your children and partner need to understand and respect your work time.  When you set up a workday routine, plan in regular breaks which allow you to respond to any family queries or demands within a sensible period.  They must learn that just because you are physically there does not mean you are always available.  Having scheduled breaks has a further benefit of giving your mind a short rest and actually leads to increased productivity.

Other common interruptions are emails and online messages.  The trick here is to turn notifications of these off.  That way you can work uninterrupted and address incoming messages and emails at a time of your choosing.

Your PC or Laptop may be your own or it may be supplied by your employer.  In either case, if it is to be used for work, I would advise against sharing it with anything or anyone else and, more importantly, using it for non-secure purposes such as online gaming, etc.  Cybersecurity is important so make sure your machine is up to date and protected by a reputable anti-virus application.  If you can, it is a good idea to ‘hardwire’ your computer to your broadband router with an ethernet cable.  This will be more robust, faster, and more secure than connecting via WiFi.

Lastly, think about keeping your PC or Laptop in good condition.  Lots of people never consider getting their computer serviced and simply wait until something goes wrong before getting help.  The fact is 4 out of 5 computer breakdowns are preventable by simply having your equipment regularly serviced.  Most independent IT support companies offer either pay-as-you-go services or managed service plans.  With the latter you will normally have regular performance reviews which will include checking environmental and security issues as well as the quality of your backup regime.

Credit: Pc-Fixed

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