When homeworking used to be a treat…

Homeworking used to be a rare treat for many frontline staff.

In fact, only a few months ago, one of our clients was in the middle of a fairly serious battle with a group of frontline staff, who felt they were being treated unfairly (compared to their counterparts in the field) because our client wouldn’t agree to them working one day a week from home, in order to have some quality, quiet time to focus on their sales planning and admin activity.

The debate caused quite a stir in the office. After all, we ALL deserve some peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of a busy frontline operation when we’ve got a ton of non-sales or admin work to complete with a deadline each week, wouldn’t you agree?

Yet here we are now, just a few short months on and those same frontline staff, together with the rest of the internal sales team, are ALL homeworking – not out of choice but out of necessity AND I must say, it’s all running tickety-boo. Although, I do know there were a few little hiccups in the early set-up days, as I’m sure you can appreciate – perhaps you even experienced a few of these yourselves? Still, hats off to them (and you) for making the leap of faith into homeworking so quickly and diligently.

Like many organisations, our clients have had to transition into a whole new World of Work (WOW!) in the blink of an eye and it’s required enormous effort and courage on EVERYONE’S part to get them there – from the work of I.T departments and HR teams, to the SMT and the ELT and of course, the staff themselves, all rallying round and doing whatever was needed to make the move go as smoothly as possible.

There have been a number of interesting reports published about the upsides of this unprecedented situation we all find ourselves in right now, even as we begin lift-off from lock-down and start to see a phased return to what will undoubtedly be, a new normal way of working – whether that’s having only half the workforce in at any one time &/or permanent homeworking for certain staff &/or a new-look frontline operation that is socially-distanced-approved.

One of the biggest plus points has been the emergence of a much-improved work-life balance for us all. The stress of the daily commute is one BIG relief, isn’t it? Traffic jams on the biggest car park in the world (the M25) or cancelled trains due to leaves on the track or buses running late seem to be a thing of the past now, don’t they?

We’re much more available and have greater flexibility about needing to be at home when the boiler man arrives or the Amazon delivery is due. And let’s not even get started on the one about not having to use our flexi time to knock off early from work, to get home in time to pick up the kids from school or the childminder, because it’s our turn to do pick-up duty!

Having said all that, for many of us, that commute into and out of the office each day (whether it was a 5 min walk or a 90 min drive) actually provided quite a good buffer between work and home. You know, that specific time we were afforded to get revved up to go in the mornings and wound down to chill in the evenings. Suddenly, that buffer is only a few seconds – moving from one part of the lounge to the other or from one room to another at the start and end of our working day!

So actually, we need to be very careful that, what used to be very clear demarcation lines between our work life and our home life, don’t become blurred during this time of 100% homeworking. We need to bookend the start and end of each day, to ensure our work life doesn’t spill over or bleed into our home life.

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7 Super Secrets for Balancing those Bookends:

1. Wake Up

Set your alarm as normal – whatever your ‘normal’ time was for getting up in the morning. Use this time to get ready for the working day ahead. If your commute used to be half an hour or an hour into the office each day, why not use this extra ‘free’ time to have a healthy cooked breakfast or do an online exercise class or go for a fast-paced stroll?

Maybe put your earphones in and follow a guided mediation or play some upbeat music or sit quietly in your armchair and read (or listen on Audible) to a few pages of an inspirational book or novel to mentally prepare for the day ahead. See this time as your journey into work – or into the lounge or kitchen, or wherever your office currently is!

2. Get Dressed Up

Ensure you go through your normal routine of getting ready for work – follow your usual hygiene regime; ensure you change out of your PJs into your work gear; style your hair if/as appropriate and put your face on – whether that’s make up or a clean shaven one, it’s important to look the part for the working day!

3. Create your To Do List

For the night owls among us, create your Things to Do List the night before, just before you switch off for the day, or if you’re a puppy dog, you can write your list first thing in the morning just before you start the day. Set stretching yet achievable goals for yourself each day – I find the 3 X 3 principle works wonders for me…

3 x Absolute Must Dos Today

3 x Would be Good To Dos Today

3 x Would be Nice To Dos (If Time)

The important thing with this little one percenter is that it really can make a 100% difference to how productive you feel in any given day, when you’re able to systematically tick those important things off your to do list, so that you can move seamlessly to your good-to-dos and then your nice-to-dos.

4. Take a Break

Sure, it’s a little easier (and quicker) to walk to the 20th century watering hole (or coffee machine) when you’re homeworking, so you’re probably hydrating as you should and would be if you were in the office BUT….are you taking proper stretch breaks as you would if you were in the office?

It’s important to structure formal break times when you work from home – 15 mins in the morning; 30-45 mins at lunchtime and 15 mins again in the afternoon. You are MUCH more productive when you give yourself regular breaks away from the daily toil – and physically moving away from your desk is a good thing to do when you’re in a sedentary or desk-tied job anyway!

5. Let’s Do Lunch

Just as it’s important to have a set break time for coffee and snacks, it’s equally important to have a proper lunch break. Set your lunchtime (for a min of 30 mins) no earlier than 12pm and no later than 2pm and make sure you close your laptop, switch your ‘phone to silent and move away from your work area. Again, you will be MUCH more productive when you’ve taken a proper lunch break AND ensure you eat healthy, high-protein, low carb foods at lunchtime, to avoid those mid-afternoon energy dips.

6. Keep in Touch

No matter how attuned we’ve become in these last few months to operating in a virtual universe, digitally connecting with our team mates and managers each day and working in silo-mode, it’s NOT normal – and it never will be, no matter how accepting we, or our organisations, become of this New World way of working.

We human beings need connection – and I mean proper connection! We need real, physical, visual, kinaesthetic connection – and we’ll never have this for as long as we operate remotely from our fellow mankind. So, while we wait to operate in a socially normal way once lockdown is over, we must all make a concerted effort to keep in touch!

Use a range of methodologies to reach out each day – be careful not to get ‘Zoomed Out’ with Zoom call fatigue! Use the ‘phone, make a video via Bomb Bomb or send a LinkedIn video message or send a text or do a Facebook Live or write an old-fashioned letter or send an email – or even have some fun being in touch with Tik Tok or doing a few online team quizzes or competitions.

Spice up the day with some KIT activities that connect you in fun and creative ways, not just through the usual (boring) mediums!

7. Wind Down

Agree when your clocking-off time is – and stick to it!

Think of your work area or room as a high street shop, that has a closing time of say 5.30pm. Metaphorically ‘cash up’, close the till and turn off the lights at the end of your working day. Put the CLOSED sign on the door, lock up shop and move away!

Then start your journey home – get some R&R organised for the evening and….


Enjoy your commute this week

Until next time – keep FIT!

Marie X

Hello... I'm Marie Cross

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