As gold prices continue to consolidate around the $1,700 level and market uncertainty continues while countries decide how to restart their economies in light of Covid-19, it looks as if remote working will be a measure in place for a significant portion of the workforce for some time yet. Indeed, yesterday it was announced that Twitter told employees they will be allowed to work from home forever – jobs that require being physically present will still have to come into the office, but other than that, the move seems permanent. Another handful of companies like Google and Facebook have also made WFH optional until 2021, suggesting that tech companies are starting a new trend. But what could be the long-term effects of this? Permanent remote working hasn’t really been tested long-term, so we don’t know how it might affect company and employee success.
In the short-term at least, it looks like there could be potentially reshaping effects:
- Companies paying less rent for office space if needs for desks scale down, and potentially paying employees less if they’re not paying rent in an expensive city
- Employees don’t have to pay expensive rent rates in major cities to be within a commutable distance to the office – allowing them more flexibility to log in wherever they are, and less expenditure on monthly train/bus tickets
- Cities could have their traffic congestion and housing crunches alleviate to a certain extent. Real estate may no longer be the safe haven it once was, a point our Heartbeats column touched on last week
There are also a lot of unknowns – do employees really want to work from home forever? And how will this impact productivity, collaboration, and professional relationships? Working from home is also almost entirely dependant on services like Skype, Slack and Microsoft Teams – companies that could benefit from increased usage and reliance.
While there are a lot of possibilities, one thing seems sure: we’ll all have to get used to a new way of working. So what are some tips to make the transition?
It might seem tempting to loll around in pyjamas all day. But treating your days like working days will help you move from ‘home’ to ‘work’ mindset. So get up at a normal hour, get dressed, and have breakfast. If you’re juggling homeschooling with work, it’s also helpful to kids to stay as close to their school routine as possible. You might not be able to fulfil the traditional 9-5 if you’re also helping kids with work, but don’t beat yourself up about that – it doesn’t matter if work gets done between 9 and 5 as long as it gets done in time.
Don’t get distracted
If you wouldn’t do it at work, don’t do it at home during work hours. Again, that helps keep ‘work’ time separate from ‘home’ time. So checking emails at lunchtime or chatting with colleagues remotely about not very much – all fine. Binging on boxsets or cleaning the bathroom can wait, as can mindless scrolling. If you’re finding distraction tricky, try the Pomodoro technique: set your phone timer for 20-minutes blocks and do nothing but work during those blocks. Then allow yourself ten minutes or so before you start another block.
Break it down
Make sure you take plenty of breaks. If you’re not used to working from home, it can feel much more tiring and harder to concentrate. A break could be anything from 15 minutes downtime or your daily outside exercise session. You might also want to build in exercise n first thing in the morning: it helps clear your head, aids concentration, and replaces that natural exercise you would have got on your way to work.
Try to find a space at home where you can be separate from other family members, if at all possible. If that’s not possible, noise-cancelling headphones will be your saviour. If listening to music while you work is too distracting, use one of the many sound-creation apps to create a soothing sound backdrop.
Draw the lines
Banish any work-related communication during your downtime now you don’t have physical distance. Otherwise, you’ll end up feeling like you’re at work all the time, or somewhere between home and work, and that isn’t good for stress levels. Turn off email alerts on your phone and laptop in the evening so nothing pings up – or just turn devices off. And never be tempted to check work emails last thing at night.
A quiet place
Well-meaning companies have been keen to keep home workers engaged and listened to. But while communication with colleagues is great, too much can make us feel overwhelmed. So try and get the balance right. While some of us might thrive on regular virtual contact, others might feel that all the Friday night Zoom quizzes and daily social catch-ups are simply another work task to be completed when you’re already overloaded. Don’t feel as if you have to take part in everything.
Health and safety
Don’t make your working from home experience any more painful than it has to be. Keeping yourself in good physical shape is another reason to set up a proper working space rather than pounding out emails from your bed or sofa. Anything is better than those – a kitchen table or even a kitchen worktop to mimic a standing desk. If you hunch over a laptop for hours, you’ll soon find yourself with aching back, shoulders and neck, or RSI from those small keyboards. Follow basic posture rules: have the top of your screen level with your eyeline (use a box to elevate a laptop if you don’t have a stand, sit with your feet on the floor (or stand up), and use a separate keyboard and mouse with laptops.
Use the experience
While lockdown won’t last forever, it’s likely that the sudden shift to home-working will herald a more permanent change in working life, as companies realise the financial and time benefits. So note the pain points and use them as inspiration. A smart business idea around home-working space, communication and tech could reap you big benefits in the future.