Up until recently, people who work from home seemed to be a minority group. But following the outbreak of Covid-19, the world’s largest experiment of remote working is underway. For both employees and managers, this new working arrangement has been thrust upon them with virtually zero warning. And while many believe this unprecedented working behavioral adjustment will become permanent – proving once and for all how effective working from home can be – others remain cautious about the tangible and intangible side-effects of such a move.
Cloud-based technology has certainly made the prospect of working from home do-able for more people. But working from home presents its own set of challenges, some of which you may not have anticipated. At MyHub, we’ve operated a remote working policy for several years. We know the pros and cons of working within a virtual digital workplace and are keen to share these honest insights with you here.
One of the main motivations for wanting to work from home – before the days of worrying about the spread of infectious disease – was wanting to spend less time commuting, and more time with the family. But family members can also be one of your biggest distractions. A recent survey by Regus discovered that remote workers are frequently disturbed by family members, pets or domestic duties. In addition, everyday household noises such as the doorbell ringing, washing machine or dishwasher going alongside noisy children, as well as being distracting can also make you sound unprofessional to business callers. And we haven’t even mentioned the lure of social media, Netflix or the boxed set of Game of Thrones!
The truth is with no colleagues or boss looking over your shoulder, it can be very hard to stay focused and productive. One way to avoid the problem of procrastination followed by a frenzied few hours of activity just before that important deadline is to have a proper home office set up. Working from the dining room table or the couch is a recipe for disaster. Wherever possible, try and create some sort of physical separation between work and home. Set up a desk at home preferably in a separate room from the rest of the family, but if that’s not possible then a quiet corner of the house. Hang a do-not-disturb sign on the door, so other family members that may be at home learn to respect your work time. Establish a daily work routine and break down tasks into manageable chunks to give yourself focus and direction. The truth is learning to manage domestic distractions will be an important part of being able to successfully work from home. And you will need a range of strategies to make sure you stay on task. But don’t be too hard on yourself either. After all, does it really matter if you spend time sorting out the washing or doing some grocery shopping so long as your daily tasks have been ticked off and all deadlines have been comfortably met?
Not Being Able to Clock Off From Work
Many remote workers suffer from the opposite problem of domestic distraction. There are plenty of workaholics out there who find it impossible to switch off from work and if you have this tendency already, then working from home presents real challenges. Remote workers can find themselves working for organizations throughout the world, or it may be that your company has multiple offices in different time zones. This means that the typical workday for a remote employee can cover multiple time zones which can easily translate into very long hours.
When the separation between work and home is already blurred, those of us who struggle to sign off need to be extra vigilant to the dangers. Setting yourself clear daily tasks will be critical in this respect. And once you’ve completed your daily goals, that’s it. Log off and leave it alone. Make sure all your cell phone’s notifications are turned off. Better still why not surrender your smartphone and tablet to your partner to be returned in the morning. It might sound like an extreme measure, but if it safeguards your own mental wellbeing as well as that of your family, it might be a step worth considering.
Dealing With Technology Breakdowns
If you’re used to being able to ring IT Support any time something goes wrong, then remote working will be a real shock to the system. There’s no expertise that you can call on to come and sort something out – you’ll have to do it all yourself. Most remote workers find that they quickly become proficient at dealing with printer jams, Windows meltdowns, loss of data or phishing. However, one major gripe from remote workers that isn’t so easily remedied is a painfully slow internet connection. Unfortunately, the speed and quality of internet connections vary greatly, especially in rural or more remote locations and this impacts on a worker’s ability to be productive and efficient. So, if you are seriously thinking of working from home then make sure you can deal with common technological problems – or at least have a team of local experts that you can draw on. And also make sure that your intranet connection is good enough to cope with the increased demand. A slow or unreliable internet will hinder your productivity, create endless frustration and will negatively impact on your ability to make a go of remote working.
Having Sufficient Self-Discipline
We’ve touched on this already, but successful remote working requires a significant amount of self-discipline and motivation. What at first may have seemed like a peaceful, quiet oasis after the hustle and bustle of the office environment can quickly become a lonely and isolating prison cell. It’s important to regularly schedule breaks into your routine for the sake of your mental health at work. There may not be anyone to share a few moments of idle chat with so find some substitutes as it’s important to have some social contact for your overall wellbeing. It may be that there is a local network of home workers or freelancers that you can tap into and share a coffee with. As well as the welcome social contact, these networks are useful for bouncing ideas around and sharing insights. There may even be a formal business association or networking opportunities in the neighborhood that you can join. And why not hook up with a nearby fellow home worker for a morning run or an afternoon stroll. Scheduling regular exercise, fresh air and a complete break from the home office will be critical.
Positives Vs The Negatives
It’s important to realize there are plenty of considerations involved in working from home. Successful remote workers have found the right balance of working efficiently – often citing greater productivity and collaboration – as well as enjoying the positives of spending more time with family, feeling as though they are in control of their own destiny, not wasting hours of their lives in unnecessary meetings or commuting, and having greater flexibility in their schedules. And now more recently, staying healthy and virus-free.
If you’re interested in finding out how technology can support working from home, then get in touch with us here at MyHub. Our easy to set up and manage cloud intranet solution is successfully connecting remote workers throughout the globe. Contact us for an informal discussion on the possibilities.