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Written by
on 15 April 2020

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Working from home is, for now at least, the new normal. But for millions of workers across the UK, this is far from normal. How can businesses prepare workers who are used to an office environment for the changes faced when moving to the comfort of their homes? Our top tips should help.

We are all in no doubt that we are living in unprecedented times – and in case you weren’t aware, every news report seems to use that word at least six times in every story that relates to the current crisis our country is facing.

I’m not going to expound too much on the virus crisis itself – enough people are commenting and sharing opinions on that and it’s not my area of expertise – I am a health and safety consultant, not an epidemiologist. But I do think I am therefore well placed to offer some salient advice to workers now finding themselves working from home.

Many people are used to working from home, albeit on the odd occasion where it suits circumstances, but no one in living memory has faced events of this nature and the sheer scale of the new ‘working from home’ phenomenon.

This means that more people than ever are experiencing working from home as the new normal.

The stats speak volumes

In fact, according to the ONS, of the 32.6 million UK residents in employment, only 1.7 million reported that they worked mainly from home, and a further 8.7 million saying that they had worked from home on occasion.

This is less than 30% of the workforce and although no ONS figures are yet available, it’s likely that this is now more than doubled to over 60%. That’s around 10 million workers who are used to being in the office or workplace environment for seven-plus hours a day.

It’s a big change, and there are differences to acclimatise to. Thankfully, there are a series of things to consider that will make working from home much more productive and less disruptive.

Firstly though, let’s be thankful for the advances in technology we now have. Video calling, cloud servers and remote desktops are just some of the services that make the concept of working from home feasible.

Fifteen years ago, it would have been very different – no smartphones, no video calling, no social media and even YouTube had just been born.

So, how do you establish yourself for working from home? As well as getting the technology set up, there are a series of things to consider.

Tip 1. Adapt to different social cues

In a face to face situation, reading someone’s mood is a relatively simple process. Actually, that’s not true – it’s an incredibly complicated thing, but one that most of us are incredibly accomplished at.

Any step in the communication chain that increases distance, increases the difficulties encountered.

We’ve all been on the receiving end of an email that we thought sounded abrupt – even angry – only to discover face-to-face that the person simply wrote in in a hurry and wasn’t in the slightest annoyed.

While video calling helps to minimise the risk of misinterpreted cues, it’s important to be able to read someones physical response when you’re not physically next to them.

Take your lead from their responses and be aware that, especially in the current climate, they could be anxious or uncomfortable; picking up on this and offering some support will mean a lot.

Tip 2. Don’t overcompensate

Just because you’re working from home without supervision, don’t assume your boss thinks you’re slacking. There is a tendency towards overcompensating when working remotely, and in a prolonged period of working from your home, you need to be aware of the hours you clock.

Don’t overwork yourself and risk your psychological health and wellbeing; be aware of others needs and that working patterns may well change – especially when childcare is factored in.\

Tip 3. Make your home reflect your office

Don’t worry, you’re not being expected to install a massive photocopier, or make coffee for 12 people every time you fancy a brew – rather you should mimic your usual routine.

Don’t be tempted to work in your PJs or forget to wash. If you feel like you’re relaxing and taking it easy, your work will suffer. Plus you never know when an unplanned video call might take place.

Get up at your usual time, wash, shower, have breakfast and wear suitable clothes for your usual office environment.

Tip 4. Take a break

As outlined above, not overcompensating is important – and so is taking a regular break as you would in your normal office environment.

Resting your eyes from your screen is an important step in reducing fatigue.

Get up, stretch and make sure you take meal breaks, otherwise, you’ll find you’re overworking, and not keeping yourself nourished.

Tip 5. Change things up

Don’t stick with the first work location you pick – be aware of your productivity and find a location that suits you. Better still, find two or three places you can work in your home.

It’s always good to have a change of scenery, and if you’re working from home with a spouse or a partner, there’s a good chance that at least one of you will be having more team calls than usual, so having somewhere quiet you can remove yourself to is important.

Tip 6. Don’t sweat the priorities

As much a tip for the office as the home environment, keep a to-do list but start from the bottom. Often the lower priority items can take the least time to achieve, and if left can become bigger problems. Start at the bottom of your list and deal with things as you see fit.

So there you have a brief guide to working from home. Many of us are experiencing this for the first time and, done right, productivity could increase.

The flexibility offered by working from home can be a massive benefit and during these times, more and more businesses will be switching on to the benefits.

If you want to retain the flexibility when things return to normal – and return to normal they undoubtedly will – then make the most of this time to demonstrate that working from home really does work.

If you need any support in setting up procedures for safe practices when working from home, please get in touch. We’ll be waiting for your call… At home.

A chartered health and safety consultant with 20+ years of experience. David provides how-to articles, advice and guidance to make compliance easier for construction professionals, Architects and the built environment. When David is not helping clients with his unique mix of knowledge and experience, he enjoys being a good dad, a good partner and prefers drinking wine to beer. Known to be good with compliance and a corkscrew. Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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