The effectiveness of working from home policies on a workplace and its employees is much-debated. Some argue that it allows employees to work in the place they’re most productive and offers flexibility to those who have other commitments, others claim it brings with it a whole host of distractions and an excuse to slack off. Some believe it builds trust between employees and employers, others think trust and communication will go out of the window.
Irrespective of your opinion on working from home, COVID-19 has decided that the majority of us will be doing it for the foreseeable future anyway.
At GradTouch we’re lucky in that, because we have the option to work remotely on days when we aren’t in the midst of a pandemic, we were well-equipped to pack up our laptops and head to our respective abodes once the government announced the latest lockdown measures.
But for other organisations and their employees, the process will require some getting used to. Beyond the logistics, there’s other factors to consider at a time like this, including how to keep employee productivity levels high, team morale up and people’s wellbeing positive.
Now we’re not experts, but this ‘working from home thing’ is old news for us, so it seemed like the right time to share our advice on how we make it work.
Find your ‘normal’
The word normal should be taken with a pinch of salt here, given that we’re living through such abnormal times that if aliens showed up tomorrow no one would bat an eyelid.
But as best you can, Clare, our Chief People Officer, advises to find your own normal. “Telling people to follow a particular routine isn’t helpful, instead people need to think about what works for them normally and then try to replicate it at home. For me personally, that’s being talked into having a glass of wine after work (via video) any day of the week!”
For Sally, our Head of Marketing, normal is getting up at the same time as she would if she was going into the office. “It helps me maintain a routine and allows me to spend an hour or so waking up properly, having breakfast and pottering around before work.”
Account Manager Katie suggests music: “I can’t work in the quiet, whether it’s the radio on, a playlist or a podcast, I find it helps. Also, I’m making sure I still take my lunch and tea breaks as I would in the office.”
Get into work-mode, mentally and physically
Across the board, our team have found that working in a space that’s separate to where they would relax and getting dressed – even if it’s just into another pair of pyjamas that could potentially pass as loungewear – is the best way to ensure productivity.
“Getting into a different mind-set using physical things makes a huge difference” our Senior Developer, Luke, explains. “I live in a studio flat so it’s difficult to have a completely new set-up, but even just trying to sit at a different side of the desk to where I play games is enough. The more you use that space for work only, the better your association to that place as being ‘for work’ will become.”
“And sit at a table,” insists Clare, “sofas and bar stools are going to mean you end up needing physio after all this blows over!”
Work in manageable chunks
Whilst there are no noisy co-workers chewing your ear off at home, remote working comes with its own range of distractions. Keeping focused can be difficult at the best of times, but when your phone’s pinging with WHO updates every hour, even small tasks become impossible to finish.
“Because of the deluge of the news, I get easily sucked into live feeds and 24hr news cycles,” Sean, our Chief Brand Officer, admits. “When I’m feeling distracted, I try to work for 30 minutes, don’t look up, then have a 15-minute break. I try and get at least seven blocks in throughout the day otherwise it can’t be counted as ‘productive’ – the challenge element of timing yourself keeps you focused.”
Stay connected to each other
“Don’t let working from home disrupt any normal team meetings,” Sally says. “Screen sharing is great for guiding someone through a task, activity boards like Trello help us stay organised and use Google Docs for sharing documents.”
“Still check in with your team outside of asking a specific work-related question too”, she suggests. “In an office, you unconsciously ask people how they are and what they’ve been up to, but it’s less natural when you’re not in the same room. Making sure to do that boosts morale and brings you together.” Clare agrees: “reach out to people as much as possible and be honest; if you’re feeling something, chances are someone else is too. [At GradTouch], we’ve seen coffee breaks, numerous video catch ups, not to mention the stream of pet pictures and felted animals.”
“Memes are important to share too”, advises Katie, “lots of memes.”
Step away from your desk (and the news)
“I try and get out of the house at lunchtime for some fresh air. It helps a huge amount to clear your head ready for the afternoon,” our Videographer, Jay, explains.
“I’m also trying to limit my exposure to the news – I read it when I wake up and then get on with normal functions as much as possible. The main challenge is keeping your mental health strong; reading something stressful has a knock-on effect on productivity, at least it does in my experience .”
So that’s it – get yourself a desk, get in the zone, get your work done and don’t forget to catch up with your colleagues every now and then…simple enough, right? No but really, if it’s not something you’ve done before then working from home will take a bit of getting used to. But so long as you set yourself up in the right way to get work done, you will get work done. And who knows, when all of this has blown over you might decide to make remote working a permanent fixture at your company?
To find out more about GradTouch’s flexible working policy, our CEO Zac wrote a whole eBook about it – check it out here.