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Working Remotely

heidi 0 Comments General

Remote working is becoming more and more popular but not all businesses are convinced. Read Heidi's blog to find out what it takes to be self disciplined, and to ignore the call of the sofa when working from home.

When I tell people that I work from home, I tend to get one of three reactions. Often there’s envy and people say things like: ‘Oh, that must be great. No commuting. Good for you.’Sometimes there is a complete inability to comprehend how remote working works and I am met with a blank expression, or worse, some sort of fear: often this comes from people who are a bit technically bewildered generally and might not know of the existence of skype, for example, and then there is the third reaction: something akin to horror mixed with childish excitement. Often this comes accompanied with a statement like ‘Oh, I could never do that. How do you stop yourself from just watching TV all day’

I’ve always believed that a world where we all liked the same things would be a terrifying place to live. Imagine if we all craved one type of chocolate all the time? Let’s say Galaxy... There’d be shockingly massive demand and supplies would run out and there’d be utter chaos in corner shops as people fought one another to get the last ripple bar before the shop ran out. It doesn’t bear thinking about really. It’s like that with work as well. I have been ‘working from home’ for the last 3 years. Not because I am socially inept, not because I have a disability which means I can’t travel easily, but because it works for me, and it works for my employers. However, that’s not to say it works for everyone.

One of the challenges of managing a successful team is recognising the differences in people as individuals. Not everyone works in the same way. Some people take a long time to get started in the morning. Maybe they need to drink three cups of coffee and review yesterday’s work before they are ready to leap into action. Maybe they are distracted by their inbox and spend the first hour of every day watching funny videos of cats or reading their horoscope before they start on the tasks for the day. This is fine, because for every person who starts the day slowly, there are other people who get through 90% of their work for the day in the first two hours of the day but then maybe they just slip into power-save mode for the rest of the day.

It’s true. Have a look around the office now. Just stop and have a look at the people around you. Everyone works differently. It doesn’t mean the work isn’t getting done and it doesn’t mean it isn’t getting done well. It just means that individuals learn to manage their own workload to ensure that, if they are morning people, (like me incidentally) anything numbers-based which involves 100% concentration, gets done first thing. Good managers allow their team to develop their skills within their own work patterns and take ownership for their time. There is no point insisting on people staying until midnight if it is obvious they are too tired to complete the task in hand. It’s better to ask the night owls in the team to stay to complete their part of the project and get the early birds in early the following morning to pick up and finish off. Yes, it sounds so simple. Obviously it’s not and it doesn’t work like that all the time, but it explains what I mean about people needing different things from their work day and contributing in different ways. The more flexibility a workforce has, the more, well, flexible they can be, no? I’ve always been a list maker so I am very aware of what needs to be completed and what my deadlines are. I organise my time so that I can choose to procrastinate over the boring jobs, but I know they are there, and they will get done on time. If they don’t, no one is going to be there to cover me. I only have myself to answer to so not getting it done isn’t an option.

Perhaps as a home worker you need to be able to compartmentalise things better and that can be as simple as deciding where your desk will be. For me it is important to have a completely separate space from work and the place where I live. I need a separate room where my work lives so that when I am done for the day I can literally shut the door on the working day. If you don’t manage some kind of separation then you can find yourself working every hour of the day and that is obviously not healthy. At least, in most offices, it would soon be noticed if you were sleeping at your desk and never changing your clothes….

Working from home requires more discipline in many ways but many of the routines I employ throughout my working week come as a direct result from years of working in an office. Yes, these days I can start work while I’m still in my pyjamas, but office culture helped me to develop the time management skills I have now. I would not be in a position to manage my time so well if I hadn’t spent time working along both very efficient and highly inefficient workers – to learn the best methods to put into play. Within the digital industry there is still a surprising amount of fear about allowing staff to be completely remote and not without good reason. Some people simply perform better in an office because it helps to put a distance between the workplace and the home. We are not yet in an era where all companies have only half the desks they need to allow for workers to hot desk as they please, but this is surely just around the corner? With the wealth of virtual meeting software and free VOIP available to companies, it isn’t that work can’t be done as well in the office but more a question of identifying the human element of the work that is being done. We are people after all, not robots. The days of clocking on and clock watching may be numbered, but there’s still learning to do. Whilst there are times when face to face meetings are important for relationship building, it’s obvious that many of the thousands of face to face meetings that take place every week in businesses of all shapes and sizes could be done via skype or google hangouts, or any of the other virtual office tools available at the click of the mouse. So can you really, honestly think of a single task that I can’t do from here while you’re sat there? I bet you can’t…