There has been an explosion of activity in local government in response to the coronavirus. Local authorities are working resourcefully and at speed, to deliver new Government policies and relieve pressure on the NHS, while coordinating volunteer efforts and maintaining the delivery of vital services day-to-day. Doing all of this from a new ‘office’ at the kitchen table may present its own set of challenges, as many experience long-term homeworking for the first time.
For BT, homeworking is not a new concept. Our first homeworking trials were back in 1992, starting with the ‘Inverness Experiment’ with directory enquiry agents. By 2000, a significant proportion of our workforce worked from home. So, who better to ask about their top tips than our veteran homeworkers?
As you focus on keeping your constituents safe, we’ve gathered our top tips for successful homeworking to help you adjust. You’ll find the top suggestions from our teams in this article, and you can read the full report at https://business.bt.com/successful-home-working/
Build a workspace that suits you and your environment
One of the benefits of homeworking is that you’re able to stay in your own comfortable space. Our team recommend getting dressed as though you’re going to work – not necessarily in normal work clothes, but this should be part of your routine.
Try and set up your working space at a desk with a comfortable chair. Continue to be mindful of confidential conversations being overheard and at the end of the working day, make sure you pack up your laptop or any other equipment so that your space at home goes back to being just that, and doesn’t remind you of work out of hours.
Establish a routine, set goals, and know when to switch off
Keeping to a routine is important when working from home, but every person is different. Many will be looking after children and trying to ‘home school’ for the first time, so be forgiving to yourself and make your work schedule flexible around this.
It can also be helpful to set goals each day around what motivates you or your team, and plan time in the diary for important tasks. Be realistic with your goals and remember this is an unusual situation for lots of us.
It can also be helpful to establish boundaries with your family however, if that’s not possible, remember the mute button if there are guest appearances from the kids on your calls!
Keep healthy and don’t feel guilty for taking breaks
Just because your new desk is in your home doesn’t mean you need to be available to work at all hours. Be realistic with your schedule and ensure you take breaks throughout the day to refocus your mind. You wouldn’t stay glued to your desk in the office all day, so set a reminder to stand up from your desk, go for a short walk and refresh your mind. Remember that maintaining a healthy work and life balance is key to homeworking.
Continue to connect with colleagues
We are social creatures – that’s why offices survive. When you work from home, the social connections that we take for granted in the real world must be re-established virtually. That can take a bit of conscious effort. Our teams have set time aside once a week to catch up, and a weekly ‘Friday Fun’ quiz to keep the team spirit alive while we’re all apart.
We also recommend video calls as it helps to connect with your team face-to-face.
Make remote working less remote by using technologies effectively
There are a bewildering number of technologies out there, so you also need to agree how, when and where to communicate. Too many platforms can mean that collaboration becomes fragmented and confusing. Creating ‘common ground’ for collaboration – ie tools that are both accessible to everyone and appropriate for the task – is essential.
Our team also recommend investing in a noise-cancelling headset which will prevent distractions, and if there is no document-sharing on the call you can chat while walking outside for your daily exercise.
The future homeworking legacy
We’re in the midst of a big global experiment in remote, virtualised digital working. The results will be fascinating, but one thing’s for sure: the way we work is likely to change forever.
In the future, we may view offices and collaboration in a different way. So far, we’ve discovered virtual meetings work better when everyone is remote. While we have no choice but to work from home, we hope these insights help you to do it more successfully… and maybe continue to do it when this crisis is a distant memory.
For more information on how we are supporting your organisation, visit us at https://business.bt.com/coronavirus-support
Dr Nicola Millard is Principal Innovation Partner at BT