With COVID-19 causing all sorts of companies to reconfigure how they work, working from home is the new going into the office. For the next few weeks and months we need to adapt - and adapt we shall!
We've been regularly surveying our team to make sure they're okay, that they have what they need, and to try to keep things as normal as is possible given the circumstances. Additionally, we asked them for tips, from their own experiences, on how to best work from home. What tools or systems, practices and tips that they use, would they recommend to others. With that in mind, here's what our colleagues suggested.
I'm sure everyone uses some form of digital calendar to structure their day, whether that's Outlook or something else. We can easily find ourselves drawn into calls (or calls about calls) and it's difficult sometimes to avoid these, but by blocking out chunks of time in your calendar you can ensure you have significant uninterrupted periods to really get stuck into whatever you're working on. It's also worth considering putting some of the simpler things in your calendar, this can help your colleagues to give you the space you need, when you need it. Maybe block 5 minutes at the start of every hour for you to stretch your legs, make a cuppa, or whatever it is you need to do. When you see that your colleagues are 'Online', you might be tempted to interrupt them, but having the 2020 version of "Gone Fishin' - Back in 5" can really help to balance your workload.
The Pomodoro Technique
Surely most people in business these days will have heard of the Pomodoro Technique, or at least have a cursory understanding that it's something to do with time management, and tomatoes. That's pretty much it. Sort of.
It's a method of time chunking, where you use a physical timer (traditionally Tomato shaped according to the ancient scrolls from which archaeologists discovered the Pomodoro Technique*), set it for 25 minutes, work solidly, then when the time's up - stop the task and put a mark on a piece of paper, take a couple of minutes doing something else, or taking a break, then start again. After four pomodoros (pomodori?), take a longer break of 15 minutes. Simply rinse and repeat throughout the day.
*or in the book written by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, historians are unclear.
Use video calls, where possible
At Novosco, we use Microsoft Teams and Hosted Skype for Business - with the current lockdown situation we're all doing whatever we can to keep that engagement level up. In a usual office situation where one might send a colleague an IM to ask a simple question, we're encouraging people to switch those to video calls - just to keep the human connections flowing. It's so incredibly important not just that we all stay connected, but that we really feel like we're staying connected.
Keep in touch with your teams
Another obvious one. Video calls can play their part here too. Whether it's setting up a group on Microsoft Teams for your department, or your particular team, or even just the usual people you would sit with at lunch - keep the communication flowing and keep the routine there as much as possible.
Take regular screen breaks
This is one straight out of the health and safety playbook, but it's in there for a reason! For many people in an office environment going to get a coffee or refill their water bottle is a regular screen break, but when you work from home it can be really easy skip those rituals. DON'T! Get some fresh water, if only to get yourself away from the screen for a few moments, and to keep HR and Occupational Health happy!
Spread your day out
Some of our colleagues have been adjusting their working schedule to accommodate the situation they find themselves in. With many parents having kids at home, it can be tough to get the job done and to give them the attention they need. We received some suggestions from our team that they had widened their working day, from 7am-4.30pm, because then they're able to take an hour in the morning and early afternoon to really enjoy some quality time with their children at home. Great idea, but does it also work for those with cats instead of kids...? We'll have to do some research and get back to you.
Mirror your work desk, at home.
If you're a creature of habit then this is simply a must-do tip to follow! Switching to remote working can be really disruptive in a number of ways, but taking steps such as this can mitigate some of those disruptions. For example, at work my second screen is on the right of my laptop. The first few days of my working at home things didn't feel right, eventually I realised that because of my home desk setup, my second screen was on the wrong side. I moved things around, and now everything's as it should be again. It's the simple things that can really help to make a difference as you work from home during this period of challenges.
Do small bits of exercise, more often.
This could easily fit within the Pomodoro technique, or with time blocking, or regular screen breaks. As a piece of working from home advice, it definitely deserves its own entry - and in fact it was the most common suggestion from our survey of all colleagues. You don't need to run a half marathon every shift - unless that's your thing - but make sure you take the time for a walk up and down the stairs between important calls, or a lap or two around the garden if you have one. Just something to keep active, whatever works for you.