In today’s modern age it’s becoming more and more common for our employees to want to work remotely. Once a competitive advantage, flexible working conditions have become somewhat of an expectation in the workplace. One in three of us now regularly works from home in Australia and New Zealand, and for good reason.
All of us are expected to DO more with our time. The rise in modern technology has introduced a whole new expectation of us all. Our internal communication is far less formal and more immediate than ever before. The expectation for faster response times has had a huge impact on us all. As a result, being offline ‘at home’ isn’t what it used to be and being ‘at work’ isn’t either.
The benefits of flexible working conditions on our employees are plentiful. Studies show that flexible working can boost morale, increase engagement, improve physical and mental wellbeing and reduce absenteeism. The elimination of stressful commutes and much needed extra sleep can go a long way to decreasing the likelihood of burnout and fatigue. It can help to increase time with family, create a positive workplace culture and keep our employees engaged and happy.
Great, let’s all pack up and go home…
Working from home is harder than you think.
Being in the home environment can be demotivating. It can be difficult to find your mojo. It can be incredibly debilitating if your role is one that requires a good amount of creativity or strategic thinking. You can fall into the trap of performing only reactive tasks and you can feel incredibly guilty for every second that you aren’t ‘doing something productive’. This is especially true if you lack the tools and resources to 'Manage Your Thinking' and 'Engage Yourself' (our Healthy Habits 9 and 10).
All too often flexible working policies exist only on paper. Not truly embraced by management teams it can be difficult for employees to feel they aren’t being judged by working remotely. Or worse, a negative working from home culture might mean that employees exercise the flexibility only when they are unwell. Absenteeism may be decreased as a result, but how much proactive work really took place on those work from home days?
We’ve got to teach our people the pitfalls of working from home and support them in order to take ownership of their own engagement, both inside and outside of the workplace. If we can teach our employees to be proactive in designing a conducive working environment that promotes mental health and improved working and personal relationships, we will reap the benefits wherever they are working.
Here are our tips for employees making the most of a ‘work from home day’.
1. Go to bed on time
Resist the urge to stay up later the night before a ‘WFH day’. Extra time in the morning is exactly that, EXTRA time. Don’t eat up that time the night before watching television or drinking another glass of wine with the mindset of being able to ‘sleep in tomorrow’. Get to bed at your usual time. Even earlier if you can afford it. Why not?!
2. Spend your morning wisely
Sure, a mini, weekday lie in is sometimes necessary and goes a long way to decreasing our burnout risk. But remember, it’s not a weekend. Get up and do something productive with that precious commute time.
Walk the block, meditate, do some food prep to put you in good stead for the rest of the week, exercise, play with the kids outside, eat a good breakfast, dance around in your undies. Whatever sets you up for the day, do it. You’ll be on the ‘go slow’ for the morning otherwise. Get up and GET GOING.
3. Set up your home office
We know it might be your spare room, your make-shift gym or junk room, but if you are going to work from home, take it seriously. Set up an area that inspires and motivates you. A place that you want to work from. More importantly a space that isn’t going to leave you feeling sore from hovering over a tiny screen and not setting up your desk properly. Ensure you take the time to set up your workspace and invest in an ergonomic chair or stand up desk if it will help keep you feeling good.
4. Prepare yourself for the day in the way you would if you were going into the office
It might be tempting to wear your pyjamas all day, but you won’t feel productive if you’re too casual and it’s difficult to get into the right mindset if you are too relaxed.
Shower as you usually would and take the time to make yourself presentable – yes, you can still wear comfy casual Friday clothes, but shift yourself into work mode physically by dressing with some structure.
5. Write a list of deliverables for the day
Write a list of what you hope to achieve for the day. The proactive tasks that you would like to achieve and tick it off as you go. If it helps your own feelings of accountability, let your manager or team know what you’re hoping to have achieved by the end of the day.
6. Don’t fall into the trap of answering every email INSTANTLY so people know you’re working hard
Just because you can’t be seen physically, doesn’t mean that you should work any differently than you usually do. Sending unnecessary email responses just to prove that you are working is counterproductive and just adds to your level of anxiety throughout the day.
7. Take a break and don’t feel guilty about it
Being at home doesn’t mean that you aren’t entitled to a lunchbreak. If it makes you feel better, let your immediate colleagues know that you are taking a break and will be back online at a certain time. DON’T offer them to call you on the mobile during that time. A break is a break and most workplace urgencies can wait long enough for you to eat something nutritious and return. Your ‘punishment’ for working from home is not to be immediately contactable everywhere, at all times.
8. A change of scenery is a good thing
Working from a nearby café for part of the day is a good thing. Particularly if you work remotely often, or permanently. Mixing up your working day and being in a different environment can help you feel more motivated. It can also help you to feel less lonely by having interaction or just being around other people.
9. Pick up the phone rather than email
Don’t rely purely on email or instant messaging with the office. It can be isolating and isn’t always the best method of communication. Reach out to people you are working with and connect with them over the phone.
Dial in to meetings wherever possible, or even better, use videoconferencing where you can.
10. Finish at a specific time / at a specific progress point
Whether it be a specific time to clock off, or at a certain point in progression according to your list of deliverables, set a time to finish up and stick to it.
Once you are finished for the day ensure you power off. Turn the laptop off, pack up your office and close the door behind you. Now that you’re ‘offline’ do something you enjoy doing to wind down and switch off.
Do what you can to create a divide between work time and non-work time. Even if you work late into the evening for lifestyle reasons, never go straight from work to bed without something in between. Even if it’s just 20 minutes of restful meditation to relax your mind before you ask it to shut down for the night, invest the time.
It’ll be worth it for a decent rest.
Embedding a positive culture of flexible work is such a worthwhile investment, but it is an investment. Take the time to bring your policy to life and create a positive, engaged, motivated workplace.
Want to provide your employees with more guidance on how to get the most out of working from home? The 'Remote Worker' challenge has been designed to guide participants through the practical strategies in setting up an at home work environment to promote ongoing engagement.
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