The human being is a sociable animal. We need social interaction. However, in today’s environment, social interaction between work colleagues is just not as available as it was. As a result, feelings of isolation and loneliness can begin to affect the person’s mental health and thus, their productivity. Therefore, the latest guidelines to work from home if you can, have both appealed to and appalled workers.
SSLPost switched to a 100% virtual office environment several years ago. These were the primary reasons behind the decision:
- To give extra flexibility in working hours, providing the potential for increased productivity;
- To produce a higher quality of work due to improved morale and fewer interruptions;
- To improve the quality of work-life (morale, personal control of work – families/personal life balance);
- To improve service delivery by non-interruptible working time, enabling quicker turnaround of tasks and better quality through improved concentration levels;
- To reduce costs and lower overheads;
- Lower absenteeism;
- Reduce staff “cost to work” related expenses such as clothing, travel, lunches etc
- Retention/recruitment of employees (wider pool of recruits as their location is not important);
- Reduced travel problems; transport availability/cost implications;
- Environmental considerations, for instance, emissions;
- Improve organisational/cost efficiency in property management;
- Improve management of staff through more effective communications.
So how do we manage this without becoming onesie-wearing hermits? Each of us has worked out what motivates us, boosts self-discipline and creates our healthy working environment.
What works for me is a series of small things that collectively make a huge difference.
A separate workspace that is 100% dedicated to work. In our company, this is essential. When I walk into that workspace, I am in a secure office space. My family know that when I am in this space, I am working, and they are not to disturb me unless the house is burning down. Now my kids only enter my daytime lair to pop a cuppa on the desk before hastily beating a retreat and returning to their own desks with whatever snack they have managed to procure from the rapidly emptying fridge (see below; they are new to this remote working lark!). This is not, however, something that is available to everyone who shares their abode with others or has limited space. At a minimum, having a stable surface on which to place your laptop is essential and making a division (physical or virtual) between home life and work-life helps with motivation and self-discipline. If it is possible to make this space away from the space in which you sleep, even better.
The kitchen floor is lava! It is so easy to spend time wandering in and out of the kitchen, opening and shutting the fridge door, rooting for a tasty snack. If you imagine the door to the kitchen only opens for food three times a day, it helps. Move the kettle if the temptation gets too much!
Getting showered and dressed every day. Getting into “work mode” is hard if you do not make a division between the way you dress for lazy days and the days you dress for work (albeit more casually than when you attended the office or a physical business meeting). I am not talking about donning a suit here but freshening up and dressing for the day makes you more ready for the day’s challenges.
Taking a lunch break and getting outside. It is very easy to slip into working through without a break. Stop at least once a day and whether raining or sunny, take a walk outside. Clear your head, see what changes the season brings, wave at neighbours, bin men, street sweepers, walk the dog, mow the lawn, anything that gets you into the fresh air for at least half an hour.
When they were younger, my kids went into childcare during working hours, friends and family visits were discouraged during working hours. It took a while for this to be accepted as to some, working from home meant I was available to all and sundry for every favour, job or errand going. We got there in the end!
In times when face to face meetings were possible, I attended business networking events, even if it was just lunch with fellow business people. It was a chance to get out and about, away from my desk and listen to other people’s challenges, experiences and projects. These days, business networking is done virtually and whilst you are not face to face in person, it can make a difference to any feelings of isolation to have an online chat via Zoom or similar with others in the same situation.
I engage with all colleagues at least once a week. Our regular online meetings with senior managers have continued whilst the face to face meetings between two or three people have been replaced with open online brainstorming sessions. We talk about all sorts of business-related issues, from new sales to software development, security, challenges, and business change. This gives us all a better understanding of the whole business’s activities, plans and emerging developments. It also increases the appreciation of the roles we each play in the success of the company.
I also volunteered for mentoring, CV and Dragon’s Den events at my local secondary school. Meeting these teens was eye-opening. These are our future employees and their minds are keen and fresh. Their thinking is completely unencumbered by business traditions, history or blockers. I found it refreshing and motivating. The schools will decide whether this is something that can be done in person within the safety guidelines or whether they will switch to a virtual provision. You don’t have to be a great presenter, just bring your knowledge and experience of the working world to share with the students and listen to their views of business life. It is great, believe me!
This is what works for me, what works for you?