How to work from home effectively

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has made working from home the ‘new normal’. But how can you adjust to the change, avoid the pitfalls, keep connected and maximise your productivity?

Words: Linda Walby

For Jill Brennan, BCMS Senior Content Editor, effective communication and establishing a good routine have been critical to achieving balance. While most of us might have experience of working from home occasionally, Jill, who started working for BCMS in 2007, is permanently home based. After amassing 22 years’ experience in a home-working environment, Jill has developed some tactics that may be useful to you as you navigate a very different way of working. Jill and I work in the same team, producing marketing content on our clients’ behalf. I asked her about the advantages and disadvantages of home working because, apart from the zero-mile commute, the first thing you will notice is the lack of human contact:

“You get fewer interruptions and can really focus on your work when there is nobody walking into the office wanting a chat! This can also be a disadvantage – it can be quite lonely with nobody available to offer a quick opinion. It’s easy to feel out of the loop.”

"As a remote worker, you must be proactive"

Feelings of isolation could be a huge challenge in these times of zero social contact. Jill has adapted her working style to improve communication and to maintain team spirit.

“I pick up the phone more. That is my equivalent of dropping by a colleague’s desk. I ask a lot of questions to ensure I am up to date with projects, my colleagues and the team. As a remote worker, you must be proactive. Staying in touch is vital. Using technology, such as Global Meet and Microsoft Teams, also helps you stay connected with colleagues and clients.”

"I try to replicate an office-based working day"

There is a tendency for the lines in-between work and life to become blurred. Jill is also an advocate of sticking to a set routine.

“I try to replicate an office-based working day. I get up, showered and dressed as if I was going out to work, have breakfast and fire up the computer. By the time I sit down at my desk my mind is in work mode. Over the years I have been strict with friends and family. I have let them know that, although I am at home, I am working. When the children were young, I even had a sign for my office door so that they knew if I was on a work call that couldn’t be disturbed.” 

I can totally empathise with Jill on the importance of getting up and prepped. As appealing as working in your PJs sounds, it is psychologically advantageous to create a distinction between work time and personal time. The prospect of being called on to an emergency video call with a client usually gives me enough motivation to extract me from my novelty loungewear. 

Everyone’s situation is different, but the secret to success lies in good planning and setting boundaries. Sharing responsibilities can be useful if there are multiple adults in the house, creating windows of time for all to complete work tasks. 
The distractions of daily life can be barriers to productivity. Jill has learned to minimise them:

“I keep my personal phone in my bedroom so that the temptation isn’t there to pick up calls or look at social media. I catch up on missed calls and messages on scheduled breaks.” 

Every home worker should carve out downtime

Planning breaks is important and, rather counter intuitively, increases effectiveness. Every home worker should carve out downtime throughout the day. Working effectively also means not working 24/7. Jill admits that there is the temptation to revisit work in the evening and work extended hours. Responsible employers discourage this, and it is certainly not good for health or work/life balance. 

“Another thing I do to prevent feeling isolated is go for a walk at lunchtime – of course now we need to make sure we comply with government instructions.” 

So, there is absolutely nothing to fear in your new environment: communicate, keep checking in with people, do what you can to keep your team’s spirit high and establish the best routine for your own personal circumstances. 
Enjoy your working day and think of the saving on travel costs!

Important note: the market for business sales

It's not business as usual, of course, but company sales are still completing during the pandemic, and BCMS is experiencing a significant level of enquiries from acquirers looking to buy. To find out more about the market for selling a business, including how to prepare your company for a potential sale in the future, why not speak to one of our senior advisors? We can offer impartial advice, analysis and an assessment of the market, personalised to your business, your goals and your sector.