This is a guest post from Annabel Dunstan, founder and CEO of Question & Retain.
Question & Retain was set up as a virtual company eight years ago, and as all the team work remotely, we are well versed in running meetings via Zoom and harnessing other technology and software products for seamless joined-up working. Dotted around the M25, and in Romania, our team all have home-based workstations, are self-directing in their work streams, and are on the ball about staying in touch and keeping everyone in the loop on activity and any challenges they are facing.
For many companies, the move to remote working is still new. In light of the Government asking everyone to work from home to slow the spread of coronavirus, we asked 1,000 business leaders in the communications sector what the biggest challenge was when working from home.
One quarter (26%) of respondents said they felt demotivated and lack lustre without the stimuli of office life. 20% flagged the challenge of juggling the needs of children at home while keeping a focus on work. And nearly a fifth (17%) were finding it hard to switch off from work with ‘always on’ technology in the house.
Those that had previous experience of WFH seem very comfortable with the new status quo with fellow team members now also working remotely. Below we share some of the top tips offered up by respondents that may help you and your teams as we all adjust.
1. Make sure your workspace is comfortable and properly set up – the last thing you want is musculoskeletal problems because your desk or chair is the wrong height; don’t sit for too long looking at the same four walls.
2. Don’t work in your PJs (I don’t dress up in business dress but that does work for some people).
3. Use the phone and video – make an effort to speak to people every day at scheduled times.
4. Set a todo list. Celebrate every tick on that list.
5. Allocate specific tasks to specific times of the day. Decide how much time each task should take and set an alarm for when that time is up.
6. Give in to your concentration span. After a decade of WFH, I know that mine is no more than 45 minutes.
7. Don’t clean the house or – even worse – go to the toilet (!) on conference calls (unless you are an expert muter for audio and visual).
Taking care of your mental health
1. Don’t say ‘quick lunch’ in the skype group or ‘quick break’ – say ‘I’ll be walking the dog in my lunch hour’ or ‘I need some fresh air, back in half an hour’. Using the word ‘quick’ for your breaks implies you think they are not worth spending time on – they are.
2. Get out and get fresh air at least once a day if you can, making sure to abide by Government guidelines.
3. Stay connected and organise time to talk ‘socially’ around work updates.
4. Encourage and create a sense of community e.g. a morning team briefing in the Zoom café, end of workday chat in the Zoom pub, or share talents e.g. singing, playing guitar, themed fancy dress etc.
5. As a leader, watch out for who is not ‘showing up’ and check in 1:1 via telephone.
6. Switch off from screens early, at least two hours before going to bed, to help ensure a better night’s sleep.
Taking care of your physical health, where possible
1. Try to exercise every day – walk, cycle or run outdoors if possible and in line with Government guidance.
2. Use technology to download exercise apps that inspire you and get you moving – yoga, Zumba, plank challenge etc.
3. Avoid turning to alcohol and comfort food to zone out from stress.
4. Set yourself achievable goals to get/stay fit.
Personally, I make a point of getting outside first thing, e.g. cycling or running, or swimming in the sea before I dress for work (say no to PJs), slap on the lippy and crack on. I schedule breaks and group calls with members of the team for work and virtual water cooler catch ups. Working in 40-minute bursts, punctuated by sax practice or a cuppa in the garden refreshes my brain and restores the concentration.
I take and make calls standing up and switch off the phone and email alerts when drafting stuff. Emails get taken care of three-four times a day in batches to avoid serving the inbox and thinking that is work. I finish work by changing clothes and playing some kick-ass music very loudly. It’s key for me to make that delineation and properly switch off.
It is a big (but understandable) ask to tell everyone to WFH, but I trust that one of the positives that may come from these strange times is a better acceptance by business leaders that it can and does work, and effectively too.