Our remote work story (and what recruitment agencies can learn from this)
Before the Internet really became established, to many, the idea of ‘working from home’ was code for nursing the hangover from hell, usually after a spur of the moment quick drink after work on Thursday turned into an all-nighter. True!
However, aspects of the Internet such as seamless broadband connectivity, cloud software platforms and mobile devices powered a revolution where knowledge workers are able to work anytime, anyplace, including at home.
For many of us this provides the flexibility to work better and be more available and wired into the teams to which we belong. This isn’t just about those employed on full time contracts working for companies in the conventional sense.
Indeed, the reliability and the full suite of capability that is available empowers millions of freelance independent professionals and supports the rise of no-bricks businesses that do not need a geographical base.
In the main, working from home meant that knowledge workers could operate remotely when it was appropriate. In essence, at any one time, only some of the workforce was at home, working.
Now, as coronavirus COVID-19 has disrupted normality and transformed society right across the globe, we find ourselves in the situation where it is appropriate for as many of us as possible to not physically travel to work, but to stay at home and telecommute.
Sure, we had made contingency plans as part of our Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity preparations. But that hadn’t really got us ready for this. Let’s face it, honestly, hands up… Who, (apart from governments, GCHQ, MI5, CIA, NSA and of course NASA and suchlike), worked the scenario for the shutdown of the vast majority of the economy into their planning?
We were responding on the fly as the situation developed and the UK Government was issuing advice. For the sake of our people (and consequently our business) we seized the initiative. One week before lockdown everyone took their laptops home as we took the precautious measure of testing our remote working capability.
On Sunday 15th March, the day before the Government asked people not to go to places like restaurants, we made the decision for the team to work from home.
From Day One we were up and running. All our phone lines are re-directing to Olivia, our Office Assistant’s number, and she re-directs all calls to the respective person. All of our clients have been contacted regarding the current situation and have been kept in the loop with contact information for each designated account manager. For reassurance, we also flagged up that our support team is operating as normal.
Just so you can get an idea of how we organise our real time collaboration, we use Microsoft Teams. This provides instant messaging, file sharing, group video calls and a host of other features. This allows us to operate and collaborate, as a team and as smaller organised and ad-hoc working parties within the team throughout the day.
Everyone that’s adjusting to home working until further notice probably has a story to tell. We thought the personal experience of some of our team might be of interest and might be able to help recruitment agencies and others out.
1. Patience! – Being aware of the situation and try to be patient with everything related to work; especially communication when trying to get hold of someone.
2. Time out – Taking a break and going out for walk or fresh air outside.
3. Work outside – If possible work outside, take advantage of any sunny weather and work in the garden. Much better than being stuck inside.
Originally, it was quite disorienting. As a mother of 3, all below 6 years old, juggling the delivery of work was a challenge. Fitting in cooking, home schooling, work and having my husband and myself taking calls at the same time required some adjustment. My tips would be:
4. Structure the day – Try to put in place a structure, particularly around kids. We start our home schooling now from around 5pm to around 8pm; then at around 9pm I will work some more to pick up any additional things I wanted to complete.
5. Alter your work hours – Sometimes there will be things at home that interrupt what you are doing. Be willing to accept this and fit the hours in afterwards, like I do from 9PM.
6. Organise an appropriate space – We are fortunate that we have already had a good office space setup as my husband sometime works from home and probably like everyone else, we have quite a number of personal matters that we need to manage.
7. Plan for closed schools – Overall, there are some work life balance advantages that working from home brings. But the challenge of closed schools needs to be managed and considered.
8. Future business planning – Long term, I think this would be a good consideration/test for how business should work as technology allows us to be anywhere at any time.
9. Make good use of the extra time – Either for work or personal pursuits use the time saved by not doing long commutes. Many of us probably haven’t been ‘time richer’ in our working lives.
10. Be there for your family too – You are in a better position to help take care of sick relatives while working from home.
11. Reduce company costs – Companies can look for opportunities to reduce overheads. For some, energy costs will naturally reduce as a consequence of unoccupied offices. Seek other savings where possible.
12. Maximise productivity – Companies should try to harness the potential for increased employee productivity which may result from lower levels of less routine interruption which can happen in a geographically centralised place of work.
13. Keep yourself motivated. Ensure you allocate a space to work in your home. I find it more effective when I decided to buy an office desk and chair to refrain from using my dining table!
14. Plan your kid’s activities ahead for the week. Or else, they’ll come and find you every 10 minutes to ask you something. There’s lots of work to do so make sure your little ones are busy too! I have in hand activity sheets and I signed up for online learning such as Sumdog, Reading Eggs, and Study Ladder.
15. Set a routine and a timeframe. For me, I still follow (as much as possible) my schedule when I’m in the office. That is, wake up at 6:30, eat brekky prepare like I’m going to the office, eat lunch at 12 and set a time for each task. Keeping a diary helps me a lot so I ensure I update it every time and don’t miss out on deadlines and tasks.
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