Our very own Product Director Richard Beeston shares his top tips for staying connected and staying sane when working from home!
Hello, my name is Richard and I’ve been working flexibly for more than five years now. “What does that mean?” I hear you ask, as many of my friends often do. Essentially, it means I work where I need to. Sometimes I can be in London for three days a week, others I can be in Lancashire, then Birmingham then working at home for three days. Other times (like now) it means I can be at home all week.
There’s a general assumption that working from home isn’t really working at all but I disagree with that. In fact, many new businesses are completely virtual or use very little office space. To coin a phrase, “Work has become something we do, not somewhere we go”. Of course, this is only true for certain sections of society, but for those of us who can do it, it has completely changed our relationship with work, our families and our careers.
Working at home can be intimidating though if you’re new to it – it certainly was for me. Not having the commute to and from work and get into and out of “work mode” was a challenge, as was the isolating aspect of not being able to chat with friends – well, at least not face to face. Leading a team also altered for me as clearly you can’t be all over what people are doing on a minute-by-minute basis (not that I’ve ever managed like that, of course)!
I’ve written down some of my top tips for working remotely. These are the ones that work for me and hopefully a few will work for you too.
- Have a daily routine that is both manageable and personal to you. There’s absolutely no need to try and do things so differently that you end up giving Mark Wahlberg a run for his money. That isn’t realistic and what’s more, nobody expects that. I like to wake up before everyone else, do a 10-minute meditation via the Calm app, have breakfast, shower and then get to work. Now the family are at home as well, I have planned in a lunch break so we can all eat together and I try and stop work around 5pm, at least until after the kids have gone to bed.
- Work spaces. Find the right space for you to work. Some people like a home office that’s purpose-built, be it a shed at the bottom of the garden, spare room or dedicated area. Personally, I like to work on the sofa in the morning (no TV) and then move to different parts of the house throughout the day. This is dependant on what I’m doing. My job doesn’t require a second screen or anything so it allows me to be more flexible.
- Stay in touch. There are loads of platforms available now that allow you to collaborate and stay connected. A good unified communications (UC) platform frees your people to connect, collaborate and perform wherever they are working using tools such as Microsoft Teams, Microsoft 365 and other powerful apps. Productivity increases, decision making is quicker, ideas are shared more easily and employees are better equipped to stay engaged with customers. Plus, UC also allows you to deliver powerful, video-based training to large groups remotely, helping to boost staff learning at a time when travel is off the cards.We have been using Teams more lately and I have to say, I am a big fan. It is designed to simplify group work with easy-to-use channels for group chats – and it delivers on all fronts. As it is integrated with Microsoft 365, it also allows us to share and update docs from the likes of Word and Excel, as well as providing access to cloud storage and syncing solutions like SharePoint and Power BI. You can also use Teams events to share information webinar style with your customers or to large groups of employees. The higher the adoption of Microsoft 365 in your business, the better return a company will experience on any Microsoft investment.
- Look after yourself! Its very easy to raid the biscuit tin but maintaining some control over this is a must.
- Be organised. This is the same as being in the office. I like to block out time in my diary not only for meetings and calls but also to get on with actual work. I colour code mine as well, but that’s just me. Again, just like being at the office, you don’t need to attend every meeting you are invited to just to justify you are working.
- Remember to move. I like to walk around while talking on the phone and I plan exercise into my day where possible – a walk during lunch for example. It’s also really important to take a break from your screen from time to time.
A big part of my job is leading a team and with working from home a lot, this is a bit different as well. I’ve found the following works for me:
- Have regular 1-2-1s. Schedule regular 1-2-1 meetings with people in your team and make the content a mix of personal and professional conversations as one very often affects the other.
- Team meetings. I have a weekly team meeting just like normal and we always try and use video wherever possible to encourage “normal” interactions.
- Clear goals. Set clear SMART goals with everyone (including yourself) and check in on these goals during the 1-2-1 sessions. These are a proven way to drive team success and I find them really useful with a dispersed team. If people know what the expectations are per quarter, they can then prioritise work and focus on the right outcomes.
- Use communications tools that work for you and the situation. Sometimes video is great, other times phone calls are just fine as well.
I hope that some of the above is useful to you. Ultimately everyone needs to find something that works for both themselves and those in their household. I wish you all well. Thanks for reading.