Working from home has been tough to get used to for a lot of businesses, including us. We realised early on in lockdown that there are quite a few simple steps you can take, both as a business and individually, that make working away from the office much easier.
We’ve learned quite a few lessons this year. Some of the challenges we faced as a business, and personally, were very difficult to overcome. Hopefully this blog post can help you work from home just as well as you work in the office.
Use professional video conferencing tools
Video conferencing tools help you communicate successfully with your colleagues and customers. Tools like Microsoft Teams offer valuable features that maintain your professionalism. Custom backgrounds let you hide the mess that’s built up behind you (don’t worry, we’ve been there!) Teams also integrates with Outlook to help keep you on top of your daily schedule, making sure you never miss a video call with an important client.
We have also found the video collaboration features built-in to our Unified Communications system make keeping in touch with our colleagues a breeze. It’s been incredibly useful for us throughout 2020; we use it to host team meetings, make presentations and even for a friendly chat at the end of the day!
Keep a routine – get up on time!
Don’t let your start time slide, and don’t spend those extra 10 minutes in the bed in the morning. Keeping your alarm set to the same time when you work from home is the first step to staying focused and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
When our morning commute became the distance between the breakfast table and our living room, it was very, very tempting to snooze our alarm to get some extra time in bed. We then wondered why, when we signed on to work at our usual start time, we were struggling to get going.
The solution was waking ourselves up much more gently. Rather than spend half an hour in the car or on the train every morning, we’d sit down with a coffee and catch up with the news or our families before starting work.
Create a quiet working environment
Not surprisingly, if we started working on laptops in front of the tv, our productivity took a noticeable dip. More surprising though, was the effect it had on our morale. Many of us found it difficult to switch off at the end of the day – after all, we were trying to relax for the evening in what had essentially become our office.
Things got better when we moved our laptops to quieter areas of the home, away from where we would normally relax or sleep. Creating a separate workspace away from our living areas helped remove distractions and gain back our lost productivity. Similarly, working away from the living room made it easier to put our work down and switch off at the end of the day.
Use instant messaging to stay connected
There are always some questions that don’t need to be asked over the phone, particularly amongst teams. When working in the office, with every team member in the same room, you could just ask away. Group instant messaging chats are a great solution to maintain cohesion among your team while working remotely.
It didn’t take us long to miss the camaraderie we felt in the office. We really underestimated how much we’d miss the “whistle while you work” feel of the casual conversations we’d have with each other. Not actual whistling, mind. Nobody missed the whistling. While it’s not quite the same as real face-to-face conversation, instant messaging has helped maintain our connection with our teammates just as much as it has helped us work effectively.
Every cloud has a silver lining
The time of the cloud is here! Cloud tools have been an absolute godsend for businesses this year. Juggling devices and trying to remember where you saved your documents can be a nightmare if you don’t know when you can get to the office.
With an increased use of cloud systems like Office 365 or our Unified Communications system, every member of the team has access to anything they need to work on, anywhere and from any device. We don’t need to tell you how much harder it would be to work if everyone needed to take their deskphone home with them!
Now, there’s no need to dress in a suit every day if you’re sitting in your living room or home office, but there is a limit. There’s no harm being casual in this environment, but calling in to a team meeting in your pyjamas and dressing gown isn’t a great look, Dave!
We’re not just being fussy, promise. We’ve found that, as we mentioned above, keeping yourself in the routine of dressing for work at the start of each day really helps us get into gear in the morning. More importantly than that, it helps us maintain the all-important work-life balance – it’s just as important to be able to switch off “work mode” at the end of the day as to switch it on at the beginning.
Use your office number
Unified Communications systems let you use your office numbers from home. Not only will this save enormous amounts of money in call forwarding charges, but it will also make light work of keeping everyone in the business connected.
This is even more useful when making outbound calls. Without being able to sign in to your office extension from home, you would either have to withhold your numbers, provide business mobiles for every member of staff at great expense, or essentially publicise your personal home and mobile numbers. None of those options sound great, so the ability to sign in to your phone system from mobiles, PCs or laptops can be indispensable.
We hope you can learn from our mistakes! We’re well into swing of working from home now, but it didn’t happen overnight. It took us a few months to get the hang of it and iron out the teething issues, but it could have taken much longer if we didn’t have access to some key technology. Our UC system has come into its own this year.
Being able to log in and pick up work from our own PCs, laptops, tablets and phones has made our lives much easier, but the most important tips we have are to look after yourselves! Staying positive has been difficult at times this year, but our incredible colleagues have been a phenomenal help. Remember, we’re all in this together!