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No one told this about working from home

Some of the challenges of home-working are obvious, some less so. Here are a few of the obstacles and banana skins you might not have considered, and our tips on how to deal with them.

1. It can be hard on your body

You wouldn’t think that staying at home all day would be physically demanding. But working from home can take its toll if you don’t do it properly. These three things are vital:

  • Invest in a decent chair. Your neck and spine will thank you for it. What’s that, you’ve got a very comfy sofa? Don’t even look at it! Working long periods on a sofa or in bed will wreck your body and will probably make you feel less productive.
  • Get up, stand up. You probably walk a fair bit in the office without even realising, to get to meetings, make coffee, etc. Try to do the same at home. Stopping for stretches every hour is a great idea and it doesn’t matter how silly you look, nobody’s watching.
  • Breathe fresh air. It’s not great for your head to stay within the same four walls all day. So if you can take you can take a conference call walking around the garden or pacing the balcony, do it. Even a 5 minute walk around the block will refresh your thinking.

2. Performance anxiety is a thing. 

No, not that type, that’s way beyond our remit. We’re talking about people’s  tendency to worry more about their performance when they’re working from home. In the office, it’s plain to see that you’re at your desk working (supposedly!), but if you’re remote and you don’t meet the deadline, will people assume you’ve been skiving? 

The best way to avoid this by keeping your team updated with what you’re working on. Using simple daily check-ins are really useful for this. They make your plan visible to your team, making sure they’re aware of what you’re doing and helping you to show what you’ve done each day and to make sure that your work gets recognised. 

3. They won’t get it

If you live with friends or family, it can be tough to get them to leave you in peace during your working hours. Young kids hate it when they don’t have your full attention and, secretly, your partner does too. While they’ll say ‘it’ll only take you a second’, frequent distractions will lose you more time than you realise throughout the day. In fact, one study claimed that we take such a long time to refocus on a task that the average distraction costs us 23 minutes!

To keep you on track amidst potential deviations, it’s wise to have some kind of to-do list. Scribbled bullet points on the back of an envelope still work for some people, but if you’re working in a team you’ll probably want a tool such as Know Your Team to help you stay focused on your goals for that day.

4. Chatting counts as working. Sort of

With instant messaging apps such as Slack so heavily used, you might want to manage your notifications to avoid feeling you’re too connected to your colleagues. But if you’re working remotely long-term, don’t overlook the importance of virtual ‘chit-chat’. It helps build good relationships between co-workers and is important for team morale. Who knows, you might find it easier to ask a work favour from that guy in finance if you already commented on the cute dog photo he posted in the company chat.

So, as with so many things in life and work, it’s a question of balance. Too much time instant-gossiping and searching for the right emoji and you’ll fail to meet your targets, but take all the fun out of your communication habits and you’ll start to lose that human connection.

5. There’s more to video call technique than using a fancy background.

So, you worked out how to add one of those funny zoom backgrounds that make it look like you’re underwater? Fair enough,  it’s probably better than sitting in front of a pile of strategically placed books you’ve never actually read. But even once you’ve got your background sorted, video calls can be a tricky beast. Here are a few pro tips.

  • Add 10%. Try to put a little more energy into your voice and your facial expressions than you would face-to face.  Energy gets lost over camera. 
  • Look into your computer camera when talking, instead of at the screen. This will make people feel you’re looking them right in the eye.
  • Have fewer calls. Remote team meetings can turn into quite boring status updates with people not really engaged on the call. Sound familiar? It doesn’t have to be this way. Async meeting tools can automate status updates so your team can scrap them and focus meetings on more interesting, larger objectives.

Of course, there are plenty more challenges to be overcome when working remotely that we haven’t mentioned. Such as sticking to your agreed hours and keeping a healthy work-life balance. But as it happens, I’m working from home right now and I’m done for the day, so… bye and good luck!