There have been many views online suggesting the traditional office model is out the window and we must all embrace a new way of working, be that a hybrid model or a fully remote working model. Opposing views are such that we will return to normal as city economies cannot survive if people do not return to the office. In truth, the future is unknown for the simple fact that this situation we are in has never presented itself to us in the modern age. No one has the answer and we are all trying to adapt as best we can in the way we think is correct.
Certainly, at 1E, we are fortunate to have excellent technology that enables us to be free of the shackles of a traditional office model and try a new hybrid way of working. Why? Because we can, and more importantly because our people want it. They want the choice for themselves as to where and when they work and if this makes us more productive, then why not let them try? If all else fails, we can regroup and try again.
It is now October 2020, the threat of another possible lockdown is on the horizon making our fears over the coming winter a harsh reality, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. If lockdown happens, so be it, we are ready and prepared to persevere, we have tried and tested working from anywhere and have come up with some tips that we have categorized into groups:
- Managing your work and time
The key component to keeping people connected, productive and engaged is communication, more so now that those tea point interactions in the office are not taking place. Sharing a social connection with colleagues or friends is imperative, it forms the basis of who we are as human beings, we need to socialize, it’s our natural drug and we crave it constantly. That being said, there is a danger that we over-communicate and this then has an adverse effect so it’s vital to find the right balance within your organization and teams.
- Use video calls to their best advantage – Team calls and daily stand up are usually best done by video calls. Video calls are proven to improve communication, allow for reading of facial expressions/body language and builds engagement and connection within teams. They are especially important when providing feedback and direction, when this can’t be done face-to-face.
- When not to use video calls – Not every catch-up/1-2-1 must be a video call. To avoid screen fatigue, you can arrange to speak on a phone line, or mobile. You can take these calls from another part of the house, garden, or while out for a walk. It is important to get time away from your screen.
- Open conversations time and breaks – there is a fear that not appearing online all the time can be perceived as not working. You can communicate with your team when you’re going for a break or to lunch or set an out of office to let people know when you’ll respond. It’s important you communicate with your team members when you are available and not work more hours than is necessary. Enabling people to work from anywhere and set their own agenda to deliver on KPI’s can only be met with trust.
Managing your work and time
We are now faced in a situation where you as an individual can decide how you work, when you work and where you work. You no longer need to sit in a cubicle or share a bank of desks with other colleagues. You don’t have to have the routine as everyone else because that’s when everyone takes their lunch. We are all adults and we can make the conscious choice to work in an environment that we want. If you want 3 screens on your desk, a bed or flowers on your windowsill and a view of the park when you work, then why not? If you want to start your daily routine to the sound and smell of fresh coffee beans being ground and Alexa playing the local news as you open your laptop, then why not? The point here is you can decide what your daily routine is to prepare you for your workday, the only limit is your own imagination.
- If you’re easily distracted – Use the do not disturb setting when you need to concentrate or complete a piece of work. We are often distracted by each ping of an e-mail, IM or call coming through. Use your systems settings at key times to ensure you have the space to focus.
- Breaks – Ensure you proactively block out break times in your calendar and be strict with yourself. Most colleagues and managers will understand that you need time away from your screen.
- Time for yourself – with remote working, we have more hours in the day as there is no commute, don’t use this time for work but rather use it for yourself. E.g. if your workday starts at 09:00 but you wake up at 07:00, spend some of that time on you. Have a coffee, catchup on news, read a book or go for a walk. Resist the temptation to log on early.
- Change of scenery – Sitting in the same spot can get tiresome. Try to utilize different areas of your home to change your work perspective. Even if it means rotating your desk so you view changes. Think of how you feel after a spring clean at home, the feeling will be the same when you spring clean or change your home office area every few months.
- Background noise – if you are someone that needs background noise to work, try listening to music, news or nature sounds. Subconsciously, these will improve your work environment and get you ready for the tasks ahead. The type of music will affect your mood i.e. fast paced music might work for you in your most productive state, for others it might be opera or white noise.
- Try to maintain home/work boundaries – where you live with others or family, it is useful to set boundaries where you are not interrupted so you can focus when needed. When you leave your home office area for a break or to finish off your day, leave any work equipment there and refrain from checking in until you are back at work. E.g. if you have a work phone, leave it in your home office so you are not tempted to read emails into the evening.
Studies show the success of any business is directly associated by its people. The happier, more engaged and driven employees are the better the business performs. This isn’t some magic algorithm, its pure fact. Therefore, it is fundamental that employers focus on employee wellbeing more so now that we are working from anywhere. This doesn’t stop there; each individual employee must put time and effort into their own wellbeing. With restrictions in place limiting when we go out, where we go and for how long, warrants the need for us to get creative at home in how we boost our mental and physical health. We must not take advantage of the little things that help us get through tough moments in life, so investing in YOU is a must.
- Diet – on days you are feeling low energy, what you eat, and drink can help boost your energy levels. When you are having breaks and snacking try to have healthier treats over snacks like crisps. The long-term gain is more natural energy in your body which leads to less fatigue.
- Lighting – When talking about the desk set up, we should not forget about the importance of proper lighting. It has a substantial impact on our focus and productivity which is what determines our sleep cycle, relaxation, mental health and even our weight and ability to learn. Lighting has also been said to decrease depression as well as improve our vigour, mood, attentiveness, and efficiency.
- Plants – You may have heard that Plants are the new pets. Plants have a positive impact on our happiness, comfort and overall physical wellbeing. They purify the air and remove all those nasty pollutants, making your office a brighter and healthier working environment. Indoor plants reduce stress and blood pressure and even help drive productivity.
- Sit near the window – A view of any kind of nature make a difference to your mood. It can even lower blood pressure and decrease your stress levels.
- Discover Your High Productivity Periods – Your body has a specific preference for how your circadian rhythm (biological time) align to the day and night. Pay attention to how you react and feel during the day, when do you stay focus and when learning or dealing with repetitive tasks comes most naturally and organize your tasks around those times. Working from home is a great opportunity to learn about yourself too.
- Managing balance – In a work from anywhere scenario you should have the to improve your wellbeing and work life balance. Just be sure to communicate clearly with your manager and team so there is mutual understanding of how you are structuring your day. This way you can avoid any anxiety you might feel when you are away from your desk.
To round off, we haven’t got all the answers, but we have tried and tested working from anywhere and can say with 100% certainty that it is possible. I am signing off from my living room in London, which has become my daily work office, with one thought: At the end of my tenancy, do I stay or do I travel while I work? Adjustments will need to be made but with the right technology and work culture, working from anywhere transitions from a dream of the future to reality of the present. Who knows, next month you might find me working from Ireland or Cyprus and this new way of thinking excites me.