Surviving and Thriving in a Remote Work Environment
Remote working is a growing trend across a number of industries. Setting aside business continuity and mitigation measures in the face of unplanned disruptors like extreme weather or the current global COVID-19 outbreak, remote work is also a growing necessity for a variety of personal and professional reasons.
In their 2020 Mobility Outlook Survey, AIRINC—an industry leader in data and workforce globalization—identified that 64% of their surveyed organisations noted an increase in requests for non-traditional mobility arrangements, including remote working.
Whether you find yourself working from home by choice or circumstance, for a week or the foreseeable future, there are things you can do to maximise your comfort and productivity. Technical set-up and reliable connections are essential starters, of course, but here are five additional tips on how to thrive long-term in a home office environment.
1 - Location, Location, Location
While those permanently working off-site almost certainly dedicate a room or at least space in their home to be an official “office,” that may not be an option for those who have home working thrust upon them.
Having the ability to work from the comfort of your sofa or bed may seem like you’ve hit the jackpot (and confirm what all of your commuting friends and family think you already do); however, your posture and productivity will suffer for this sooner rather than later, and the last thing you want is to associate the most comfortable places in your home with “work”! Instead, find yourself a table to sit at, ideally in a quiet spot, and treat it as you would your desk in the office.
2 – Dress the Part
For those who rely on video conferencing as a standard practise, it is a given that you should avoid taking calls from the head of finance or a key prospect while wearing the oversized T-shirt and jogging bottoms you usually reserve for gardening. The clothes you choose to wear when working from home, however, have a secondary importance beyond making sure you look presentable for others. Much like avoiding working from your favourite leisure spots, dressing in specific work attire and changing at the end of the “working day” can make a big difference mentally if you have to work remotely for an extended period.
Over time, living and working in the same space can begin to feel as if you never truly go to work (bad for your productivity) or, conversely, as though you never leave (bad for your sanity). In the same way that carefully choosing your work location can minimise this, choosing to dress slightly more formally for your work day, then changing outfits at the end of the day, can help you maintain a healthy separation while signalling to your mind when it’s time to begin to relax.
Some may take this even further and take a stroll around the block at the start and end of a working day to simulate a commute. Whatever your predilection, creating a distinction between the “work you” and the “home you” is vital.
3 – Out to Lunch
“I’ll just grab something quick and then carry on” can be dangerous words once they become your catchphrase—especially when uttered in your own kitchen.
The flexibility working from home provides is undeniable; facilitating work with colleagues in other time zones or putting in additional time to wrap up a pressing project is increased exponentially by not squeezing a commute into the equation. For your own wellbeing, however, make these flexes need-based and not the norm.
A large proportion of home workers frequently report working extended hours and taking fewer breaks than those in office environments. The lack of in-situ co-workers and the social elements surrounding break times often leads to home workers resisting the urge to interrupt to their workflow, which means missing appropriate opportunities to recharge.
While some would argue that this can lead to incredibly productive single days, over time, it can become harder to maintain the same levels of focus and creativity without proper breaks to decompress. Taking your expected breaks as intended is also a great opportunity to get in some exercise or a little social interaction.
Whether you cook or call into a local café, remember to take your full lunch, step away from your screen, and eat something more ambitious than the first readily available item from your fridge. Weather (and viral isolation protocols) permitting, take a walk. You will feel more refreshed for it and remain productive in the end.
4 – It’s Oh So Quiet
One huge point of adjustment when working from home long-term is the absence of the general office noise to which you’ve become accustomed. You may find yourself missing the hum of the air conditioning unit, reminiscing about the clicking of an orchestra of keyboards, and even pining for how your desk mate mispronounces “pronunciation.”
Finding the right level of ambient sound can be challenging. Play music that you like, and you may find yourself singing along or accidentally inserting lyrics into your presentations. Television can also bring added distractions that are best avoided. To keep the silence from becoming deafening while minimising distractions, instrumental music is always a solid choice. You need not limit yourself to classical concertos either—if film scores or even specifically composed background music is more your speed, most music streaming services have extensive playlists to ensure your working environment strikes the optimal audio balance. A quick internet search will also turn up several apps and subscription services dedicated to creating soundscapes designed to help you improve focus and block out distractions.
For those who might find any type of music a distraction but simply must break the silence in an off-site workspace, there are an increasing number of sources for purely ambient noise, ranging from birdsong and the beach to actual office soundscapes.
It is also vital to remember that, even though you are not in the office, you still have your colleagues to work with. Making the choice to connect via phone or video conference to provide updates or talk through a challenge adds some variety to your working day as well a little personal interaction in contrast to sticking with email or chat programs alone.
5 – Respect Your Boundaries
The final point is a critical one for the long-term off-site worker. As with many of the above points, there are a number of merits to making a firm distinction between your work and personal activities when they are associated with the same physical space. This element is of particular value if you are not the only person in your home when you are working there.
Make sure those you share a living space with are aware during the working day that you are, essentially, at work. There will always be exceptions, of course—if a delivery comes, you will be able to sign for it versus sitting resolute at your desk as a “sorry we missed you” note flutters through the letterbox—however, the boundaries of being at work need to remain clear. Household harmony can be maintained by gaining a clear understanding that, although you may be physically at home, tasks such as polishing the silverware, clearing the gutters, and grouting the bathroom are going to need to remain jobs for outside your working day.
By extension, when you finish your working day, allow (and, if necessary, force!) yourself to be finished. Checking emails habitually for the remainder of the evening once you have officially stopped working is highly unlikely to drive any further productivity—or get those gutters cleared!
To make sure you receive all future communications around COVID-19 and other topics critical to the current mobility landscape, subscribe to our blog.