More than 4.5 million people in the UK already work from home, that’s over 15% of the workforce, according to the Office for National Statistics. And now, many more will be trialling out this way of working, even if it’s just for the short term.
As people who already work from home know, it can take time and energy to get used to such a different working environment. Simply using video conferencing for meetings is not going to fill all the voids of being “stuck at home” and not being physically with your team mates.
Having been home based myself for over a decade, leading team members across many continents, and more recently in helping multiple teams achieve more, even when they are based at different geographic locations, I’d like to share the most common of the pitfalls of home working, and of course give you a few tips on what you can do about it.
Pitfall 1: Distractions
From kids to pets, that big clothes washing pile to tidying the kitchen, the temptation of one episode of your favourite show, deliveries, your Mum or Dad calling because they know you are “just working from home” or the neighbours popping by. Many, many distractions.
- Find the best place to work in your home, ideally where you can have some privacy. And set it up to make working safe and comfortable – watch our for trailing leads, set up your seating position so that you are not putting undue stress on your body, think about lighting – not reflecting off screens
- Have a signal you use at home for when you want to focus and not be disturbed – a sign on the door or a flag sticking up on your laptop, and explain to others why it’s important to give you space when you need it
- Stick to your working hours – agree these hours with your team mates and/or boss and commit to them
Pitfall 2: Staying motivated
Or even getting motivated to start! Where to start, how to stay focused, what to prioritise doing first, how to assess your priorities, without others being around.
- Limit the tasks you are doing, set yourself realistic daily expectations. I like the 1-3-5 rule – 1 big activity/deliverable, 3 medium ones, 5 small ones. That’s it!
- Follow Mark Twain’s advice: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” If you’d like to find out more about this concept – Brian Tracey has written a great book about it: https://www.briantracy.com/blog/time-management/the-truth-about-frogs/
- Understand your energy levels: know when you work best – first thing in the morning, after your second coffee, or later in the afternoon on your “second wind”, and get stuck into bigger/harder activities then.
Pitfall 3: Mis or lack of communication
This can more easily happen in virtual environments, such as missing body language cues, even on video calls it can be difficult to pick up on this. Text messages often don’t provide the full message or context. Or simply missing out on overhearing conversations between colleagues in the office.
- Communicate more! Through all means – texts, instant messages, phone calls, video calls, via sharing platforms or project management tools, emails (I take that back – no more emails!!!)
- Check for other people’s understanding of key messages, particularly in group calls where people may not have time or feel able to ask more questions.
- Be proactive in speaking up and asking for clarity – if you need clarity, it’s highly likely others will too. Be brave and as concise as you can!
Good luck to those new and temporary home workers!