Working from home

After reflecting on working from home over the past 3 weeks I started to think, how productive have I been?

I am torn with my initial answer, and really needed to think about what I have achieved, as a natural task-orientated individual I had to look past the normal completed activities and look at the bigger picture, as well as the changes I have started to implement.

Working from home

In 2019, only 30% of employees have worked from home previously, according to The Office of National Statistics. And with only 5% of employees mainly working from home during the same period, it is no wonder that some of us may be questioning our productivity. We are just not used to this new way of working and the challenges that come with our new environment.

Challenges in our new working environment

There are several common challenges which can be especially demanding on us, such as: home distractions, a lack of access to information, extended periods in order to receive information from our colleagues, along with an inadequate workspace to mention a few.

We are now in an environment that, for the most of us, can be associated with family, socialising, hobbies, home, garden DIY to-do-lists, with the atmosphere generally associated with fun and a level of background noise that goes with it.

While everyone else in the house is behaving in their normal manner, we are in work mode! We are trying to achieve the same level of productivity, yet the environment is different. Is this a bit like striving for the same time running the 100m on a Rugby pitch in winter as you would on the Athletics Track during the middle of summer? We are not talking about personal ability here, I think we can all agree that the environment, culture of any organisation makes a difference to the team’s performance. As leaders we work hard to create the right environment to get the best out of our people.

How should we approach our new insular environment and, equally as important, how can we support our colleagues and our teams experiencing the same issues?

The way forward

For me, it started with establishing a structure to the day, being aware of distractions and keeping my workspace tidy and organised. During my first week of working from home, I started each day thinking, ‘I have all day to complete my tasks’, only to find out that it was 3pm and I was not sure where the day went. I decided to split my day into sections and gave each task a time frame, and avoiding other work and COVID-19 distractions, I found myself focusing on the elements I like to do, rather the ones I should do. Focusing on one job at a time, naturally connected with my own time-task oriented mentality. This has also helped everyone else in the house to understand when I would be on the phone or video conferencing and requiring the decimals to be a little lower.

Next, I re-planned around smaller milestones, rather than completed assignments, giving the opportunity to acknowledge the team more regularly and offer the all-important affirmations which would naturally come, when in the same work environment. These can be more difficult to share when working remotely – I found it important to set up daily check-ins with the team, with many of these not relating to work, but just establishing a genuine interest in their anxieties and concerns of the day.

Working from home can eliminate the natural occasional moan we all have over a coffee in the workplace with our colleagues. It is important to share our thoughts, as we feel better when we do and at times when we actually share our thinking, the issues are not as big as they had been in our inner voice.

My learnings

So, what have I learnt, my third week has been more productive than the first couple, I have established a structure around my day that allows me to complete both work and personal activities – yes I have taken advantage of this good weather with a lunchtime run – I have had the time to corroborate with many colleagues new and old around the future of Learning & Development; and I have been eating in the evenings much earlier, which must be better for me?

Overall, I would say that life-work balance has improved, I am slowing getting used to this new way of working, and while I miss the daily buzz from being in it, I find myself more on it!  

Together we will get through this, and although many things will not go back to the way there where I am looking forward to the time when I can be part of a conversation with my colleagues and clients face to face.

Email: Paul.canning@gmdpeople.com

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