With a growing number of employees being encouraged or directed to work from home (WFH) during the coronavirus pandemic, the largest work-from-home experiment is testing Australian businesses and employees.
Studies show working from home can lead to increased productivity, if employees work smarter. However, working smarter can be difficult for the ad hoc home offices being set up across Australia.
Having worked remotely for over 10 years, I’m highly-skilled at maintaining a successful business with high productivity, developing software applications in the corporate social responsibility (CSR) space, from the comfort of my home office.
The advantages of a virtual office are manifold:
- There is no commute to work
- You become geographically agnostic and are able to employ staff in remote locations and access a larger pool of talent
- Team members are able to work to a flexible, outcome-driven schedule
- No office space rental costs minimise business overhead
- Business development happens in prospects or clients’ offices or in shared offices where the team can rent boardrooms on an ad hoc basis
My team of 13 employees at Informed 365 appreciate the flexible benefits of working from home and are extremely loyal and happy workers as a result of the arrangement.
But for the WFH newbies, there is an increasing temptation to remain in your pyjamas, respond to emails in bed and turn up the TV. All which are habits that can significantly impact your day-to-day productivity.
Here are five tips to help you transition into a working from home environment:
1. Implement team member KPIs to keep staff accountable
Key performance indicators (KPIs) keep teams accountable to business objectives and enable business owners to understand the performance and health of their business to align with strategic goals.
Clear, specific and measurable KPIs are even more crucial when working remotely as these can indicate if a specific employee or department needs to change their tack to meet goals or deadlines.
2. Communicate daily with tools such as Trello, Slack and GoToMeeting
Web conferencing, instant messaging and collaborative documents are the bread and butter of many home-workers. When used correctly, such tools enable people to work as they would in a normal office, even across geographical differences.
For the Informed 365 team, Trello, Slack and GoToMeeting help them stay connected and collaborative:
Trello gives businesses a high-level view of what’s happening within their organisation. You can organise your team, tasks and goals from their primary interface.
Slack is an alternative to traditional email which simplifies communication and workflow chains between team members in remote locations.
GoToMeeting is an easy-to-use video conferencing platform that minimises the need for face-to-face meetings and allows you to have a more personable conversation than email or instant messaging sometimes affords.
3. Foster honesty and openness to keep communication chains open
I have instilled an honest and flexible process of working to ensure my team can rely on each other for support, even when working remotely. My golden rule – overcommunicate!
Without the ability to track each other’s movements and activities, you need to go above-and-beyond to ensure your team is aware of how, when and where they can reach you. Need to duck out of the office for a quick appointment? Simply let them know you are heading offline. A flexible working arrangement is one of the perks, after all!
4. Eliminate distractions from your immediate space
Talk to your partner, roommate or any other distractions about the hours you are working and set some ground rules!
The last thing you want is unexpected noises such as a dog barking (sometimes unavoidable when a courier or postman drops in) or unsuspecting children to disrupt an important meeting, call or negotiation (yes we all remember Professor Robert Kelly’s BBC News TV interview).
You can minimise the risk of distraction and interruption through a separate working space. You can suggest your kids use this grammar checker for Australian scholars when you are in an important meeting, and you don’t have a free minute to help them with their work.
5. Create a separate space for your office at home
One of the most important tips for working from home is creating a designated workspace.
While you may not have the luxury of a separate office, clear the dining table or bench and create a space that is both functional and comfortable. This area can help you mimic your usual work routine and put you in a work-related mindset – increasing productivity!
My ideal office includes natural light for increase satisfaction (no one wants to be cramped inside all day), a desk place to reduce stress and above all, a good Internet connection to stay connected!
So while the longevity of the virus is uncertain and working from home shakes up work routines left, right and centre, spending some time to set up policies, tools and designated spaces and having a strict and specific routine can help you remain productive and smart in this unprecedented time. Who knows? Like Informed 365, you may enjoy the benefits so much, you never move back to the office!
With a passion for sustainable workplaces and positive world change, Nicholas Bernhardt started Informed 365 after seeing a disconnect in organisation’s corporate social responsibility and the tools at their disposal to harness and understand data. Informed 365 is now the leading tech solution for over 3,000 Australian companies legally required to report under the Modern Slavery Act with high-profile clients such as the Property Council of Australia, Zoo’s Victoria and Michael Hill.