Over a year into the Covid-19 pandemic, millions of people continue to be under lockdown or practising social distancing. Working from home has become the norm for many. What do we know about remote working? Can a home-based worker be as effective as someone who works from an office?
Research seems to suggest ‘yes’. A 2014 study of call centre workers in China, reported in the Harvard Business Review, revealed that employees working from home were happier, significantly more productive, and far less likely to quit.
So why could this be? This could be due to a quieter environment at home, versus the distractions in a busy office. Home-based workers also tended to work longer hours as, with no commute, they start earlier and take shorter breaks. Another study of 30,000 mothers and fathers conducted by the Hans Böckler Foundation in Germany also supported this finding. It reported that flexible hours and the ability to work from home led to more hours worked overall.
However, working from home has its unique challenges. Here are some tips for making remote work healthy and productive.
Plan working hours and breaks
One pitfall of working from home is that the boundaries between work and personal time can get blurred. So, it’s important for you to focus on ‘wellness’ i.e. switch ‘off’ from work enough. The most successful remote workers plan their working hours and breaks. Keep family informed about working hours i.e. when you’re available and when you are not. To avoid getting pulled back into work after hours, switch off notifications on the phone and computer after your work is done.
Prioritise healthy and safety
If possible, set up a dedicated workspace with your immediate needs close to hand and away from other distractions. Take care to assume the correct position and posture at your computer. Change posture regularly, refocus your eyes; and do some simple stretching exercises at your desk. Approximately five minutes each hour should be spent away from the screen, to rest your eyes. Consider your workstation setup, heating and lighting, and fire safety. Reduce clutter, piles of paperwork and trailing cables that could cause someone to trip and fall, and ensure electrical sockets are not overloaded.
Invest time and effort in relationship-building activities
Don’t just reply to emails, make time to speak to your colleagues and engage in some social talk too. You can use video conferencing, social media groups, phone calls, and other communication and collaboration tools. Factor in five or ten minutes at the start of every meeting to ask people how they are and share the news. All these things are key to overcoming what’s been called the “water cooler gap” where people build strong working relationships through shared bonding strategies.
Continue skills development
Use any extra time spared from commuting to upgrade your skills through online courses. You may choose to gain an extra professional qualification, boost your workplace communication skills or learn a language.
-Beth Caldwell and Neenaz Ichaporia