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At this uncertain time surrounding COVID-19, it is necessary for people to work from home where possible. Although this is a huge change for some companies, there are plenty of advantages to working from home, for both the employer and the employee. At this difficult time, we are keen to share positivity and ways to utilise the advantages of working from home.
Many of us are attuned to the office working environment. It is easy to become accustomed to your morning cup of coffee with colleagues, attending meetings and the general buzz of the office. It is no surprise that the idea of remote working might leave us scrambling our brains to find tips for working from home effectively.
Even before the pandemic took over our lives and many were forced to work from home, more and more companies had begun to employ for remote working jobs full time, or operate a flexible remote working policy. Remote working statistics revealed that the number of remote workers in the UK grew by 25% between 2008 and 2018, as virtual communication tools and software increases, "work is now something you 'do', not somewhere you go."
In this article we will cover:
Top tips on how to work from home for employees
Top remote working tips for employers and managers
We have partnered with Charlotte Wiseman, Mental Fitness Training and Positive Psychology Coaching expert, to bring you a series of videos to help you adjust to working from home routines and adapt to the current climate.
Charlotte is from an evidenced based scientific background, and so all of the tips in the videos are science-lead, practical advice. There is a download 'hand-out' with every video we release, which can be found on our Mental Fitness Blog.
Tip: change the playback speed in the settings at the bottom right corner, to suit your learning requirements, or click the top right corner to skip to the next video in the playlist. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos!
Working from home advice from graduates
Give A Grad A Go have continued to find remote jobs for many graduates since lock-down began. We asked some of these individuals how they have found working from home so far, and what advice they would give others who have just started a new job in these very unusual circumstances:
- Christian Harvey - Account Manager at ALPIMA
“The transition to working from home has been smoother for me than almost anyone I know. Phone calls after every interview and excellent email communication meant that being ‘remote’ from you was no impediment to the recruitment process, you really are first class!
I am finding working from home so far an absolute dream, to the point where I’ve asked my boss if I can work every Monday from home when this is all over. The biggest hurdle is keeping yourself on task, which is easy when you have deadlines; when your work shifts to being more self-directed, I find using a Kanban board, post-its work too, helping me to prioritise!
The advice I would give others starting a remote job is keep optimistic. I can’t even imagine how hard it must be to be dealing with dodgy internet connections in the middle of one of the worst global recessions, so... believe in yourself, and don’t forget what makes you special.”
- Antonio Alves - Investor Relations Administrator at Richard Davies
"With the current situation we’re in it’s a bit strange as I can now get to work within a minute. Things can be a little bit slower as the communication with the team is not quite the same, but we’re busy and I’m still learning, which is a bonus in times like this!
I think the best advice I can give is to quickly find yourself a routine that works well for you, always do your best, and never get complacent."
- Katy Man - Operations Analyst at Hiber
"I was only in my new office for 4 days before I started working at home. It's been challenging to be trained remotely and to get to know new colleagues over video calls. However, Hiber have really facilitated the whole process by providing us with additional equipment at home as needed to continue our normal functions. They have also arranged non-work related video calls which has really helped me to fit in with everybody else.
The advice I would give to other graduates starting a new job remotely, is don't be afraid to message or call your colleagues repeatedly to ask for help. Just because you're isolated at home doesn't mean you have to struggle in silence!"
What are the benefits of working remotely for employees?
For many businesses, even a couple of decades ago, working remotely would have been nearly impossible. Without the right technology, an employee had to go to the office to get their work done. Having a flexible schedule can be beneficial in a variety of ways, for example if you need to make an appointment, have children to look after or even if you work more efficiently in the mornings or evenings and want to mix up the 9-5 schedule, flexible working allows you to do so.
Particularly if you have a long commute, travelling around can be expensive. By working from home you will be saving money on petrol, or car parking costs, train or bus expenses around the city. Also, we all know how tempting and easy it is to grab a quick meal deal at lunch, but this adds up and before you know it, a chunk of your income has gone. Have a think about how you could use the money you save wisely?
We are all used to hearing about the dreaded commute, so one of the biggest benefits of working remotely from home, is the time you will save commuting to work. The average daily commute in Britain took 59 minutes in 2019. With nearly an hour extra time to spend in the day, we had a little think about some working from home tips and how to use this spare time productively (scroll down to the last section in this article to find out more)...
Another of the great advantages of working from home, is being in your own space. This enables you to find the best way to work remotely, in a setting that suits you. You might find it better to work in silence and focus during set hours, or to listen to background music to keep you feeling positive. If you are used to working in a busy, noisy office, you might find that you can focus more on making calls, attending online meetings and concentrating in a quiet environment.
However, it's important that you don't get too comfortable. To be the most productive in your home office, you need to carve out a working zone from the rest of your home, where you can focus, and satisfy your work needs. If it has proven to be impossible for you to have a dedicated workspace, and you've found yourself remotely working for an indefinite time, you should think about investing in home additions, which you can turn into your own functional and cozy workspace.
Another benefit of working remotely is that you are not restricted by a dress code. This might save you time spent choosing a suitable outfit for work, dressing for the weather, or dressing to impress work colleagues! Bare in mind, however, while working from home, productivity can be increased by choosing to get dressed instead of lounging around in pyjamas all day.
You can avoid the dreaded 'rush hour' and not have to worry about getting delayed on the Northern Line. If you've got an important interview or early morning meeting, then you won't need to worry about getting stuck in traffic, trains being cancelled or the bus not turning up, which can all cause unnecessary stress.
Benefits of working remotely for employers and managers
The flexibility of remote working, means that employees are able to stay within the same job role, even if their personal circumstances change. For example, if an individual was to move to a different city, they would still be able to carry out their duties working from home. Being flexible in remote working opportunities is a great way for employers to retain staff, reduce employee turnover and ultimately save money in the long-term. Find more tips on how to retain your employees.
Remote working in the UK has shown to statistically be favoured by employees, being one of the most important company benefits for 19% of employees, who say that if they were torn between two roles, 1 in 5 individuals would accept the remote working jobs over office based jobs. This allows employers to select the very best candidates. Some businesses have the ability to recruit individuals from anywhere in the world, opening up their doors to a far larger pool of talent to choose from. Whether this is you or not, remote working options can be an excellent way to attract new talent. If you are interested in remote hiring, please get in touch today and find out how we can help you grow your team.
Office environments can often be noisy with lots of distractions, which can lead to a lack of productivity and concentration issues for some staff. You are also likely to see less excuses to be late for work, as delayed public transport is the biggest culprit of this. If employees are on-boarded with the right skills of how to work from home, then they are likely to be very efficient and productive.
Mental health is currently the leading cause of sickness absence from work and costs the UK employers an average of £1300 per employee. Taking time off from work, or having the flexibility to work remotely is a great way to boost the work/life balance for employees which will lead to better mental well-being in the workplace.
There are financial benefits of remote working too, with fewer overhead costs eliminating the need for office space and other resources in the workplace, such as any equipment, kitchen facilities, furniture or utilities. You may also reduce the need to expense any travel or commuting costs too.
Having a flexible schedule can be beneficial to your employees for many reasons, including reducing stress and increasing happiness. Remote workers with children may find it useful to have time to pick their children up from school, others may live far away and benefit from extra time at home instead of commuting. If you manage your employees well by being flexible, then your employees are more likely to be flexible when you need them to be as well.
Disadvantages of working from home for employees (and how to tackle them!)
A big concern around remote working jobs may be motivation. Not having the encouragement of your colleagues working near you may be seen as one of the disadvantages of working from home, as it can be difficult for some to stay motivated. Try to ensure you continue to update co-workers on your progress throughout the day, making sure your goals align with the rest of your team.
This can particularly be an issue if you work from home alone, without housemates or family. Having regular virtual meetings, over the phone or video calls, are a great way to ensure you continue to have some spocial interations, while keeping up to date with what your co-workers are doing (both work and non-work related!)
One of the best tips for working from home effectively is to map out your day. Making a plan of your day, and getting into the habit of waking up at a certain time, taking regular breaks and switching off during your lunch break.
Do you have the tools and software you need on your laptop? Is your internet connection fast enough? Do you need a second monitor screen to work more efficiently? In this day and age, particularly in a tech or IT based job role, a second monitor is the gift that keeps on giving. If you are planning on working from home indefinitely, then it may be worth investing in these tools and resources, or asking your employer if these things are something they can provide you with.
The downside to these technological advances? Learning when to switch off. It can be very easy, particularly when working from home, to continue to work into the evening, which can have a negative impact on your mental well-being. Make sure you still finish work on time, shut down your laptop or desktop and put your phone down for some chill time in the evenings.
Disadvantages of working remotely for employers (and how to tackle them)
It can be more difficult to monitor the performance of an individual working from home if you aren't seeing them everyday in an office environment. However, if the trust is there and evident, employees can actually be more efficient than in an office environment. Employers must ensure they stay organised, plan employees' development, ask them to keep track of their progress, provide examples and send reports is the best way to increase working from home productivity.
One worry for remote working companies is communication. However, working from home productivity does not need to be affected by this, with the majority of office-based companies already using online meetings, phone calls and emails to conduct their work. It is becoming increasingly popular to communicate through apps such as Skype, Zoom, over the phone and via google hangout, so communication, if planned properly, does not need to be a disadvantage of working from home.
Some industries and job roles simply wouldn't work being carried out from home, such as some services, or labour intensive manual work. However, if you need to take mandatory working from home, then perhaps you could focus on other aspects of your job that you usually wouldn’t have time for. Now would be the perfect time to think of a growth strategy, write a business plan, investigate and contact people about business development or build up your marketing and PR presence.
What should I do in my free time at home?
Having an extra hour a day to get in touch with with family or friends can be a great way to brighten up your day, bring some positivity and connect with the outside world when you're working from home, particularly if you are alone. It is important to bare in mind your social health.
While working from home, productivity levels might be getting lower by the end of the day, which is why it is so important to ensure you properly switch off in your free time. Use the additional time in your day to read a book, or watch some TV. Many companies realise the importance of taking time off from work, with flexible working from home options becoming increasingly popular with businesses in the city.
Keep yourself motivated by exploring your creative talent at lunchtime or in the evenings. Purchase an adult colouring book, re-decorate a room in the house, do some gardening or make a card or gift for a loved one. If you find yourself putting off starting new challenges and scrolling through Instagram instead, read our guide on how to stop procrastinating.
Volunteering is fulfilling and a great way to give something back to the community. If you are able to get out and about, try volunteering at a hospital, charity shop or animal shelter. At this uncertain time, you can still offer your time to help the elderly and vulnerable by using our template below, or have a look at what other virtual volunteering ideas there are.
Exercise is vital in sustaining an equilibrium between our mental, physical and social well-being in the workplace. Having an extra hour a day to exercise is a great way to keep healthy and fit while working from home. If you are unable to attend gym classes, then you can find many work out routines online, clubs or classes in the local outside area, or simply go for a run or walk outside.
Having a long commute to work can be extremely tiring, and often leave you with little motivation to work more. One of the great benefits of working remotely is that you may find yourself with more mental energy for learning from home after your working day. Switch off from your job, and use this time to learn a new language, do a training course, or watch a documentary.
Starting a new project is a great way to spend your time. You could finally get around to clearing out that spare room, starting a blog or social media page and sharing your skills with others online. Whether you are completing a giant puzzle or writing a full feature film script, during isolation is the best time to do so.