For those of us still able to continue working from home in the midst of this global COVID-19 pandemic, longer-term home working clearly has its challenges for workloads and wellbeing. Bev Crighton from the University of Derby has contributed this article for the benefit of iiE readers. For Bev’s second Master’s Degree in Strategic HRM, she researched remote working in the 21st century, and here Bev shares with us her top tips to make working from home better for employees and employers.
Many moons ago, when I lived in London, I worked for an organisation that encouraged working from home. It was mainly so the company could save money by having smaller premises in the city. Some of us loved it, some didn’t, but it did financially support our strategy. We were well-equipped and used to working from home, but not everyone is, so here are just a few tips from research I carried out for one of my Master’s Degrees – I’m happy to help with more or individual coaching if anyone needs it.
- Trust – with a capital T – is key to any relationship between an employer and employee. If you are a manager, don’t keep checking up or monitoring, but also don’t leave people to feel isolated, particularly if they are not used to working alone. It’s all about balance.
- Stick to your normal working hours and breaks if you can. Start at 9 and finish at 5. You could even set alarms or timers for coffee at 11am, for lunch at 1pm, or to finish at 5pm. (Mine was always my TV set to come on for Neighbours at 5.30pm!) Otherwise, you will work much longer hours, particularly if you live on your own. Work-life balance matters even more if you are isolating currently.
- Make a space in your house that is just for work (if you can), so you can shut it off, otherwise your family will feel pushed out and you might be tempted to keep going back to work when you are cooking the dinner! If you can’t have a separate space, then put it all away when you are done for the day. If possible, don’t work near where you sleep; research says that will disturb your sleep patterns.
- Make regular times for virtual team meetings, water cooler moments, and catch-ups. You could book a team meeting for 10am on Mondays, so you can talk through the weekend like you would normally do face-to-face.
- If you are intending to use Skype, Zoom or any kind of video conferencing, think about the background and try to dress for work, if you can.
- Don’t beat yourself up if you take 10 minutes to pop the washing on – you would take 10 minutes out to talk to a colleague at work about what was on TV last night, wouldn’t you? That’s just the equivalent!
- If you manage a team, set up a WhatsApp group or equivalent with all your team in, so you can talk things through and not have to repeat. It can also make people feel less isolated.
- If you head up a team and have the resources, make sure that everyone has the correct equipment and tech support.
- Make sure that you have enough to do, which sounds strange. If you are used to being given work, request from your manager a list of what they are expecting you to achieve. This probably should be negotiated depending on the time that you may be at home. Even renegotiating objectives can be a good idea.
- If you had a team lunch planned (maybe for a birthday or celebration) go ahead with it virtually, use video calling to ensure everyone is included. If you have enough notice, you could even get cakes delivered to houses, etc., so things don’t go unrecognised.
- Don’t forget the health and safety aspect – take screen breaks, sit at your desk if you have one. Don’t sit on a sofa with a laptop.
- Lastly, make time for fun. While it could be considered a distraction, it is only an extension of some of the office jokes we all share. Research tells us that most people will stay in a mediocre job because of the people they work with. If there are no people to share things with, workplace morale can slip.
Bev Crighton is External Engagement Lead for the University of Derby.
Bev is a Senior Lecturer and has been at the university for 10 years. Her past careers span private sector university, 20 years in newspapers in various senior roles and banking.
Bev lives in Derbyshire and in her spare time she volunteers for local charities, such as Young Enterprise, as they sit well with her passion for developing young people.